Thursday was an eventful day at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
The Giants continued their preparations for this weekend's matchup in Seattle against the Seahawks. It will be the team's second consecutive game on the road after they traveled to Jacksonville and defeated the Jaguars, 23-17, in Week 7. The Giants are trying to extend their winning streak to five games, which would their longest since 2008.
The Seahawks are returning home, seeking to win their third straight. Last week in Los Angeles, Pete Carroll's squad held the Chargers to just 329 total yards in route to a 37-23 victory.
Giants coordinators Mike Kafka, Wink Martindale and Thomas McGaughey met with the media Thursday before practice.
Here are five things we learned today.
1. Ezeudu 'did a great job' vs. Jaguars
Although the Giants emerged from Jacksonville with a victory last weekend, the win proved to be costly. The offense lost starting right tackle Evan Neal and left guard Ben Bredeson to respective knee injuries which Brian Daboll described as "week-to-week" on Wednesday. Not long after losing the two linemen, starting tight end Daniel Bellinger left the game with an eye injury and was quickly brought to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Daboll said Bellinger will undergo eye surgery and it's "too early to tell" if he will be able to return this season. With the rookie tight end out, the Giants called upon Tanner Hudson and Chris Myarick to play larger roles in the offense. Mike Kafka expressed confidence in tight ends coach Andy Bischoff and the rest of the TE room if Bellinger is unable to suit up Sunday.
"We'll certainly miss him and hope he gets back soon," the offensive coordinator said about Bellinger. "We've had a next man up mentality this whole season and the guys that will be stepping into those roles, we'll expect them jump right in and execute at a high level. Coach Bischoff does a great job of getting those guys ready. The rest of those guys will be ready to go."
In regards to the O-line, Tyre Phillips filled in for Neal at tackle while Joshua Ezeudu stepped in for Bredeson at guard. Ezeudu saw some action at the start of the season and now could be looking at a starting role come Sunday.
"He did a great job," Kafka said about the rookie guard's performance last week. "Again, that next man up mentality. He jumped right in there, handled the cadence and some of our silent count stuff. He did a really good job with that communication. There's a lot of things that he had to juggle and he jumped right in and executed it when he needed to. When everyone knew we were going to run the ball, he was one of those guys out in front with great fundamentals and all of the things that we talk about each day. He did a nice job with that."
2. Slowing down Seahawks' offense
The Seahawks enter this weekend's matchup with one of the league's most potent rushing attacks. Seattle has gained 959 yards on the ground this season, good for 10th in the NFL. However, they haven't run the ball a ton this year as their 174 rush attempts rank 18th. In terms of yards per carry, Seattle's 5.5 yards per attempt comes in at No. 1. Rashaad Penny was lost to a season-ending leg injury in Week 5, but rookie Kenneth Walker has stepped in to the role as the feature back and has run with the opportunity. Walker has carried the ball 44 times for 265 yards (6.0 avg.) and three touchdowns over the last two weeks and provides the Giants' defense with a big challenge.
"The bottom line to stop a run game and a run game like this, you've got to set the edge, okay?" Wink Martindale said. "You've got to set the edge and you got to knock people back but also understand that when you do that and you have an explosive back like Seattle has, they're going to come down and they're going to crack your defenders, your bigger defenders. Whether it's an outside backer or a safety and they're going to try and get him one-on-one with a corner and your corners have to tackle well. It's an 11-man job. It's not just certain things that we all want to point out that it is. It's an 11-man job and that's what we're working on."
Walker's success has provided Seattle with a boost over the last few weeks, but the biggest component behind the Seahawks' 4-3 start is the performance of QB Geno Smith. The 32-year-old quarterback has thrown for 1,712 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions this season. His 73.5 completion percentage is the best in the league, while his 107.7 passer rating ranks third. Martindale has been impressed with what he's seen out of the journeyman QB.
