The Giants took the practice field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center Thursday as they continue to prepare for Sunday's game against the Commanders.
Prior to the start of practice, Giants coordinators Wink Martindale, Mike Kafka and Thomas McGaughey met with the media for their weekly press conferences. Running back Saquon Barkley and defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence spoke to reporters in the locker room after practice.
Here are five things we learned Thursday.
1. Defense 'starting to gel'
After a slow start to the season, the Giants' defense has picked it up over the last few weeks. In two of the last three games, the defense has held the opponent to under 300 total yards of offense. Going up against one of the top offenses in the NFL this past Sunday, the Giants held the Bills to 14 points and 297 yards. While the Giants fell short at the end, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was encouraged with the performance of his defense.
"Obviously, disappointed with the outcome, but I think that our effort and execution, the communication, we did a lot of good things Sunday night against Buffalo and hope to build on that as we keep going forward," said the defensive coordinator. "I like where we are going right now. We've got a great challenge ahead of us with this group from Washington. We'll see what happens, we'll tee it up."
The unit has also done a good job of creating turnovers in recent weeks. After not recording a takeaway in the first four weeks of the season, the defense has multiple turnovers in back-to-back games with five total during that span.
"Bobby, (safety) X(avier McKinney), (defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams), (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II), all those guys, they are starting to gel as a unit," said Martindale. "(Outside linebacker) Kayvon (Thibodeaux), you know you just keep going down the list, they are starting to gel as a unit, and they are getting used to playing together and Bobby is a big part of that, too. I think you are just going to continue to see him keep striding out the way we all expected him too."
"I think a lot of guys on defense just have the same mindset and the want to," Lawrence added. "Our mindset is just to go kick somebody's butt, for real. Just go out there and play faster, harder, longer than the other team plays, and the results will handle themselves, and just keep believing. They make a big play, it's the NFL. It's going to happen. Go to the next one, and we'll make that stop. Get them down so we've got a place to stand."
View photos of the Giants on the practice field ahead of the Week 7 matchup against the Washington Commanders.
2. O-line updates
For the second consecutive day, left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring), center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) and swing tackle Matt Peart (shoulder) did not participate in practice. Additionally, tackle Evan Neal (ankle) was limited, along with guard Mark Glowinski (quad/ankle).
Prior to practice, the Giants announced that offensive lineman Shane Lemieux was placed on injured reserve due to a torn biceps suffered during Wednesday's practice. Daboll confirmed later that the injury will likely force Lemieux to miss the remainder of the season. In a corresponding move, the Giants signed Sean Harlow off of the Cowboys' practice squad. Harlow was with the Giants during training camp before signing to the Cowboys' practice squad on August 30.
The Giants had already made several roster moves involving the offensive line this week. Joshua Ezeudu, who started at left tackle the last five games, was placed on injured reserve due to the toe injury that knocked him out of Sunday's game. The Giants improved their depth upfront by signing two linemen off other teams' practice squads – former Giant Tyre Phillips (Eagles) and tackle Josh Miles (Atlanta).
Additionally, the team announced late Wednesday morning that offensive lineman Justin Pugh was signed to the active roster. The veteran signed to the practice squad on October 3 and was elevated for Sunday's game. After starting at left guard, Pugh moved over to left tackle following Ezeudu's injury and played well.
3. Jalin Hyatt 'growing'
It didn't take long for rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt to showcase his big-play ability. In just his second NFL game, Hyatt had two long receptions to get the Giants' into the opponent's territory, including a 58-yard reception on the first play of the second half which sparked the Giants' comeback against the Cardinals. He finished that game with two receptions for 89 yards.
Hyatt is beginning to see his playing time increase as he gets more accustomed to the speed in the NFL. In Sunday's loss to the Bills, the rookie wideout played a season-high 56 offensive snaps, or 73 percent of the team's offensive plays. He was targeted four times and had three receptions, both of which were the most of his young career, and had a key catch on fourth down to extend the Giants' final drive of the game. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka praised Hyatt's development as he starts to see the field more.
"Jalin's growing," said Kafka. "I think he's learning each and every day, each and every week. You've seen him getting a little bit better and better and better, so that's good. It's a step in the right direction and again, as a young player, it's all about building confidence, so he's going through that right now. I think he's in a good spot mentally, so again just working him and the others throughout the game plan. That's what we're looking to build on."
4. Saquon looking forward to competing vs. Commanders
Running back Saquon Barkley made his return to action this past Sunday with 93 yards on 24 carries and added four receptions. More important than his stats, the star running back told the media Thursday that he suffered "no setbacks" from the ankle injury that forced him to miss three games. With Barkley back in the lineup, the Giants rushed for 132 yards as a team, their highest rushing total of the season.
This week, Barkley faces off against a familiar foe. In seven career games against Washington, the 26-year-old running back is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 109 rush attempts. His 634 yards and four touchdowns on the ground are both the most he's had against any team in his career. Add in his average of 4.6 receptions for 38.9 yards, and Barkley is averaging nearly 130 total yards from scrimmage against the NFC East opponent. He also holds the franchise record with 279 yards from scrimmage in an overtime victory over Washington back in 2019.
The Commanders have a talented defensive front made up of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen on the interior and Montez Sweat and Chase Young on the edges. Despite his success against Washington, Barkley has a ton of respect for their talented defense.
"I always have respect for them," said the running back. "Their defense is amazing. It's always fun playing against them, in a competitive way. I have nothing but respect for the whole defense but especially those four monsters. I just feel like they've been there forever. They've been there as long as I've been there. The only one who hasn't I think is (Commanders Defensive End) Chase (Young) and Chase was there the year after that. So, going against them is fun. They're a fun group to play against, it's always competitive, it's always tough, it's a challenge that as a competitor you love to go against. I look forward to doing that again and hopefully we come out with a win."
5. Jamie Gillan has 'definitely taken a step forward'
The 26-year-old punter has had 25 tries through the first six games and is averaging a career-high 48.7 yards per punt along with 45.1 net yards per punt, also a career-best. Gillan has had nine punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line at a 36.0 percent rate. His performance against the 49ers in Week 3 earned him a spot on Pro Football Focus' Team of the Week.
Gillan's performance has impressed special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, who has been praising the Scottish-born punter all season.
"He's definitely taken a step forward," said McGaughey. "I think I attribute it to him just getting more comfortable in who he is and just trying to use his skillset better. Those rugby guys, I mean, they're different. Jamie is one of the best ball strikers I've ever coached, and he can hit a variety of different punts. So, just trying to do a better job as a coach managing him, trying to put him in a position where he feels comfortable, and he's not thinking, he's just letting that muscle memory kick in. He's done a really good job of developing his routine and coming out here and just working hard and just trying to work at the different types of kicks that he has."
View photos of the MetLife Stadium field design for Week 7's Legacy Game - presented by Quest®