The Giants were back on the field Tuesday for their final open practice ahead of Thursday's preseason opener in New England.
For the first time this summer, the Giants used cards at practice in preparation for Thursday's game. This basically serves as an opportunity for each side of the ball to do some scout team work on the upcoming opponent, gearing the plays they run towards the Patriots as opposed to some of their normal base offense/defense. Due to this, practice was not full speed.
However, we did hear from the Giants assistant coaches for the first time today as they met with the media before the team took the field. All of the assistants spoke, providing some insight on several players within their respective position groups. Following the on-field prep for Thursday, the media heard from OT Evan Neal and CB Darnay Holmes.
Here is what we learned today.
1. Kayvon "showing great promise"
It can be difficult at times to determine how well an offensive or defensive lineman is truly performing during training camp without full tackling. But one theme that has been consistent over the first two weeks of camp: Kayvon Thibodeaux getting into the backfield. The No. 5 overall pick has displayed some strong pass rush moves and his overall work ethic has impressed assistant defensive line coach Bryan Cox.
"The guy works. He's smart," Cox told reporters Tuesday morning. "Guys gravitate to him. He's kind of a jokester. He's a lot of different things; he isn't just one thing…. Showing great promise, and I'm not going to try to predict what he's going to be or not be. Working really hard, doing a really nice job. His personality is really good because he's versatile. He can do a lot of different things. He can have a lot of different conversations. I mean, he's a well-rounded kid. And I think his playing is going to speak for itself."
Of course, Thibodeaux was drafted just two picks ahead of Evan Neal, thus forever solidifying the link between the two players. With the former being an edge rusher and the latter being an offensive tackle, the pair have had plenty of opportunities to go up against each other during practice. Neal has described his matchups against Thibodeaux in the past as "iron sharpens iron," and the tackle today reiterated his enjoyment in going up against his fellow first-round pick.
"What you see is what you get with him," the rookie tackle said about Thibodeaux. "He's a pass rusher and I feel like he is refining his moves, he's refining his technique. As opposed to only having one move, he works a counter move, going from speed to power and he's ripping up under. Coming from a bull-rush and then ripping through. So, seeing him just work double moves and counter moves and also, he has a really fast first step. So, I kind of got to get out of my pass set really fast and get to my spot before he does. It's really fun going up against that guy. He is getting me better and I believe I'm getting him better so I'm just excited to continue to butt heads."
2. Neal on his improvements since spring workouts
Speaking of Neal, the rookie offensive tackle has been impressive in his first few months with the team. Veteran OL Jon Feliciano recently raved about Neal’s demeanor and the way he conducts himself both on and off the field, while Saquon Barkley expressed his excitement about running behind the "freak" lineman. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old's position coach joined in on the praise.
"He's worked very hard. He's a guy that pushes himself," said offensive line coach Bobby Johnson. "For me, my role with him is to make sure that he sees that positive and doesn't focus on the negatives. So, he's working through them. And as a matter of fact, the open scrimmage in the stadium was probably his best practice. But we all have higher expectations of him, and he is the type of kid that will constantly work to those expectation. So, he's doing a good job. A very good job…
"He takes constructive criticism very well, and he does not dwell on too much praise. So, I think he's got a really good temperament, and everybody wants him to be really good. But I don't think everybody wants him to be as good as he wants to be. So, I think we got the right mindset going forward."
It's been just under three months since Neal first reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for rookie minicamp. But the 6-foot-7, 350-pound tackle believes he has already taken some big strides in his game during that short span.
"I feel like from the mental side of the game for sure and my technique," Neal said on the areas where he's improved. "I'm still working to improve it every day but, the techniques that the coaches are trying to coach me, I'm definitely receiving them well and developing those and getting better…
"I definitely know I belong, and I can play at this level. Camp has been getting me better. I feel like I have been getting other guys better as well. I'm just excited, the time's going to tell. It's exciting to go out there and continue to compete, get better with my teammates, and hopefully win some ball games."
3. Holmes looking to carry camp success into season
Darnay Holmes has been a bright spot at training camp. The third-year corner had turnovers in each of the first four practices of camp, catching three interceptions and forcing four fumbles. Facing the opportunity to compete to be the team's starting slot corner, Holmes believes his ability to conquer the mental aspect of the game is what will help him carry his success through the regular season.
"Just staying on course," Holmes said. "And actually allowing things you've been doing to be seen on the field. Allowing it to be translated, and not being so caught up in the mental thing, the mental side of the game. And just being free flowing and understanding that if you put the work in, you're prepared for anything you face once you hit that field…
"I'll say I'm a guy that's very open minded. So, I'm constantly evolving. You know, I'm more in tune with things. I'm in tune with understanding that you're never going to be able to eliminate doubt. You're never going to be able to eliminate fear. You're never going to be able to eliminate the inevitable of losing reps. So having the understanding that when I hit that field, it might not go my way and be able to respond. So, I feel like I'm more grounded and more free flowing."
