EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Here comes The G.O.A.T.
The Giants' upcoming Monday night home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers delivers numerous captivating storylines. There's the 1-6 Giants, coming off a disappointing one-point loss in Philadelphia, facing a Bucs team that is 5-2 and has won five of its last six games – and the loss was a one-pointer. And the Giants' offense – 31st in the NFL in both points and yards a game – facing a Tampa Bay defense that is ranked third overall and first against the run. The Bucs have scored 222 points – exactly 100 more than the Giants.
But most of all, there's Tom Brady, who will face the Giants in a prime-time game for the second straight season and visit them for the first time in five years. The Giants lost the 2019 Thursday night game in Foxborough, 35-14, and dropped a 27-26 decision in MetLife Stadium in 2015.
Brady, of course, was then the quarterback of the New England Patriots, the franchise he led to nine Super Bowl appearances, winning six. After 20 seasons in New England, Brady left the Patriots to sign with Tampa Bay on March 20. In seven games this season, he has thrown 18 touchdown passes and just four interceptions, and his passer rating of 102.7 is higher than the 97.1 he had in his two-decade tenure with the Patriots.
Two members of the Giants witnessed Brady's magic up close from 2012-19. Coach Joe Judge was the Patriots' assistant special teams coach and then coordinator those eight years and also served as wide receivers coach last season. Safety Nate Ebner also joined the Patriots in 2012 and remained with them until joining the Giants in the spring.
"This guy is clearly one of the best to ever play the game," Judge said of Brady on a Zoom call today. "He's playing at a very high level. You watch Tom, obviously, I had a little bit different of a chance this weekend being home for a little bit, working from the house, of peaking at the TV and seeing Tom out there playing (in a 45-20 rout of the Raiders in Las Vegas). That, along with the coaching tape I've watched, this guy hasn't had much drop off. He's playing at a very high level. He has the guys around him playing at a high level as well."
Judge credits Brady's football knowledge with contributing as much to his success as his physical skills.
"One thing about Tom is he's a very intelligent player," Judge said. "He thinks ahead of the play, he's always looking for answers, he's very proactive in how he sees the game, he understands the personnel on the other side extremely well. He's been in all of the situations, however you slice it up, as many times as you can possibly imagine, whether that's through practice or games. This guy is fluent in football. Look, he's a great player. I think the thing you have to always keep in mind with Tom is he's as tough and fierce a competitor as there has ever been in any organized sport. This guy really is truly one of the great ones. Look, it's going to be a little bit different being on an opposite sideline from him this time. But it's a great challenge and look forward to seeing him on the field."
Ebner will face Brady in a game wearing a different uniform for the first time but squared off against the future Hall of Fame quarterback in hundreds of practices.
"It's Tom Brady at the end of the day," Ebner said. "Obviously, I played with him a while. I know he's a great player, he continues to be great. He's going be a very tough opponent to prepare for as he's been all these years.
"I know Tom as a person and played with him quite a bit, but every year brings a new year. We're going to have to prepare for not just him but a plethora of other great players and a great team. We're going to have to take this year for what it is and prepare of the Buccaneers of 2020."
Brady is 4-1 against the Giants in the regular season (2-0 in New Jersey). But he suffered two of the most significant losses of his career when the Giants defeated the Patriots in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI. Judge and Ebner saw only the two most recent games Brady played against the Giants.
In their final season with the Patriots, as the team's wide receivers coach, Judge worked more closely with Brady.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tom," Judge said. "I learned a lot of ball being around him. How he sees it through a player's perspective. The things that come up in a game and how he handles it. Hearing the way he kind of picks receivers' brains throughout a practice or things he may see pre-snap. I got a lot of knowledge just listening to him talk to other guys on the team. To me, one of the most beneficial things was you could go in during training camp and you put on the one on one period, receivers versus DB's. A lot of times you run it as a coach, there would be other times where we would let the players go ahead and do it. You would let Tom go in there and talk to the receivers about what he's seeing and what he expects on a certain route. To me, that made you a much better coach by listening to how the quarterback sees it and what he expects on each route.
"To me, there's fine points in coaching but ultimately it matters how the players see it on the field. To be able to hear through the vision that Tom had, that was really an education in itself right there. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He was a ton of fun to be around. You really got to see one of the great competitors on a daily basis. Not only how he performed but more importantly how he prepared. I think that's some of the things that gets overlooked. It's not accidental this guy is playing this late in this timeline. Being 40 plus years old and still playing at this high level. The things that people don't see aren't the time on the field. The thing that people don't see are the hours and hours behind, where he's in the training room longer, he's stretching, he's getting nutrition, the way he takes care of his body meticulously. He set the tone for an entire organization. I'm very grateful for my time being around him."
*Defensive back Brandon Williams, who had been on injured reserve since Sept. 30, returned to practice today. Williams played 29 special teams snaps in the season's first two games before suffering a groin injury.
*The Giants today made several roster moves as they returned to the field for the first time since their loss in Philadelphia last week.
Linebacker Trent Harris was signed to the active roster from the practice squad for the third time this month. He played nine special teams snaps in his Giants debut against the Eagles.
Harris was signed to the Giants' practice squad on Oct. 14 and elevated to the active roster three days later. He was in uniform but did not play when the Giants defeated Washington on Oct. 18. Harris reverted to the practice squad the day after that game, returned to the roster to play in Philadelphia and was sent back to the practice squad on Friday.
With the Miami Dolphins in 2019, Harris played in 11 games with three starts and recorded 22 tackles (16 solo), 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
Three players were signed to the practice squad: wide receiver Corey Coleman, defensive back Montre Hartage and tight end Rysen John.
Coleman was released on Sept. 6. He spent the entire 2019 season on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in the first training camp practice. In 2018, Coleman played in eight games with one start for the Giants and caught five passes for 71 yards and averaged 26.0 yards on 23 kickoff returns.
A 2016 first-round draft choice by the Cleveland Browns, Coleman has played in 27 career games with 19 starts and has 61 receptions for 789 yards and five touchdowns.
Hartage was released by the team on Sept. 9. He was awarded to the Giants off waivers on April 28, two days after he was cut by Miami. Hartage played four games for the Dolphins in 2019.
John, 6-7 and 237 pounds, was signed as a rookie free agent on April 30 from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. He suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and was waived/injured on Sept. 2.
The Giants terminated the practice squad contract of center Javon Patterson.