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5 Things We Learned

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5 things we learned: Deonte Banks 'ahead of schedule'


The Giants were back on the practice field Wednesday as they continue their preparations for Sunday night's season opener.

Due to the extra day of practice, this week's schedule looks a little different. The Giants will have Thursday off before returning Friday for the final tune-up before taking on the Cowboys.

Giants coordinators Wink Martindale, Mike Kafka and Thomas McGaughey met with the media prior to Wednesday's session, while running back Saquon Barkley spoke to reporters after.

Here are five things we learned Wednesday.

1. Wink: Banks 'ahead of schedule'

Cornerback Deonte Banks is set to make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Cowboys after a strong performance throughout the summer. The rookie started the first two preseason games and did not allow a single reception across 33 coverage snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. It was the most coverage snaps without surrendering a catch among all rookie corners through the first two preseason games, as Banks recorded a passer rating against of just 39.6.

"I think that each player is different and he's ahead of schedule as far as that, you know, being ready to go and being excited about going," defensive coordinator Wink Martindale told the media. "You know there is going to be hiccups, we all know. That's being a rookie. That's both for he and (cornerback) Tre (Hawkins III). They are just two strong-willed individuals that I think they are going to be just fine…

"I just think (Banks') maturity and his confidence, is probably what makes him (ahead of schedule), and his skillset obviously."

The No. 24 pick in this year's draft will be faced with a tough matchup right out of the gate. With veteran Adoree' Jackson likely to cover Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb in the slot, that leaves Banks and Hawkins to guard veterans Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup on the outside. Regardless of who the rookie lines up across from, Martindale likes the way the 22-year-old conducts himself.

"I think that he is a very competitive person," the defensive coordinator said. "I like his attitude. I've used the Ted Lasso quote to nauseam now, but that's just who he is. He loves to compete, he loves this defense, he loves the system, and you can tell the way his teammates have grown close to him already that he's an all-around good guy that's going to have a lot of success in this league."

View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

2. Kafka: Hyatt 'eager to improve'

Sticking with the rookies, wide receiver Jalin Hyatt is another first-year player who stood out during training camp. The 6-foot, 185-pound receiver seemingly made at least one highlight reel play at practice every day over the summer. He then caught a 33-yard touchdown pass in his MetLife Stadium debut against the Panthers on a play in which he used his speed to blaze by the defender, getting himself wide open for the easy touchdown.

Hyatt's play has stood out to offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, who told the media Wednesday that the rookie wide receiver's growing confidence is palpable.

"I think he's getting more confident in himself just being inserted into the offense and identifying the things that we're going to ask him to do on a week-to-week basis," Kafka said about the rookie receiver. "So, you know he's a young player, he's learning, he's growing but he's taking all the necessary steps. He's spending extra time watching tape, spending time reviewing, so from my standpoint, from my chair, I'm looking at that and saying this kid, he's eager to improve, he's eager to work out those things and you're seeing it show up at practice."

While not listed as a starter on the first unofficial depth chart of the regular season, Hyatt is likely to see extended action Sunday night. The Cowboys boast a talented starting cornerback duo in Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore. Diggs has racked up 17 interceptions across his first three seasons, two of which he was selected to the Pro Bowl, while Gilmore is entering his 12th NFL season having made five Pro Bowls.

3. Simmons a 'perfect fit'

Prior to the roster cut down day last week, the Giants made two training camp trades, one of which landed former No. 8 overall pick Isaiah Simmons in blue. Across his first three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Simmons played 50 regular-season games with 37 starts, as well as one postseason game, and has not missed a single game. His career numbers include 258 total tackles (181 solo), 7.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions, 16 passes defensed and one defensive touchdown.

In his first game action with the Giants back in the preseason finale, Simmons was on the field for a handful of plays and made his presence felt. He wasn't credited with a tackle, but he did pressure Jets QB Aaron Rodgers on a third down play, forcing him out of the pocket before the QB threw an incompletion. Martindale spoke Wednesday about how the versatile defender will line up all over the field this season. It's safe to say the defensive play-caller is excited about the trade.

"I think he's perfect for this defense," said Martindale. "When (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) told me to initially look at him, I loved him coming out of the draft and I spoke to (Clemson head coach) Dabo (Swinney) back then, but then I went to see, a lot of people just go back and look at game tapes and make their judgements. I went back the last three years and looked at his productivity and looked at things he did do really well, and I think it fits our system great.

"It's not what position are you going to play him at, we are going to play him wherever you need him because he can do so many different things. I've talked before about a positionless defense, he fits perfect to that."

4. Saquon's mindset heading into 2023

It's no secret that injuries derailed the 2020 and 2021 seasons for running back Saquon Barkley. He was limited to just two games in 2020 after tearing his ACL, while a high ankle sprain sidelined him for part of the following year. As he headed into last season, Barkley looked to reestablish himself as one of the league's top running backs, a goal that the former Offensive Rookie of the Year accomplished.

Barkley did not miss a single game due to injury in 2022. The 26-year-old ran for a career-high 1,312 yards, the fourth-most in the NFL, and scored 10 touchdowns to go with his 57 receptions for an additional 338 yards. He was voted to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career. Now entering his sixth NFL season, Barkley has the same mindset going into Week 1 as he did last year.

"I kind of see last year as kind of like a rookie year, I guess," the running back told reporters Wednesday. "Not my rookie year, obviously, it's year five, but being back on the scene and showing what I'm capable of doing and now, how can I take it to another level? Whether that's in between the tackles, outside of tackles, catching the ball, running routes, showing why I was drafted number two. I feel like I was able to do that last year, but now I want to be able to take it to another level and be special. Everyone always talks about the legacy and the names on these walls in this locker room and in the indoor facility, and that's what I want to be a part of. So, hopefully I can start off to a great start and go on a high note in Week 1."

"He came in in great shape, jumped right into the mix and got caught up to all the stuff we were doing on offense, and he's done a great job," Kafka added. "First and foremost, he's a captain so he's one of those guys you look for from a leadership standpoint. He's working, he's setting a standard for the offense and he's part of that group that's doing that."

5. Injury updates: everybody practices

The first injury report of the year was released on Wednesday, and every player on the active roster participated in practice. Running back Gary Brightwell (knee), linebacker Cam Brown (ankle), tight end Lawrence Cager (ankle), defensive lineman D.J. Davidson (knee), cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (hamstring), safety Gervarrius Owens (hamstring) and wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) were all limited.

"I'd say it's good to have really everybody out here," head coach Brian Daboll told reporters before practice. "Guys have worked hard, the training staff has worked hard, now we'll see where some of them are. But it's good to have them all out here."

Robinson was activated off the physically unable to perform list last Tuesday, making him eligible to play as soon as Week 1. The second-year wideout was in the midst of the strongest performance of his rookie season, catching nine passes for 100 yards, before tearing his ACL against the Lions in Week 11. The head coach expressed his encouragement of the 22-year-old's progress up to this point.

"He's looked good," Daboll said. "Yeah, he's looked good. Quick. He's done a nice job."

As for the Cowboys, guard/tackle Tyler Smith (hamstring), defensive end Sam Williams (foot) and safety Donovan Wilson (calf) did not participate in practice Wednesday, while cornerback Jourdan Lewis (foot) was a full participant.

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