The Giants continued their preparation for this weekend's matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey spoke with the media before Thursday's practice. Here are five things we learned today:
1. Bellinger's 'role continues to expand'
Just five games into his NFL career, Daniel Bellinger has already made a big impact on the Giants offense. The rookie did not record a catch in his first career game. Since then, he has caught 10 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Against the Packers in London last week, Bellinger also added a two-yard rushing touchdown on a double reverse while playing a season-high 45 offensive snaps.
Bellinger has gradually seen his role increase each week, and deservedly so. The 22-year-old was on the field for 74 percent of the offensive snaps in Week 5 after playing 60 percent in Weeks 3 and 4. On the season, Bellinger has earned a 72.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, which comes in as the fourth-highest among NFL tight ends behind only Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and David Njoku. Mike Kafka complimented the rookie on Thursday for his attention to detail, along with his flexibility.
"I think Belly is doing a great job with his role," said the offensive coordinator. "Every single day he comes to work, he gets better. I think you're seeing that week in and week out as his role continues to expand and he continues to do different things within the offense just like we ask everyone to do. He's done a great job with that. (Tight ends) Coach (Andy) Bishoff has done a great job with him, meeting with him early and making sure he's detailed. Daniel is putting in all the work. I'm really happy for him…
"Daniel has done a great job with all of the positions we put him at – in-line, spread out, in the backfield like the play you saw there last week. He's got flexibility and he's an athletic kid and he's smart and he's dependable and he's a guy that we trust in those situations."
2. Wink: 'This is just the next game'
As coach Brian Daboll has noted numerous times over the last few months, NFL players and coaches tend to skip around to several teams throughout their careers. Due to this, facing off against a former team at some point is all but inevitable. Such is the case in Week 6, as Wink Martindale will go up against his former team for the first time.
Martindale spent 10 seasons in Baltimore, six as linebackers coach and the last four as defensive coordinator, before joining Daboll's staff in the same role. While he did acknowledge that going up against your old team does add a little "competitive spirit" to the game, he reiterated to the media that Sunday's game is just another week on the schedule.
"I think Dabs alluded to this earlier," Martindale said. "In coaching, we're gypsies anyway. Now I happened to be there for 10 years, which is a long time. I was also in Oakland, and I was also in Denver. For coaches, that's just the way our profession is. Is there a little competitive spirit in you when you go play a team you used to work for? Sure, there is. I'm not going to deny that. Everybody knows that.
"But as far as circling the game and everything else, this is just the next game. We've had success approaching it that way. We empty the tank on Sunday and we fill it up the rest of the week. I just think that's how you have to approach it. What I tell the players all the time is, 'what I owe you during the game is my composure. That's where I show you my athleticism is keeping my composure, so you're always thinking about the next play'."
Martindale isn't the only Giant set to face his former team on Sunday. Outside linebacker Jihad Ward and defensive lineman Justin Ellis both signed with the Giants in free agency, following the defensive coordinator to East Rutherford. Additionally, Andy Bischoff (tight ends), John Egorugwu (inside linebackers), Drew Wilkins (outside linebackers) and Kevin Wilkins (defensive assistant) also served on the Ravens coaching staff at some point during their respective careers. Meanwhile, the Giants will also see a couple of familiar faces in outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul and guard Kevin Zeitler.
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who's been out since suffering a knee injury in Week 2, was a limited participant at practice for the second consecutive day Thursday. The same goes for outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who missed Weeks 1, 2 and 5 with a calf injury. Cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson (knee/neck) and Darnay Holmes (quad) were also both limited participants Thursday. Meanwhile, CB Cor'Dale Flott (calf), S Tony Jefferson (foot), and S Jason Pinnock (ankle) have yet to practice this week.
3. Scouting Ravens defense
It's been an up and down start to the season for the Baltimore defense. The unit comes into Week 6 ranking last in passing yards allowed at 290.2, while their nine passing touchdowns surrendered is tied for 25th in the league. However, the Ravens defense has recorded eight interceptions on the season, which is tied with the Steelers and Bills for the most in the NFL. Kafka knows that protecting the football has to be one of the biggest priorities for the offense on Sunday.
"They have really good players in the backend, really good players in the front seven as well," Kafka said about the Ravens. "They generate pressure, they create pressure up front, and they have ball hawks in the back end that do a good job of tackling the football, stripping and punching at the ball. Those are points of emphasis for us this week."
While the Baltimore secondary is filled with talented players, a few stand out in particular. Safety Marcus Williams leads the team with three interceptions and five passes defensed, and also ranks second with total tackles (33) and has added a fumble recovery. But the two big names in the Ravens defensive backfield are at the cornerback position. Marlon Humphrey has been one of the top corners in the league for years, and has already picked off two passes this season. Then there's Marcus Peters, who returned to the field after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Kafka's first season in Kansas City overlapped with Peters' final year there, so the offensive coordinator knows exactly what the veteran corner brings to the table.
