Joe Judge took his team on the road for two weeks, but at no point did he turn the bus down Memory Lane.
The first stop was Cleveland, where the Giants held two joint practices with the Browns ahead of their second preseason game. They flew back Sunday night only to depart again on Tuesday – this time on a train bound for New England. There, in Judge's old stomping grounds, the Giants held another two-day session with a foreign opponent. The traveling show will culminate in the preseason finale against the Patriots on Sunday night…back in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium.
"It's been a very, very good two weeks for our team," Judge said. "I think these competitive practices against other teams are probably the best thing you can do for your team in training camp in terms of preparing them for the competition they're going to see. Obviously, the intensity raises up. The volume is very high as far as building in the conditioning and fundamentals for the players. You get some schemes you haven't predicted on the front end, some different things teams are trying out. … So, you get a look at a lot of different things that you can adjust as coaches and players move forward. So, I'm pleased with the work we've got in the last two weeks; we're a better team for it. Now our focus shifts into the game Sunday against the Patriots, and then obviously we get ready for the season after that."
Storylines are never lacking when the Giants and Patriots suit up against each other, especially in an anniversary year for either of their two Super Bowl meetings. Judge, however, added another chapter to their shared history when he was named the 19th head coach in Giants history on Jan. 8, 2020.
View photos of the Giants practicing with the Patriots in New England ahead of Sunday's preseason finale.
Judge was on the Patriots' staff when they won Super Bowls XLIX, LI, and LIII. New England reached the playoffs in every one of Judge's eight seasons and played in the AFC Championship Game in each his first seven seasons with the team.
"Obviously, there's a great deal of football that I learned in New England, a great deal of success and memories that I've had, but to be honest with you, that's things for later down the line to sit back and reflect on," Judge said earlier in the week from New England. "That's not something right now that's very important to me, and to be honest with you, we don't have time to do that. For me, the history that's important to me to know is the history of the New York Giants."
And their future.
As promised, the third and final preseason game will feature quarterback Daniel Jones' 2021 debut as the majority of starters are set to play "a minimum of one half." Because of the high volume of reps they took in joint practices, Judge felt comfortable enough to rest the top-line players last week against the Browns.
Simultaneously, the Giants have to evaluate their depth. All NFL clubs must reduce their rosters to the regular-season limit of 53 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"There's a number of positions that are still up for grabs," Judge said. "As we'll go into every game in every season, the best players will play. So whoever is practicing better will get the nod that week in the game. In terms of the majority of the team at this point, we have a pretty clear picture on a lot of these positions. We've had a number of exposures of these guys, whether it's preseason games, competitive practices, practices here at training camp, as well as our knowledge of them and some of the things they've done in the past here or elsewhere. But they've got to go out there and they've got to play and they've got to play with consistency. So, there's a clear picture of the majority of the roster, but there's still a lot of positions up for grabs."
There will be a handful of significant contributors who do not play on Sunday night. That list includes running back Saquon Barkley, who this week participated in his first full-team drills since suffering a knee injury in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who passed his physical this week and returned to practice. Judge also ruled out wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
"In terms of Saquon, he had a good productive week last week," Judge said. "He did a good job when he got up to New England with us. The volume we were looking for yesterday with him is exactly what we hit. Jason did a good job mixing him in as controlled as we could early in the drives where we could really predict and call the plays to get him out and really get him into space and use him for some things. Going forward into the season, the focus will be really gearing him up to as much 11-on-11 as we can get with our own team, controlling the situation, and then also putting him in some situations where he's got to go out there and just react. And that's really the biggest test physically coming off an injury. When you're on the field, it's the reactionary quickness and the suddenness you have to play with."
And the clock is ticking. Two weeks after they wrap up the preseason, the Denver Broncos come to MetLife Stadium to kick off the regular season.