EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dave Gettleman stands by his men.
In his first three drafts as the Giants' general manager, Gettleman selected 27 players, including cornerback Sam Beal in the 2018 supplemental draft. But Giants fans and the media are most keenly fixated on two of them, the first-round selections of running back Saquon Barkley in 2018 and quarterback Daniel Jones the following year.
Each was a debated choice, Barkley because running backs are seldom taken as high as No. 2 overall and Jones because many draft pundits that pontificate on television did not rate him as highly as did the Giants, who drafted him sixth overall.
Barkley was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and posted impressive numbers his first two seasons, despite missing three games in 2019 with an ankle injury. But he was sidelined almost the entire 2020 season after suffering a serious knee injury that required surgery in Week 2 in Chicago. Barkley returned to the practice field last week but did not play in the preseason opener vs. the Jets.
Jones also played impressively in his debut season in the high-pressure role as the successor to franchise icon Eli Manning. But he threw 13 fewer touchdown passes last season than he did as a rookie and his record as a starter is 8-18.
Gettleman, however, remains absolutely convinced he made the correct decisions in bringing Barkley and Jones to the Giants.
At his annual training camp news conference today, Gettleman was asked if he feels as "passionately" that selecting a running back second overall was the right move.
"Absolutely, absolutely," Gettleman said. "Stuff happens, not everything's perfect and there are guys all over this league who get hurt, big-time players. He's done a great job and I feel the same way about him. He's different and he's going to be ready to go when he's ready to go."
But doesn't "stuff" happen more often to running backs, who absorb a pounding and whose shelf life is shorter than players at other positions?
"I don't know that that's true," Gettleman said. "Really and truly, you can talk about injuries at any position. I would not make a different decision than I made in 2018, plain and simple."
His conviction is similarly strong regarding Jones.
"We believe in Daniel, we're excited to see what he's going to do in the second year in the (offensive) system," Gettleman said. "Before this last year, it was his third system in three years, so this'll be the second year in a system. You know how diligent the kid is, we've talked about it all the time. He works just as hard on the field as he does off the field. He's more comfortable, he's more prepared. It'll be fun to see what happens when we finally give him a full complement of players out there."
An increasingly popular NFL concept is that the exorbitant salaries paid to quarterbacks makes it imperative for teams to know whether they have a keeper at the position by the end of his third season. Will the Giants have any kind of guarantee on Jones after he plays in 2021?
"We certainly hope so," Gettleman said. "Again, our game is different than the college game. It's very different. He's got all the physical skills, he's got all the mental skills. I'm seeing a lot of good stuff out here in the fact that, as I've said, last year was his third consecutive year in a different system. His decision making is quicker out here, he's getting rid of the ball quicker, you see he's throwing the ball well. I think he's making progress and like every other young kid, I think we'll have a pretty good idea when the season is over."
View the best photos from Tuesday's training camp practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
A few other Gettleman thoughts:
*On whether yesterday's trade with Houston for special teams standout and cornerback Keion Crossen, who played his rookie season under Joe Judge in New England, indicates Judge's influence here has grown:
"I think that Joe and I are partners." Gettleman said. "We have a shared vision. We see the ball the same way, which is helpful. We discuss everything thoroughly, and we come to the best Giant conclusion that we can come to. Joe knew Crossen, our pro personnel department had high grades on him as a special teams guy. Obviously, you guys all realize how important special teams is and how near and dear it is to Joe's heart. At the end of the day, the thing that's really neat about Keion is he brings us line of scrimmage value as well as a gunner. So, this is the partnership, we're working together. We share a vision, and I've enjoyed the hell out of the last two years."
*Will a player's vaccination status influence decisions when the roster is cut to the regular-season limit of 53 players?
"No, the 53 best players will be on our 53," Gettleman said. "That is it. Right now, every team has guys in various stages. Some guys have had one shot, some guys have had two shots and they're waiting for the two-week period for the full vaccination, so everybody's in different stages. Obviously, the guys that have not fully completed are masked up right now. They've all done a great job. They've been very cooperative and done really a great job of following the protocol and being compliant. I'm not worried about it. I'm not concerned. We'll get the 53 best guys."
*On wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the first-round draft choice who has missed numerous training camp practices – some because he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list - and didn't play in the preseason opener:
"It's that way with any young player," Gettleman said. "You want them on the field. The COVID piece is real, it affects everybody very differently and that's been a bit of a stop and start. He'll get there, he's working his fanny off, getting healthy. He's had that stop and start and it doesn't make us any less than enthused about him. The kid's got tremendous talent and he's been great in the inside on his rehab. He's been terrific in the classroom. He's engaged and the kid wants to be out there. He's a competitor. I treat contracts like injuries; contracts get done when they're supposed to get done, guys get healthy when they're supposed to get healthy, and he'll be out there and we trust our medical staff."
View photos of the New York Giants' active 53-man roster as it currently stands.