EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dave Gettleman is confident the Giants are traveling in the right direction but can't predict when they'll reach their desired destination.
The Giants' general manager is bullish on first-year coach Joe Judge, second-year quarterback Daniel Jones and the team's personnel, and he is energized by the effort he's seen in training camp.
"We're a young, developing team," Gettleman said today on a Zoom call. "That's all there is to it. With the way Joe has run practice, you guys have seen it, he has what he calls his two-spot, when he has the team work on both fields. These guys have gotten a ton of reps. As we finish up, there is plenty of film available to legitimately evaluate all of these guys. Everybody is in the same boat, to a certain degree, with their young players. We feel good about the work these kids have put in, and I think we're going to be fine."
The Giants are looking to rebound from a three-year stretch in which they won an NFL-low 12 games. He has directed a reconstruction that has left just five players on the current 80-man roster who were Giants when he arrived at the end of the 2017 season. (One of them is Jon Halapio, who was re-signed today. The others are Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Wayne Gallman and Dalvin Tomlinson.)
A list of Gettleman's most significant draft choices includes Saquon Barkley, the 2018 NFL offensive rookie of the year and the first player in Giants history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons; wide receiver Darius Slayton; offensive linemen Will Hernandez and Andrew Thomas; and defensive players Lorenzo Carter, Dexter Lawrence, Oshane Ximines and Julian Love. His veteran acquisitions include Golden Tate, Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Williams, Markus Golden and one of the newest Giants, defensive back Logan Ryan.
Joining those players likely to form the team's core for the future is Daniel Jones, the quarterback drafted sixth overall in 2019. As a rookie, he started 12 games and threw for 3,017 yards and 24 touchdowns. Jones also committed a league-high 23 turnovers.
"I'm comfortable and confident with him right now, just for what that's worth," Gettleman said. "Obviously, it's how he plays, what kind of a year he has, how successful he is running - again it's his third offense in three years by the way - running the team, how he handles the leadership piece. It's all of those things and, obviously, how well he plays.
"I can say this very comfortably, the only thing that was a little frustrating last year were the turnovers, the fumbles (18 including 11 lost). He had a solid rookie year. He did things that no other rookie quarterback has ever done. For some reason, I just feel like the fumbles have overshadowed all of that stuff. He showed he can bring us from behind to win a game. He showed he can make big throws in an overtime period. This kid accomplished a lot last year. I would never put a win-loss thing on it. For me, it's all about Daniel improving, and improving in all areas, which I'm confident he will."
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.
Gettleman alluded to the reality that Jones played in coach David Cutcliffe's offense in his final season at Duke, in Pat Shurmur's scheme last year and has spent the last five months learning and practicing Jason Garrett's system. How does all that terminology and numerology affect a young quarterback?
"I think it all depends upon a couple of things," Gettleman said. "Number one, it depends upon the coaches that are working with him. How they make it work for him. Obviously, it depends upon him. How hard he's going to work at it. We all know Daniel is going to work his tail off. That's not an issue. He's picking it up. Yesterday, I thought he had a really nice day at the office, and he's getting there. He's getting there. Everybody needs to remember, I always go back to when a kid comes out, great high school football player and goes to college, how many of them are great immediately? It takes them all time. Unfortunately, we're not patient. But Daniel is going to be fine. He's going to be fine. He's going to be a fine NFL quarterback."
Gettleman is similarly confident in the Giants' offensive line, a position group he has targeted for improvement literally since the moment he took the job. Like most rebuilds, Gettleman's quest to make it a top-grade has not been a quick fix. But he likes the talent, depth and attitude of the group that will take the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 12 days.
"(This is) the closest we've ever been (to getting it right)," Gettleman said. "I feel like we've got the right guys, they just have to learn how to play together. They have to grow up, we have puppies. You have Andrew, who has never played an NFL snap, at an important position (left tackle). We've got some youth and they have to learn how to play together. Talent wise, I'm really pleased with the room."
Because of the pandemic and the resulting restrictions, protocols and games played with few or no fans in the stands, this will be an NFL season unlike any other. But once the games begin, the NFL will be what it's always been, a league in which the teams that play best will win and compete for the playoffs.
Gettleman isn't looking that far ahead or about to make a brash prediction. But he does like where the Giants are going.
"I think we've had three years of roster development," he said. "I think we have brought in a number of players that are going to help us be a part of this winning process. Obviously, we have had a change in coaches and we have a young, developing team. I think Joe and his staff are going to develop those players, so that's what gives me confidence. It gives me confidence that we have our quarterback, we have a heck of a running back. We've got some nice pieces on defense. The O-line, we have pieces, we're getting there. I believe we are going to be competitive.
"I think we obviously have young players that are continuously developing. Dalvin has gotten better every year, you are looking for Dexter to improve, you are looking for all those young kids to improve. We've also got some veterans that have skins on the wall and can help those guys develop, help those guys become team players. I just feel like the roster is going to be competitive. It's going to have the ability to win games. I'm not putting a number on it. You put a team out there and they will be the 'Fighting Joe Judge's,' I have no doubt. It's going to go well."