"As a football fan and respect for the game, I really respect what he's done with his game. Besides playing against him, it's fun to watch the success that he's had…" the defensive coordinator said Thursday. "I think he's worked hard. I think he's a really good person, and I just love to see the success that he's having. I just don't want him to have any on Sunday."
3. DJ's football IQ
With the Giants down, 17-13, a few minutes into the fourth quarter, Daniel Jones led the offense on a 10-play, 79-yard drive which resulted in the game-winning touchdown. On the final play of the drive with the offense facing a first-and-goal from inside the 1, Jones punched the ball over the goal line on a quarterback sneak. As it turns out, that was not the original play call, but rather was the result of an audible called by the young signal-caller.
"Daniel did a nice job there," said the offensive coordinator. "We had a run called and those guys took it upon themselves to sneak in down there on the inch line. That was a good job by them being football players."
With Jones now in his fourth season with the Giants, the 25-year-old is running his third different offense. But as the season has progressed, Jones has looked better and better in the Daboll/Kafka system. It seems clear that Jones' comfort level in the offense has increased since the start of the season, and his strong production has come along with it.
"I think in the offense, it's kind of built into the offense," Kafka said about run and pass options. Pass and run option. There's a lot of flexibility. The quarterback has the keys to the car from that aspect. He does a good job handling it. (Quarterbacks coach) Shea Tierney does an awesome job of getting those guys prepared. The whole quarterback room is sharp and on top of it."
4. Kadarius Toney traded to KC
The biggest news of the day was the announcement of second-year wide receiver Kadarius Toney's trade to the Kansas City Chiefs. In exchange, the Giants received a third-round compensatory pick and a sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The third-round selection is a compensatory choice the Chiefs received after the Chicago Bears hired Ryan Poles as their general manager. Poles had previously been serving in the role of executive director of player personnel for Kansas City. The deal is pending Toney passing a physical with the Chiefs.
"We just thought it was for the best of the team and wish Kadarius well," coach Brian Daboll said.
Originally the 21st overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Toney appeared in just two games for the Giants this season before dealing with hamstring injuries. He caught two passes for zero yards and added two rush attempts for 23 yards. In 10 games across his rookie campaign, Toney caught 39 passes for 420 yards.
The Giants currently have nine picks in the 2023 NFL Draft following the trade. The team owns all of its own draft pick besides their sixth-round selection, which was traded to the Houston Texans for DB Keion Crossen last August. They now have two third-round picks, the Chiefs' sixth-round pick, and two seventh-round picks. The Giants own the Baltimore Ravens' seventh-round selection, which was acquired in last year's trade for Bredeson.
5. Latest on the injury front
The Giants were back on the practice field Thursday with no changes to the injury report from the previous day. OL Tyre Phillips, (toe), S Jason Pinnock (foot) and DL Leonard Williams (elbow) were once again limited participants at practice.
Bellinger (eye), Neal (knee) and Bredeson (knee) did not participate in practice. Joining them as DNPs were CB Cor'Dale Flott (calf), WR Kenny Golladay (knee), and OLB Oshane Ximines (quad).
Of course, the Giants got some positive injury news on Wednesday with the activation of offensive lineman Nick Gates. He is now eligible to make his season debut Sunday in Seattle, 410 days after suffering a gruesome leg injury that was thought to potentially be career-ending.
"It's impressive," Daboll said Wednesday about Gates' comeback. "I mean, so many surgeries and so much rehab. You saw him when I first got here. Just a testament to the young man. It takes a lot of perseverance to go through what he's been through and to be out here. Impressive young man."
In addition to Gates, the Giants also saw three others return to practice Wednesday. Tackle Matt Peart, who is on the PUP list, returned to practice, starting the clock on the 21-day window the Giants have to activate him. Peart tore his ACL in late December. Outside linebacker Elerson Smith and cornerback Rodarius Williams also returned to practice after being placed on injured reserve at the start of the season. Smith suffered a lower leg injury in practice on August 14, while Williams tore his ACL last October.
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