"I was with Marcus Peters in Kansas City and know how talented he is," said Kafka. "Obviously, being there, playing against Baltimore and Wink and those guys and there's a lot of familiar faces. I know maybe the stats don't show it or whatever, but we've got to be prepared for a physical game and a game that these guys really come to play every single week. We got to put our best foot forward as far as being fundamentally sound and doing the things we want to do on offense. It's a big-time challenge at all levels, all three levels, really, of the defense."
Wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson, who's been sidelined with a knee injury since the season opener, practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day Thursday. As did running back Saquon Barkley, who briefly departed last week's game with a shoulder injury. Wide receivers Kadarius Toney (hamstring) and Kenny Golladay (knee) have both been listed as DNP at practice this week.
4. Lamar 'an unbelievable player'
The Giants went up against two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers in Week 5 and did a great job of shutting him down in the second half. Well, things aren't getting any easier this week as Martindale is preparing his unit for the 2019 MVP in Lamar Jackson, a player the defensive coordinator knows very well.
Martindale was with Jackson in Baltimore for the quarterback's first four seasons, where the two seemed to have developed a close relationship. Both the coordinator and quarterback gave each other a special shout out when talking to the media this week. During Martindale's session with reporters on Thursday, he referred to Jackson as one of the NFL's best players.
"Shoutout to Lamar. He gave me a shoutout, so I had to give a shoutout back to him," said the defensive coordinator. "My relationship with Lamar, I love the guy. I think that it's another great challenge. We went from Aaron Rodgers, league MVP, to now we're going to Lamar Jackson, league MVP back in '19. I was with him when he did that, and he is an unbelievable player. For anybody that wants to say anything, that he's not, ok. Because he's unbelievable and he's playing at an MVP caliber right now like he was back in '19."
Jackson's 12 passing touchdowns are the third most in the NFL, only three behind Patrick Mahomes for the league lead. While he is averaging just 213.4 passing yards per game, his 149 pass attempts on the season is only the 22nd-most among quarterbacks. He's earned an impressive passer rating of 97.9 while throwing just five total interceptions. But limiting Jackson is a difficult task for any defense because of the quarterback's rushing ability, as well. Jackson leads all QBs with 374 rushing yards, while his 7.6 yards per attempt is the most of any player in the NFL this season.
"It's different sitting in the chair now instead of at practice when you're watching it," Martindale said about Jackson's ability. "It's like I told (Outside Linebacker Coach) Drew Wilkins, all those times we were going against him, and a guy said, 'oh, I got him', because you've got to stay away from the quarterback, 'oh I had him'. We're going to find that out on Sunday, whether or not they got him or not. I know it's different guys, but it's the truth with him because not only could he beat you with his arm, which he's throwing the ball really well, but he can beat you with his legs, his mind, and everything else. He's playing at a high level."
5. Tucker 'unlike any other kicker'
Few kickers have had more success over the last few seasons than Graham Gano. However, the Giants special teams unit will go up against one of them this weekend in Justin Tucker. After going undrafted in 2012, Tucker has been selected to seven All-Pro teams (five First-Team, two Second-Team) in addition to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. He converted on 35 of 37 field goal attempts last season for a league-best 94.6 FG percentage, in addition to making all 32 extra point attempts. He also set a new NFL record with a 66-yard field goal.
As a surprise to no one, Tucker has found similar success in 2022. He's connected on all nine of his field goal attempts, including four from 50+ yards. He heads into this weekend's matchup as the league's most accurate kicker all-time with his 91.3 career field goal percentage. Thomas McGaughey had nothing but praise for the Ravens kicker on Thursday.
"Justin Tucker is amazing," said the special teams coordinator. "He was a three-way guy in college at Texas, and he did everything. And just the transformation that he made from being a punter and a kicker in college and just seeing him grow throughout his career, the guy's amazing. The stuff that he can do, the stuff that he does is just like unlike any other kicker that we've seen in our era. He's a different animal that way. Very special talent."
*On Sunday, October 16, the Giants will be celebrating Latino Heritage Month in partnership with Ford and supported by Dunkin' and PNC Private Bank. Fans will be welcomed with several plaza festivities, including: Sampling of Latin cuisine, live DJ, Latin style dance exhibition, Super Bowl trophy on display (weather permitting), and more. The festivities will take place on the plaza between MetLife and Verizon gates.
For more details, visit: Giants.com/Los-Gigantes
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