When the entire Giants roster reports to training camp on Wednesday and hits the field for their first practice on Thursday, it will mark six weeks from their last football workout as a full team since mandatory minicamp in the middle of June. The six weeks off is longer than the OTA/minicamp period of camp, and only a handful of weeks shorter than the entire spring offseason program.
A challenge for all the coaches and players is to balance how much time in camp to use to reinforce what was already taught in the spring and how quickly to tackle new things. Both the defense and offense installed brand new systems in spring, exacerbating the challenge.
"It's a fine line," offensive coordinator Mike Schula said. "Coach Shurmur has had a nice plan for all of us starting with the first day of OTA's, and the different phases. We've introduced it one time, reintroduced it a second time and this will be the third time. We'll start over but we want to have a real fast learning curve and push the envelope a little and it's a fine line to do that because they are coming off a little bit of a rest that they deserve but we have to get going fast."
The offense and defense work in conjunction with one another at training camp to make the most of their time on the field against one another.
"The defense is the same way, they're going to be doing the same thing," Schula said. "Not only do you have to remember all the things we've talked about, all the little adjustments but understand the defense is doing the same thing. So we'll push them a little but also make sure they get a good feel for what we did at the beginning and that foundation we created will be a cornerstone for what we build on in training camp."
Aside from managing the learning curve, the conditions on the field change substantially as well. No contact is allowed on spring workouts, but those rules are no longer applicable in training camp. The pads come on for the first time during the first weekend of camp and practices begin resembling real football, especially in the trenches.
"The guys up front, the evaluation process changes more for them than anybody," Schula said. "And it's not just the physical part of it, the pad level and the quickness of making adjustments with pads on and guys being more physical when they are rushing the passer or when you're coming off the football as opposed to in shorts when you have to pull off at the end so you don't hurt each other."
All eyes will be on the offensive line, a group that was immediately made a focus for improvement by General Manager Dave Getteman when he was hired at the end of December. The Giants may not have one player starting at same spot on the offensive line as they did last year.
The evaluation will be no different for the skill position that also have blocking responsibilities.
"The same thing with the running backs in blitz pickup," Schula added. "When the linebackers are blitzing guys do a good job of pulling off, they know there's no pads on so those are the things along with the tight ends and their run blocking and pass blocking."
July and August will feature fully padded practices, a week of scrimmaging against the Detroit Lions, and four exhibition games. It will be the first taste of what the offense will really look like in real competition during the regular season.
Last season, the Giants offense struggled to establish any sort of balanced or consistent attack due to issues up front and injuries across the roster on that side of the ball. The hope is that will change this year with the offense reflecting a more versatile unit that can do a lot of different things to counter defensive schemes.
"I think with Coach Shurmur's experience with what he brings to the table with our offense and just as important is the personnel that we have," Schula said. "We have guys that can catch the ball and run. Whether or not we get balls down the field, we want completions wherever it is. If they present themselves down the field, we have guys that can do it, throw it and catch it. If not, we have guys that can take the top off the overage to open it up for those mid-level routes. Then we have other guys that are good off the line for those quick game passes which we all know are a good changeup."
A passing game that can threaten all three levels of the field is essential in the modern NFL, but the Giants attack doesn't end, or even really start there. Second overall pick Saquon Barkley should add special qualities to a running game that will also keep defenses guessing.
The goal is an offense that scores more points. The pieces are in place to make that happen, and everything that occurs on the practice field in August will go a long way towards determining what will happen in sixteen regular season games from September through December.