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2021 OTAs

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Takeaways from second week of Giants OTAs


The Giants wrapped up another week of organized team activities (OTAs) on Friday as Spring practices are underway at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Coach Joe Judge and his players also addressed the media to discuss the progress of the team.

Here is everything you need to know:

Rookie class is starting to get up to speed.

Last month, the Giants held a rookie minicamp for their 2021 class, which includes six draft choices. To use Judge's phrase, it was like "drinking from a fire hose" as they learned the basics, all the way down to remembering names, faces, and how to navigate the facility. From his experience, Judge said a lot of times you see a level of improvement week-by-week more than with the vets because the rookies are raw. This class, his second since taking over as head coach, is no different.

"It's like watching a bunch of pups grow up," Judge said.

He added: "You start plugging it all together and moving fast going forward. These guys, it slows down for them every week – the scheme, the systems, the terminology. You start seeing their bodies get in better shape. I think one thing with all the rookies right now – and talking to a bunch of other teams – they are seeing the same thing. When you get these guys from the draft in the rookie minicamp, they have been so far removed from football training. It's that combine training, it's that personal trainer, kind of let's go at your own pace. You have to get back into team football where you are moving at a high intensity and higher volume and you're moving in more team drills.

"That football movement we talk about, it's very important. In terms of the rookies, they have to get their legs back under them, but we see a lot of improvement every day from these guys and it's stacked week-by-week so far. I'm pleased with the attention to detail they are giving for us, and the way they are working with the rookie development program and I'm excited to get the pads on and see them go full speed."

Nate Solder is re-acclimating to football.

Veteran players also need to get back up to speed, especially offensive tackle Nate Solder. The 33-year-old, two-time Super Bowl champion opted out of last season due to the coronavirus pandemic as a cancer survivor and the father of young son who has undergone treatment for cancer on-and-off since he was three months old.

After a year away, Solder signed a new contract and rejoined the offensive line, where he had started 32 consecutive games at left tackle since signing with the Giants in 2018. In his absence last season, Andrew Thomas, the Giants' first-round draft choice, started 15 games as a rookie.

"He's been working hard for us," Judge said of Solder. "He took time to get his body back going, obviously with time away from the game, take time to re-acclimate and get back in playing shape. He's been doing a good job being in the building, working hard on the field. He's been great with the guys. He's obviously an older guy, brings a lot of experience and he's been a good voice in the room as the entire offensive line has had great communication with Rob (Sale), Ben (Wilkerson), Pat (Flaherty), Freddie (Kitchens) and all those guys been working together. I've been very pleased with how that entire unit of players and coaches have been working and the progress they're building towards right now."

View the best photos from Friday's OTA practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Offensive line adjusts to new position coach.

In March, Judge hired offensive line coach Rob Sale, who has 14 years of collegiate coaching experience and spent the previous three seasons as the offensive coordinator and line coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

"He's awesome, he's a good teacher and good coach and good person," said Nick Gates, who started all 16 games last season after moving to center. "I can't wait to keep working with him and keep learning and picking his brain and seeing what he can teach us throughout the year."

This is the third offensive line coach of Judge's tenure after he replaced Marc Colombo with Dave DeGuglielmo last November. Former Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty also joined the staff as a consultant, while Freddie Kitchens and Derek Dooley switched positions, with the former going from tight ends coach to senior offensive assistant. Ben Wilkerson is the assistant offensive line coach.

"All four of them are all on the same page, and if one doesn't know the question, he's going to ask the next guy and vice versa," Gates said. "As long as they are all on the same page, it's not that difficult at all. They are all great guys and I love working with each one of them."

Judge envisions mix of what Kenny Golladay did in Detroit.

The Giants landed one of the most coveted free agents this year in Kenny Golladay, who posted two 1,000-yard seasons with the Lions and led the NFL in touchdown catches in 2019. Now, these veterans have to work him into Jason Garrett's system.

"When you add new players to the roster through free agency or the draft, you're going to try to build in different things that fit to their strengths," Judge said. "Obviously there's going to be an element of what he did so well in Detroit that we'll try to incorporate and let him play to his strengths, and then we'll try to find things that fit us that he hasn't done in the past and make sure we fit them in as we go."

Judge added: "Everyone saw on tape this guy has been a physical player for years. He's made a lot of tough catches, a lot of big plays with the ball in his hand running. He brings a physical toughness; that's something we saw on tape, and we plan on building into his strengths whatever we can do with our offense."

Patrick Graham isn't making robots on defense.

Holding opponents to under 20 points per game in the second half of the season, the Giants finished strong under assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who flourished in the system with the best season of his career, looks to build off the late success but knows every year starts anew.

"One thing I've always raved about Pat Graham is just how smart he is in terms of knowing our opponent and knowing his players," Williams said. "You know, we don't run the same defense every week. It's like we change our defensive coordinator to who we are playing, what type of schemes we are going to get that week, and he also does a good job of knowing his players and putting them in the right position, and I think that goes a long way."

Williams added: "If I know I'm good at a certain thing, he's going to just make sure that I perfect what I am good at instead of like changing who I am. He knows players are going to get the job done different ways. You know, me and Dex [Dexter Lawrence II] probably will play the B-gap different ways but as long as we can control our B-gap and do the job, he's going to be okay with that. I think that goes a long way, like I said, because he's not creating robots out there. Sometimes on paper, it easy to see Xs and Os but it goes further as a coach and player to know each other and each other's skill set and put us in the right position."

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