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What We Heard: Evan Neal clears concussion protocol


Coach Brian Daboll, defensive lineman Leonard Williams and outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux met with the media Wednesday to discuss a variety of topics.

Here's what you need to know from the press conferences.

1. Neal clears concussion protocol

Right tackle Evan Neal suffered a concussion in practice earlier this month, which sidelined him until he returned to practice today and participated in team drills. While Daboll was not ready to declare Neal ready for Friday's preseason game against Carolina before the start of practice, the head coach said, "He's trending in the right direction, I'll say that."

Later in the day, the Giants announced Neal had cleared the concussion protocol.

Towards the start of camp, Neal shared with the media that he cut some weight and added muscle during the offseason. The 6-foot-7 tackle told reporters he's "seen everything" now, which has him feeling good heading into his second season.

"I feel very comfortable," Neal said last month. "I felt great out there the past two days. Just going to use the rest of camp to continue to hone in on those skills, just make small improvements every single day. I feel like I am never going to be a finished product, I am just going to take each day to get better and better... Last year was last year, man. I'm really focused on the 2023 season. I did feel like it made it more challenging for me because I had never got hurt during the season and had to play through it. So, I definitely feel like that was a factor but I'm not going to make any excuses. That's the past, we are in the present now."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2023 cycle.

2. Front office & coaching staff 'work hand in hand'

The relationship between Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen has been well-documented. The two worked together at the Buffalo Bills for four seasons from 2018-2021, before both were hired at the beginning of 2022.

Over the last year and a half, both Schoen and Daboll have been vocal about the strong connection between them, which has seemingly made constructing the roster an easier process. That alignment has translated to Daboll's assistant coaches playing a key role in the scouting process, as they are leaned on heavily during the offseason.

"I think we work hand in hand," Daboll said prior to practice. "Joe, his staff, all the scouts and then myself and all the coaches, we really work well together. We don't always agree on everything, but I'd say there's very productive conversations during March and April before the draft. We send a lot of coaches out to do workouts, we bring some guys in on visits. (Cornerback) Tre (Hawkins III) was brought in on a visit, just specifically talking with (defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson) Rome. They put a lot of work in so really our focus after the season – we kind of evaluate our team and see where we're at, that's the most important thing for us.

"Once we get on to whether it's free agency or whether it's the college process, I'd say that there's a lot of interaction between Joe, his staff, college scouting directors, scouts and then all of our positions coaches that again, Joe, we send them all out. Their input is always valued and there's a lot of really good conversations that happen from them. The scouts might have a few things that the coaches didn't know. The coaches might see some things. Really good give and take but that's the process that we go through and what we think works for us."

3. Players appreciate Wink's transparency

Prior to Tuesday's practice, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale revealed to the media that he does a "keep it real" session with everybody on the defense. The point of this is for every player to know where they stand, especially with roster cut-down day less than two weeks away. Martindale said he does this in order to "build our foundation on trust and honesty."

When speaking to the media after practice Wednesday, defensive lineman Leonard Williams said the players appreciate Martindale's transparency with them.

"As a player, I have never wanted a coach to be a yes man," Williams said. "That's the coach's job is to push us and get the best potential out of us as they can. Sometimes it takes that little extra push and fire under us to get us going and honestly, going on nine years of playing, I have never had a coach keep it real like that before and I think the guys respect it, honestly.

"Sometimes in camp guys are trying to make the team and stuff like that and they don't really know how the coaches see them or where they fit on the roster and stuff like that. In those keep it real meetings, he goes down every single player. It's not just Kayvon, or not just me, or not just anybody. He addresses every single individual and lets you know exactly how he feels, and I think the guys respect it."

4. Kayvon: 'It's been amazing' playing with Ojulari

When the Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux with the fifth overall pick in last year's draft, the idea was to pair him opposite Azeez Ojulari to create a formidable edge rushing duo. Injuries, however, kept Ojulari sidelined most of last season. But with the third-year outside linebacker healthy and practicing, Thibodeaux is excited to continue building up the chemistry between the two of them.

"It's been amazing," Thibodeaux said about playing opposite Ojulari. "We try not to run into each other at the quarterback because we always like to meet there. Now it's building that chemistry, right? We know we have two good rushers, but now it's learning how to rush together."

Ojulari played in just seven games (five starts) in 2022. However, when he was out on the field, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound outside linebacker made his presence felt. Ojulari recorded 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and seven quarterback hits on a mere 230 defensive snaps. This came one year after the outside linebacker set a new official franchise rookie record with eight sacks.

5. DeVito continuing to improve

Quarterback Tommy DeVito took the majority of snaps in the Giants' preseason opener against the Lions last week. In his first NFL game action, the undrafted rookie completed 15 of 24 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown and an interception to go with 11 rushing yards. While it wasn't a perfect performance, Daboll is encouraged by what he's seen out of the 25-year-old.

"I think he's made steady improvement since he's been here. It's a lot to learn at that position as a rookie. All the things that you have to do to play quarterback before you even have to play the position – get the play call, communicating, knowing who's in the huddle, who you're playing with, knowing what they're doing on the other side. All the stuff pre-snap, I thought he did a good job with and then he made some good decisions, made some nice throws and he did a pretty good job for his first time out. Then he got to throw a pass to another Don Bosco guy (tight end Tommy Sweeney)."

Daboll told the media that sharing a QB room with Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor has been a big boost for the undrafted rookie, who has benefited from learning from the two veterans.

"I think he's just come out here, he's gotten better," said the head coach. "I think the room that he's in with DJ and Ty is helpful. Two good vets that do it the right way, so I think he's made progress since he's been here."

View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 roster as it currently stands.


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