His position coach has also been happy with the way Holmes has played during camp, and believes the young corner's skills are a perfect match for Wink Martindale's defense.
"He has just played his butt off and competed hard," said defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson. "I think Wink's system allows him -- it highlights and features a lot of what he is, what he does and what he can bring. And I think Wink has done a great job of empowering him and making him feel confident. And I think it's a great and it has been a great marriage."
View the top photos from Tuesday's training camp practice as the team prepares for Thursday's preseason opener against the Patriots.
4. Wan'Dale a 'very intelligent player'
When the Giants released their first unofficial depth chart on Monday, four different rookies were penciled in as starters, one of which was WR Wan'Dale Robinson. Of course, depth charts at this time of the year are always subject to change. But nonetheless, Robinson has performed well enough over the last few months to earn a spot as one of the starting wide receivers, alongside Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney.
Robinson put together a stellar junior campaign at Kentucky last season. His 104 receptions for 1,334 yards set single-season school records, while his 104 catches ranked third in the nation. While the rookie has looked strong since the start of training camp, wide receiver coach Mike Groh admitted that Robinson still has some ways to go.
"I think Wan'Dale is very competitively mature. Very intelligent player," said Groh. "Maybe you've seen some of the signs that he is a pro. We're not trying to teach him how to be a pro. He's got to learn, you know, what his routine is – what works for him now that he's got all this extra time to really devote to his craft. And he's going through that process as well. But in terms of being able to handle things as a young player, we're pleased with where he's at. But he's still got a long way to go."
5. Other notes from Tuesday's press conferences
Evan Neal on his size & athleticism helping him be aggressive in pass protection:
"I'm a big guy, I'm strong, I'm long, and a lot of times when I get my hands on somebody, I can shut it down right now. My job is to keep guys off of the quarterback, so whatever way possible, whatever way works best in that moment that's what I'm going to use. Rather I've got to aggressively set a guy, or I've got to be more patient and take an angle set. Whatever way I need to get the job done that's how I'm going to get the job done."
Bobby Johnson on Andrew Thomas:
"You see the skillset that you understand why he was a high draft pick. You see a guy who is a professional day-in and day-out. Extremely intelligent. He asks really good football questions. He asks good philosophical questions as far as football, like: What are we trying to accomplish here? And they're never in a negative or challenging way. It's he wants to understand so he can apply it and understand. He is a football thinker. And I like the fact that, too, he asks question that maybe Evan hasn't got to in his head so we can kind of get a jump start on him. I've been real pleased with him on the field and especially in the classroom. He's what you want as well."
Mike Groh on WR competition to make the 53-man roster:
"I would say there's a competition one through six or one through eight. And that's not just coach-speak. That's the God's honest truth. And we've got three preseason games and however many remaining practices out here, which are all being evaluated closely. And I think the guys know that. They understand that nothing at this point is set in stone. We're looking for whoever we think are the best six or however many (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) and Dabs think is the number that we need to keep. So those guys continue to be smart, tough, dependable, and then getting open and catching a ball. Alright, it sounds very simple, but then you put somebody right across from you that's trying to keep you from doing that – trying make the team as well – and you know the challenge obviously ramps up. But guys that can sustain that competitive toughness throughout the course of camp, you feel like you'll be able to depend on them throughout the course of a 17-game season."
Neal on if anything intimidates him:
"Nothing really intimidates me about this sport. It can be an intimidating sport going up against world-class athletes but I'm here for a reason as well. You're just going to go out there and compete."
Darnay Holmes on possibility of blitzing a lot this season:
"I feel like that's a lot of opportunity. You know, early on in my rookie year I was labeled as a guy who was blitzing. You know, a lot of people may have forgotten that, but I didn't forget that. I definitely have a tool in the tool bag. So, as you all know, Wink is going to unleash it."
Jerome Henderson on what he's seen from Adoree' Jackson:
"I think Adoree' has had a great off-season, a great camp. He's just got to press himself to continue to play at a high level. To want that responsibility of being a number one corner in this league. Like some people, again, when the light gets on them, some people shrink. Some people rise. I feel like Adoree' is going to rise and accept that challenge and play at a high level for us."
Neal on expectations for preseason opener:
"I expect it to be fast, aggressive, up-tempo, and violent, just like any other football game would be. I'm excited for that."
OLB Coach Drew Wilkins on Kayvon Thibodeaux:
"He does not lack any confidence. He looks to shine in big moments. Yesterday Dabs right here in the field house gives him a basketball, and he's got to make a shot for him to walk through. And he just steps up and drains it. Or the rookies, they've got to sing a song. And he just goes up there and brings the house down. So, he's just got confidence – he's a great mix of confidence and humility. Everything he does he wants to do it at 100 percent, whether it's a rookie task like that or going out there and setting the front and making all the communication checks. It's great to see a guy that just dives into everything he attacks."