Preparations for the preseason opener continued Monday as the Giants took the field for practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
For the first time during training camp, the team's three coordinators spoke with the media as OC Mike Kafka, DC Wink Martindale and STC Thomas McGaughey were at the podium. Following practice, rookie TE Daniel Bellinger also spoke to the group.
The alumni visits continued as Ring of Honor running back Tiki Barber stopped by practice, and was at one point seen chatting with Saquon Barkley.
Here is what we learned Monday.
1. Kafka, Daboll collaborating on offense
When the Giants finalized their coaching staff earlier this year, it was obvious the offense was going to undergo a significant transformation with the arrival of Brian Daboll from Buffalo and Mike Kafka from Kansas City. The pair came from two of the NFL's leading offenses of recent years, and many believed the Giants' offense would be some sort of combination of the two systems. According to the offensive coordinator, the two coaches constantly have an open dialogue about the team's offensive philosophy.
"We talk all the time about those type of things and how we want to run things," the coordinator said about his communication with Daboll. "But when you're in a training camp mode, it's evaluation. You're evaluating the players; you're evaluating the scheme. So, there's a balance of that, but again, me and Dabes talk all the time about how we want to attack certain defenses. How we want to attack certain teams. How we want to use our players. So, that's been an open conversation since the day I got here."
Daboll was on WFAN Sports Radio Monday morning before practice, where he said that Kafka would be calling plays for the preseason opener against the Patriots on Thursday. Although the coordinator will be the one actually telling the quarterbacks what plays to run, Kafka made it clear that the process of calling the offense is a joint one between him, Daboll and the rest of the offensive staff.
"It's been very collaborative as far as between myself and the staff, the offensive staff and Dabes, working together on what we want our players to do, what we want to do in the run game, the pass game, movement, screens, play action," Kafka stated. "And it's been really cool that way and really collaborative, and it's been fun."
2. Wink preaches communication across entire defense
Wink Martindale has made a name for himself in the NFL for his tough, blitz-heavy defense. In his four seasons as the coordinator in Baltimore, the Ravens had a Top-5 defense in both points and yards three times. With players blitzing more than your traditional defense, it often leads to some 1-on-1 matchups in the defensive backfield. Due to all of the creativity in Martindale's defense, one of the most important things in order for his unit to succeed is having strong communication.
"I know I run a different style meeting than everybody else. But it's because I want people talking," the coordinator told the media. "It's the same reason why I come up and ask them about their family and how they're doing. Just get them talking. It's a process and you get a defense that comes together because they all know each other and they're not afraid to communicate, they're not afraid to workout problems, they're not afraid to celebrate together. In building a unit that's what you do."
While Martindale achieved plenty of success in Baltimore, he obviously has completely different personnel with the Giants. As he told the media, Martindale is constantly changing the defense in order to fit his players' strengths.
"I think you're always changing to your personnel," Martindale stated. "I think that's not only a weekly thing it's a daily thing. Finding out who's available and put them in the best positions that you try to put them in, and I think that's the strength of our package, it's very flexible in that way."
3. TMac talks Gillan, punt returners
The Giants moved on from Riley Dixon this off-season after four years with the team, paving the way for Jamie Gillan to take over as the team's punter. Gillan spent the last three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, playing 44 games and averaging nearly 45 yards per punt. Nicknamed "The Scottish Hammer", Gillan is still just 25-years-old and maturing in his NFL career. But Thomas McGaughey is happy with the work the young punter has been putting in.
"He's a hard worker. He's very coachable and he wants to do well," McGaughey said. "He's doing a great job. He's out working every single day and I look forward to good things from him… The one thing you've got to understand when you're dealing with young players – there is a process. There is a process involved. You have to be able to have patience and work through the process.
"He's here because he has talent. Most young players are here in this league because they have talent. Most young players that come into this league do not tear it up when they first walk in. There is a learning curve, there is a maturation process. Throughout that maturation process, you have to be able to find what he does well, learn how he ticks and then after you figure that thing out as a coach, then you work from there. He's fixing things. We've identified some things that he needs to work on, and he's worked on them. He's been doing well."
On the other side of the punt game, the Giants have not yet chosen who will be returning punts this season. As McGaughey noted, the team has six or seven guys who are more than capable of catching punts, which can only benefit the unit.
"There's a bunch of guys back there working at it," said the coordinator. "We have a lot of options, and this is the first time in a while that we've had as many guys on the roster that can catch punts. They've done a really good job of – I will say this; our guys have done a good job of working over the years. The guys that we've got in, the C.J. Boards, the Darius Slaytons, KT and all of those guys, catching punts. Now we have a bunch of options back there, we've got six or seven guys that can catch punts and they do it well."
View the top photos from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
4. Holmes has 'been productive', wants to face the best
It's been noted several times over the last few weeks how well Darnay Holmes has been playing in training camp. With four turnovers in the first four practices and numerous pass breakups since, the third-year corner has looked impressive on the practice field.
Holmes has played in 23 games with nine starts across his first two seasons, but is now looking at an opportunity to see a lot more playing time in 2022. Holmes is in competition to be the team's starting slot corner, which has led to him seeing plenty of practice reps against some of the Giants' top wide receivers. As Martindale noted, the 24-year-old corner welcomes the challenge of going up against the best opposition on every rep.
"What I like about Nay is, 'A' he's been productive while he's in there and, 'B' he wants to go against the best every time he gets in the one-on-one reps, and I love his toughness," the defensive coordinator said about Holmes. "You know, I call him, 'Dirty 30.' I just love his toughness and I'm not saying he plays dirty. I'm just talking about how he embraces the grind of practicing every day, doing things right and asking the right questions. He's got some qualities that we haven't had before at that position."
5. Facing Wink's defense has helped Kafka, offense improve
It was clear with the moves made since the conclusion of last season that boosting the offense was one of the top priorities. The additions of Daboll and Kafka, along with all of the moves made along the offensive line, should help; but the unit is working toward mastering a new playbook, a process that does not happen overnight.
While the offense is putting in the work each and every day to improve and learn the system as best as possible, Kafka noted how facing Wink's defense on a daily basis has been extremely beneficial to the offense, especially in pass protection.
"He brings a lot of pressure, and he's multiple in those type of ways. But that's been a good challenge for our offense, but again, I think there's plays that we've had throughout training camp and in the scrimmage that look pretty good," Kafka said on Wink's defense. "We got him on one of them; they got us on one. That's part of competing. That's why I love about this team right now is everyone's competing. Everyone's trying to get better. They might get you one time. They might get us one time, but we're all on the same team. We're all working toward the same goal."