EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge has said all summer that the Giants' final preseason game would be the team's dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Under that premise, the players who start against the New England Patriots Sunday night in MetLife Stadium would also be first on the field in the Sept. 12 opener against the Denver Broncos in the same venue. But Judge cautioned anyone making that leap.
"I wouldn't assume any of that," said Judge, whose reserves lost to the Cleveland Browns' backups, 17-13, in a preseason game on Sunday. "Obviously, when we get out there on Sunday, it will directly reflect based on how people have performed to this point and where the depth chart has indicated. However, there's going to be a lot of guys that we'll be getting one final look at and we have final cuts after that game. We're going to have to take a look at certain guys in certain situations, see how they mesh within certain units and the chemistry and impact they can bring. But in terms of having a set depth chart, nothing is ever concrete. The best players will always play. If somebody is outperforming somebody in practice, then they'll play that Sunday.
"So, just because you see something in game three, I wouldn't assume that that's what it's going to be against Denver in Week One. We'll make the decisions as we get closer. One thing about this year is it's a tough part of the year for players and coaches. There's necessary cuts you have to make by league rules that allow the roster to turn over, and that means losing players and it also means adding new players at times. So, there's a lot of change that happens over these next few weeks, so we're going to go ahead and adjust as we need to and make the best decision for the team."
Quarterback Daniel Jones and many more of Judge's frontline players will make their 2021 preseason debuts against the Patriots, with whom the Giants will practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Backup Mike Glennon started each of the first two games.
"My expectation at this point would be for Daniel to play at least the first half," Judge said. "We'll decide on what we're going to do in terms of coming out of halftime later in the week."
Judge revealed today that protecting Jones was not the reason the third-year quarterback never left the sideline in the first two games.
"I would say really injury risk had nothing to do with him not playing at this point," said Judge, whose team engaged in two competitive practices with the Browns prior to the game. "The plan all along was to make sure Mike got as much time as he could in the first game when we played against the Jets, along with a lot of other guys that were in the game. Mike meshed with some of our older offensive linemen, got out there, got some chemistry together with those guys.
"In terms of not playing (yesterday), it truly came down to what we thought we accomplished in practice with both the volume and intensity as a unit, along with some of the things that the Browns were doing in the game. We initially thought about playing those guys for about a quarter or so (in Cleveland). We made the decision based on what they had gone through from a physical load standpoint and intensity. It was a very quick turnaround going from those practices into a full game situation, so we thought this was in the best interest of the health of the players that we held. … This week we'll treat more as a dress rehearsal for the regular season."
View photos of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throughout his NFL career.
Some of the Giants' most important actors have been rehabbing injuries and the Giants are eager for them to return to the stage.
At the top of that list is running back Saquon Barkley, who hasn't played since tearing his right ACL in Chicago last Sept. 20. He underwent surgery about six weeks later.
Judge wouldn't commit to Barkley facing the Patriots.
"That's not decided yet," he said. "We're going to talk a little bit later today with the medical team. The priority will be to continue ramping him up and doing more and more. Last week in Cleveland, he did some one-on-ones, some pass drills with our guys and against our defense early in practice. We were keeping him out of competitive periods last week, that was by design. We'll see where he is. He keeps advancing in his rehab. His foot is tapping every day, wanting to do more and more, and physically he keeps progressing and showing us he can do more and more.
"Once we talk to the doctors today, we'll formulate a plan for what he's going to do in Foxborough through the practices and the game, but I would expect it to be more than what we saw last week. Now, I can't say that means 11-on-11 or seven-on-seven, I can't give that answer right now."
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the Giants' first-round draft choice this year, has not been fully integrated after spending five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and suffering an undisclosed injury.
"In terms of his health, he's progressing, he's working hard, he's doing everything our training staff is asking him to do," Judge said. "We're pleased with the progress he's making. He'll definitely be on the trip with us, along with several other players who are continuing their rehab. We'll talk later today to see if we can build him more into some of the early practice individuals and see if at that point he's ready to go ahead and progress and do anything more competitive, whether it's seven-on-sevens or one-on-ones or anything of that nature."
Could Toney return the week before the opener vs. Denver and be a full participant?
"That would all come down to physically if he's able to do that and then we put him on the practice field and how he performs in practice would give me a comfort level of what I can expect in a game," Judge said. "These are all a lot of hypotheticals. I know it sounds like I'm trying to avoid something, but I'm going to give you an honest answer right there. Until we see him physically when he's fully back and 100 percent and then see him execute within the game plan for the week of how he operates, that's the best view I can really get to see what we can expect in the game."
And how about wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who has been sidelined since Aug. 3 with a hamstring injury?
"I have to go off the information that the trainers and medical team give to us," Judge said. "They keep telling me how he's progressing very well in his rehab, he's really building up and doing much better on a weekly basis. I don't think you're going to expect to see him in 11-on-11s this week. Going to be very similar to what we said about Toney, how much more he can do? Can we build him in with the team early in practice and will that be reflected in anything we do against the Patriots? I would not expect him in 11-on-11 right now at this point based on the information that I have. That being said, as we progress to the regular season, we've got just about three weeks call it, ballpark, until the first game. We'll see where he goes physically and, again, anybody we put on the field we want to make sure they get on the field and stay on the field by playing healthy and playing effectively at 100 percent. I don't have an answer for you long-term on that, but I am very pleased with how he's working. He's doing everything we ask him to do and he's making progress on a daily basis."
*Judge provided a broad outline of what to expect in the practices with the Patriots.
"In terms of the practice format up there, it will probably be some familiarity for our players," he said. "It's not identical, but there are some similarities in terms of the flow of practice and in certain periods. We're going to have a lot of situational football this week as part of the emphasis going up there and working against New England. This time of the year going into the third game, we're really making sure that we get the opportunity to go through a lot of situations that otherwise you might not get the opportunity to do in competitive situations because they don't come up in preseason games. So, we want to make sure that we go ahead and we go up there as a team and execute and operate and gain the experience of going against a foreign opponent before we get into the regular season."
The team travels New England for joint practices with the Patriots ahead of their preseason matchup.