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2023 Training Camp

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Darren Waller acclimating quickly to Giants way


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Parris Campbell has yet to see Darren Waller in full pads, but he has learned enough to know his new teammate belongs to an exclusive club. A wide receiver, Campbell has called tight end Waller, a fellow offseason acquisition, "an athletic freak."

"I'll take it," Waller said today. "Sure."

Hey, if the shoe fits…

Throughout the spring and the first three training camp practices, Waller has impressed his teammates and coaches with uncommon speed, quickness and elusiveness for someone who is 6-6 and 256 pounds. Waller has quickly become a favorite target of quarterback Daniel Jones and a daunting cover challenge for the team's defense.

Injuries limited Waller to 20 games, 83 catches and five touchdowns in 2021-22. But when he was full healthy in the two previous seasons, Waller had 197 catches for 2,341 yards and 12 scores and was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2020. That's the Waller the Giants expect to invigorate their offense this year.

"He's a good football player," coach Brian Daboll said. "He's been productive in this league and the biggest thing is getting him acclimated to our program. You always have a great amount of respect for people who have produced in this league, and he certainly has. There has been good give and take. You know, just trying to string them together. But he's been a good player in this league for a while and he's done a nice job since he's been here."

"(He is) 6-6, (runs 40 yards in) 4.4 (seconds), great hands, can run routes like a regular wideout, can run all the routes - pretty much can do everything," safety Xavier McKinney said. "Being as big as he is, you don't see guys that big that can move like that. So, it makes him real special. It makes him a tough cover every time. When I am on him, it puts me on high alert. I have to be because I know that every play, he can get the ball. It just makes me compete and go a lot harder, it makes me a lot better. Definitely love having him on this team because I know how he's going to help us, and I know how he's going to help me improve as a player."

View photos from training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Waller is happy he made a favorable early impression but is focused on improving in the future rather than accepting plaudits for his past.

"It's an honor for my teammates to speak of me in that way because these are guys that do it at a high level and have done it for a really long time," said Waller, who had another productive practice, including one catch on which he demonstrated his impressive leaping ability. "I guess it's just for my size and my weight and I guess the way that I run and the multitude of routes that I try to be comfortable running, and a lot of guys don't necessarily do that.

"But it's just coming in with a mindset of I don't want to be limited in any part of my game. Whatever they want to line me up and run at, I want to be able to do that and be effective at it and not just be like, 'Oh man, I'm not really that good at that,' or, 'I can't do that.' I want to be able to do everything and just present myself as a viable option to the quarterback every time I run a route. That's really the goal. Keep it as simple as that. Every single rep I go out there, make myself presentable. If he wants to throw it there, he can throw it there and throw it to me. So that's just how I approach it."

Waller is part of a revamped Giants receiving corps that also includes wideouts Campbell, Jamison Crowder (currently on the reserve/non-football injury list), Cole Beasley, third-round draft choice Jalin Hyatt and three returnees who missed all or a big chuck of last season – Collin Johnson, Sterling Shepard and Wan'Dale Robinson.

Only Waller in that group has a 100-catch season.

"He's a great pro," Daboll said. "We have good conversations. I would say he has really fit in with the group. I think guys have a lot of respect for him, not just for the player that he's been in this league, but the person he's been and some of the stuff he's been through. He's a really mature, young, not young man, I guess he is young still. He's been a really great teammate. Glad we have him."

*Second-year right tackle Evan Neal was asked about the lucrative five-year contract extension that left tackle Andrew Thomas signed earlier this week.

"I saw him walk in with a three-piece suit, so I kind of knew what time it was," Neal said. "Just extremely happy for him, he's come a long way through all the adversity, all the hard work he's put in. I can't think of anyone that is more deserving than him, so I am extremely happy for him."

Thomas was the fourth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Neal was chosen seventh overall in 2022. Thomas had an uneven rookie season but was a second-team All-Pro in 2022 and is now recognized as one of the NFL's best tackles. The Giants have secured his services for the next seven seasons. Thomas' turning point was his second season. Neal also struggled at times as a rookie. Does he feel pressure to emulate Thomas and show marked improvement in Year 2?

"I don't think about that at all," Neal said. "Andrew Thomas is himself and I am Evan Neal. I'm just going to focus on being the best Evan Neal that I can be. Andrew is a great player and he's a great role model for me as well. I'm just going to continue to get better every single day and control what I can control."

Neal said he lost "probably about 10 or 15 pounds" this offseason.

"I definitely put on more muscle and got more lean," he said. "I weighed in whenever we got here for training camp, I was 345. My final weight (last season) was 353, so I shed a few pounds, but I put on a lot more muscle for sure."

*When the Giants' third training camp practice began at 5 p.m. today, the temperature was 92 degrees and the real feel in the sun was 102 degrees. Yikes. That's hot at a beach and hotter if you're wearing a football helmet.

"We met on it last week, just getting ready for this week," Daboll said. "So, I think the training staff, nutritionist, sports science, we have tried getting them to a spot these last few days where they are doing what we need them to do to try and stay as healthy as they can with all this heat. That's training camp. We will try and keep an eye on everybody and get the cooling tents. All these different kinds of drinks to help them stay hydrated. I'm sure they will be sweating a lot out there today.

"We put in water breaks. Two or three of them at times and take the helmets off during walk-through, just to let the heat get out a little bit. Try to manage them the best we can."

*Ben Bredeson and rookie John Michael Schmitz continue to alternate practices at first-team center. Today it was Bredeson's turn, with Joshua Ezeudu playing left guard. When Schmitz is the center, Bredeson lines up at guard.

*Darrian Beavers, who missed his rookie season with a torn ACL, continues to get many of the first-team reps at inside linebacker next to Bobby Okereke. Micah McFadden, like Beavers a member of the 2022 draft class, is sharing at that spot.

*Rookie safety Gervarrius Owens did not practice for the second straight day because of a bruise.

*Beasley didn't practice after getting kneed in the quad yesterday.

*The players are off tomorrow, and training camp will resume with a practice Sunday morning.



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