EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the Giants and many NFL teams, the opening preseason game was traditionally an opportunity for starters to get a few reps and a little sweat and the finale was a showcase for unproven players hoping to make the roster.
But the NFL's new three-game preseason – reduced by one game because of the advent of the 17-game regular season – has flipped tradition on its helmet. With a mandatory five-player roster cut from the 90-man roster by 4 p.m. Tuesday and a two-week gap between the last preseason and first regular-season game, coaches like Joe Judge have altered their preseason plans.
Judge had said earlier this week his focus in the opener Saturday night against the Jets in MetLife Stadium would be on player evaluation. He took it a step further today in announcing that quarterback Daniel Jones won't play in the game. Judge wasn't prepared today to fully reveal his personnel plans because he had yet to speak to the players. But it's likely Jones will not be the only frontline player to get the night off.
Mike Glennon, a nine-year veteran and first-year Giant, will start at quarterback, with Clayton Thorson in relief.
"We expect the majority of our players to play," Judge said. "There are a couple guys we've decided for one reason or another, all different reasons, they won't play in this game, but we'll talk to the players later today and make sure they know.
"We look at it from a standpoint of trying to evaluate everybody, let everyone be out there and function. So, if you're trying to evaluate a receiver, the offensive line blocking for the quarterback will get evaluated. Trying to evaluate running backs, whether that be the receivers getting in blocks on the safeties, then cutting off the corners. Everyone has to function as a team. You do consider that in terms of when you put certain players together or who's having a little chemistry together in practice, or maybe certain units that haven't clicked quite yet. You want to kind of keep yourself out of a position where you can't evaluate a player properly on the field. The ultimate goal is to evaluate our players."
Next week, the Giants will practice with the Browns in Cleveland for two days before the teams meet in the second preseason game on Sunday. The following week, the Giants will follow a similar schedule with the New England Patriots, except their game will be played in MetLife. That's when Jones and Co. are expected to get their longest August showcase.
"Everything's subject to change based on where our team is, but right now our plan is to go into the New England game and treat that as a traditional Game Three where we play (the starters) maybe more of a full half," Judge said. "At that point, the units have kind of established themselves. Nothing will be final at that point, but it will be an opportunity at that point to go, 'Hey, get those guys together for an extended period of time.'"
Jones carefully avoided even a hint of controversy when asked how much preseason work he needs to be prepared for the season.
"That's really not up to me," he said. "My job is to be ready. I think practice and making sure that I'm focusing every day to improve and get to where I need to be as a player, so I think that's not my job. My job is just to be ready."
When a reporter suggested it was "strange" to rest early and play later in the preseason, Jones said, "I really haven't thought about it a whole lot. I'm just focusing on what we're doing now and preparing now through these first three weeks of camp and focusing on what we're doing here. Like I said, my job is to be ready and work to improve every day."
View the best photos from the Giants Fan Fest on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium.
*Will the joint practices with Cleveland and New England essentially compensate for the lost preseason game?
"I've said before, there's no replication for a game," Judge said. "Any experience these players get in a game itself is critical at the beginning of the season not only for their mental preparation, but also physically getting ready with the flow of the game, the hits you're going to take. The things you do in practice, you don't do a lot of live tackling, so the game is obviously played and ends with some kind of tackle. So, the game itself is critical for them to be prepared physically and mentally.
"But in terms of the joint practices, it's definitely a key part of our preparation. Obviously, next week we're at Cleveland, after that we'll be in New England. Both will be unique in our experiences in terms of what we're going to focus on with the other team, but both will be critical for us."
*Jones won't be in the game physically, but he will be mentally, listening to Jason Garrett's play calls, scouting the defense and conferring with Glennon and Thorson.
"I'll be looking at the defense from the sideline and, obviously, knowing the call and knowing what the quarterback is looking at," Jones said. "Trying to get a read and going through the game as if you were on the field. Obviously, you have a different perspective on the sideline, but you're going through the same process of reading the defense and knowing where the ball is supposed to go, or what the play is designed to do.
"When the quarterbacks come off, we will have a conversation. Obviously, I'm doing whatever I can to help out."