The Giants were light on highlights during Thursday's jog-through, but they were heavy on interviews.
In addition to coach Joe Judge, coordinators and position coaches addressed the media as the team enters the heart of training camp. They provided plenty of insight into player and position development. Here is what we learned:
Patrick Graham won't assume anything about the defense based off last year's finish.
After a 1-7 start to 2020, the Giants rallied with four consecutive victories to spark a 5-3 finish. The major reason was the defense finding its footing, which could bode well for the team's 2021 prospects. But after years under Bill Belichick and now Joe Judge, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham knows the key to success is never assuming one year will carry over to the next.
"It's cliché, but it's true," Graham said. "As soon as the season's over, I've reset, and then it's part of our job to make sure the players know, 'Hey, nothing matters from last year, from the previous year.' So you just try to convey that message to them, and thankfully, we have a good group of guys who understand that. Based on what we've been through so far on the field, we've got a ways to go to improve. I've got a ways to go to improve, so I think they understand. Our offense is doing a pretty good job out there, so we've got ways to improve, and we'll keep working, so nobody really thinks about last year."
And what does he want the identity of the defense to be?
"The same thing that Joe talks about, toughness," he said. "We really want it to be reflective of the communities, the tri-state, New York, however you want to look at it. But like the people here, they're tough, they work hard. I want them to look at us on film, like whether it's over at the stadium or out here at practice, we see our toughness come out. We see us working hard and not loafing around the field – running around the field, that's what I want it to be. Specifically, with the football part of it, playing in good football position, team-first, playing with our hands in front of our eyes, good knee-bend and all that stuff. Again, same stuff that most high school coaches are teaching, it's still the game of football between those white lines and that's what you want it to look like."
Jason Garrett enters Year 2 with playmakers currently sidelined.
In addition to Saquon Barkley, the Giants are currently moving through camp without newcomers Kyle Rudolph and Kenny Golladay. However, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has faith that their veteran experience will make up for any time missed on the field.
"I go back to the guys. The approach that those guys take, it's outstanding," Garrett said. "They're just true pros. If you watch them out here in practice, if they're not involved with some rehab or something they're right there, they're watching, they're paying attention. Any walk-through reps that they're able to get they try to take advantage of. They're really great in their interaction with their coaches and with their teammates. You can see them growing and we're just excited to get them out there to get the physical reps along with the mental reops they've been getting, but their approach is outstanding."
Giants excited to get Kadarius Toney up to speed.
Rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney, the team's first-round draft choice, began training camp on the Reserve/COVID-19 list but has taken on more and more since being activated. He is starting to show why they drafted him.
"You know, we're excited about Kadarius," Garrett said. "Unfortunately, we haven't seen a ton of him yet and we're ramping him up here over the next few days, but you can tell he's someone who picks up football easily; we saw that in the rookie minicamp. We're excited to get him out there and just see what he can do. There were a lot of positive things on tape from college. Obviously, that's why we drafted him as high as we did, so we're just excited to see him out here on the grass."
Azeez Ojulari just "knows how to play football."
As for outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, a second-round pick, Graham praised him as a "diligent worker" who is taking it all in right now in the classroom. Graham said he is learning a slightly different position than he played in college, but once they put on the pads, it was evident "he knows how to play football.
"He's physical," Graham explained. "He's hard to move. He plays with his hands, and I'm excited to keep working with him."
The secondary can be as good as it wants to be "as long as they don't screw it up."
Much of the talk around the Giants has been about their secondary, which returned its core in addition to adding free agent Adoree' Jackson and draft picks Rodarius Williams and Aaron Robinson. So, how good can they be?
"As good as they want," Graham said. "As long as they don't screw it up, so that's how I see it. My job is to put them in the right position to make plays. We've got guys who have been playmakers in the past. I'll tell you this, they're working hard, so they're doing that part of it. They're communicating. (Defensive Backs Coach) Jerome (Henderson), (Senior Defensive Assistant) Jeremy (Pruitt), (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) Mike (Treier), those guys do a great job of coaching those guys and building their awareness whether it's situationally or personnel-driven. With that information, I think the sky's the limit, but we're going to take it day-by-day and just keep putting in that work."
The offensive line is shedding its inexperience.
When it comes to the offensive line, general manager Dave Gettleman has said at some point you just have to let the young players play. They did that last year with tackles Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, guard Shane Lemieux, and Nick Gates, who transitioned from guard to center in 2020. They took their lumps at times early on, but Garrett thinks it will pay off in the long run.
"I think we made progress over the course of last year," Garrett said. "We had a lot of young guys playing for us who just simply were inexperienced and I think over the course of the year you saw them grow and develop. Again, it's the same think we talked about with Daniel (Jones), if you approach it the right way, you get your mind right and your spirit right to come out and practice and get better every day, you're going to improve. So, we try to put those guys in those situations and they're responding well. We have a long way to go, every guy individually and certainly as a unit, but they're going about it the right way."