EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On a sunny spring day, Kyle Lauletta got his first hint of what it’s like to play football in the New Jersey Meadowlands.
“It was a little windy,” Lauletta, the quarterback the Giants selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, said after his first rookie minicamp practice. “Sometimes, it makes some of those deep throws a little bit more difficult.”
When it comes to windy conditions in this town, he hasn’t seen anything yet. The same can be said regarding just about everything in his nascent NFL career. He is learning an unfamiliar offense, getting acquainted with new teammates, and yesterday, he performed in his first pro practice.
“It was a little bit sloppy,” Lauletta said. “Every time it’s the first day, it’s not going to be completely clean, but we did some good things. I think there were some good plays and some bad plays. There are always plays you wish you had back, but all you can do is build on it, learn from it, watch the tape and come out and have a better practice tomorrow.”
Lauletta actually mishandled the snap from center on the first play of the team period.
“We corrected it, and there shouldn’t be any ball security issues (today),” he said. “That’s the number one thing that coach (Pat Shurmur) said after practice, we’ll have to clean it up.”
The early bobble did not preclude Shurmur from giving Lauletta a positive review after Day 1.
“I thought he did a really good job,” Shurmur said. “You can tell by the way he handles his business that he’s going to be able to pick everything up very quickly. He’s very smart, he’s in the building early, he was here late. He understands how to study. When he’s on the field here when you’re coaching him and a lot of times in coaching, it’s kind of like a quick drive-by, you want to make a point and keep moving. He’s able to take it in and run with it. So I thought it was a good first day and we’ll see how he does today and tomorrow.”
The spotlight on the Giants’ six-man 2018 draft class will always shine brightest on running back Saquon Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick. But Lauletta could earn the slot behind him, simply because he’s a quarterback. And anyone who plays that position can’t avoid public scrutiny.
Lauletta said he wasn’t nervous before his first practice but knows he has more responsibility than the other players in camp.
“I think that’s the nature of the position,” he said. “The quarterback has to be the leader of the group and he has to be intelligent, he has to know the offense and be able to help guys get lined up and that sort of thing. So just going through the playbook and trying to learn it as best I can right now.”
Lauletta was the Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year at the University of Richmond in 2017, when he completed 281 of 433 pass for 3,737 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was just the fourth player in league history to throw for more than 10,000 yards.
“I’ve kind of experienced the whole gamut of offenses,” he said. “I just want to stay with the here and now and just take it one day at a time. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and look ahead. Just master what we have going on now and all of the concepts and stuff, they build on each other. The coaches are smart, they put it in the right order and if you learn it in the right order, you’ll develop and be on pace.”
The only other quarterbacks in this camp are tryout players John O’Korn of Michigan and Thomas Sirk of East Carolina. Neither will likely be here on Monday, when the rookies who remain will practice with the veterans for the first time. Lauletta is clearly the top signal-caller this weekend.
On Monday, he will get his first opportunity to be in the meeting and locker rooms and on the field with Eli Manning, who is preparing for his 15th season as the starter.
“I’ve only spoken to Eli briefly, so I’m looking forward to meeting him and learning from him, and getting in front of the whole team and start to build those relationships,” Lauletta said.
The Giants also have second-year pro Davis Webb and recently-signed veteran Alex Tanney.
“There have been a lot of comments already with regard to the health of the quarterback room,” Shurmur said. “You want really good players in there trying to get better each day, and then helping one another get better. Seeing the way (Lauletta) functioned in Day 1, he’s going to really add to that room.”
The rookie demurred when asked if he views himself as the Giants’ quarterback of the future.
“It’s Eli Manning’s team,” he said. “His success and his resume speaks for itself and I do think he has some years left. How many years? We’ll just have to wait and see, but like I said, I’m just going to do everything I can. Obviously, I have high aspirations and confidence in myself and my abilities. I’m just going to perform and be the best teammate, the best player, I can be and however the coaches see fit where I am on the depth chart or whatever, that’s up to them. So I’m looking forward to continuing to develop relationships with these guys and learn the playbook, and just developing as a player the best I can.”