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What We Heard: Saquon Barkley 'might be the best' route-running RB


After some time away, the Giants returned to the practice field Monday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

The Giants were in shells for Monday's practice before they put on full pads for the next two days.

Coach Brian Daboll met with the media prior to the training session, while safety Xavier McKinney and inside linebacker Bobby Okereke spoke to reporters after.

Here is what we heard Monday.

1. Okereke: Saquon 'might be the best' route-running RB

Saquon Barkley's ability as a receiver is one of the attributes that sets him apart from most of the league's running backs. Barkley tied the franchise rookie record with 91 receptions back in 2018, which resulted in 721 yards and four receiving touchdowns. This past season, the running back tied Richie James for the team-lead with 57 receptions.

Linebacker Bobby Okereke is new to the team this year after signing with the Giants in March. However, it's only taken a couple of weeks of practice for Okereke to realize just how good of a receiver Barkley truly is.

"It's honestly great practice for me because I don't think there's—I mean, I think (49ers running back) Christian McCaffrey is a great route runner, but I think Saquon might be the best..." the linebacker said about covering Barkley during practice. "He's got speed. He's got shiftiness. His wiggle is really good. He's just a dominant player."

"That guy's one of one," McKinney added about the star running back. "It doesn't get any better than him. Wherever he's at on the field, rather it's lined up in the backfield, lined up in the slot, lined up on the outside, you've got to match up. You've got to be alert, he's a guy that's going to give guys a lot of problems, no matter where he's at. But that's what happens when you've got a guy that good, a guy that talented, so that's another piece that we have."

Catch up on all the action from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

2. McKinney on rookie CBs: 'We've got their backs'

Rookie cornerbacks Deonte Banks (first round) and Tre Hawkins III (sixth) have certainly turned heads this summer. Count veteran safety Xavier McKinney among the group feeling encouraged about their futures.

"They played great, man," the veteran safety told reporters. "I thought for their first game. I thought they played really well, they played composed, and they went out there and were competitive. We didn't expect anything less. We saw them put in the work throughout the weeks to build up to that game, and we've been helping them along the way. Obviously, they're going to have their growing pains and they're still having their growing pains, but they're competing and they're competitive guys. So, we know every game day they're going to come with their best stuff...

"Like I said, they're competitive, so they fight through it, and I tell them all time, I got their back, we got their back, so they don't have to worry about much."

With Hawkins' strong performance this summer, the rookie sixth-round pick has seen some playing time with the first-team defense. On Monday, Hawkins and saw extended action as the two outside cornerbacks, with veteran Adoree' Jackson lining up in the slot. McKinney told the media that Jackson's versatility in the secondary could lead to an advantage for the defense this season.

"Ever since I've known Adoree', I've knew that he could play anywhere," said McKinney. "It doesn't matter where you put him. You won't see a drop off. It's not surprising – it's not anything that surprises me at all, or any of us. But he's done an extremely good job of being aware and being able to make those switches and also having the smarts to do that because it's not easy to do, but he's able to do it...

"We've got a room full of guys. You can throw us around a lot of different places, and you don't know who's playing what position. That's the great thing about our group, and the great thing about our room is that we're able to play in different spots and do different things, so that should work into our favor."

3. WR competition 'ongoing'

It's no secret that one of the most interesting position battles in training camp this summer is at wide receiver. The Giants currently have 13 wide receivers on the 90-man roster, more than half of which were not with the team at the start of training camp last year. The head coach told the media that the competition is still open, with the next two weeks playing a significant role in the team's upcoming decisions.

"I'd say it's ongoing right now," Daboll said. "We have got a lot, a couple more weeks of practice, a few more games, so just still kind of let them compete it out and kind of see who rises to the top. ... I think it all plays into it. We are not at that point right now, roster cutting and all those things, we are still in the middle of training camp, so these guys are going to have ample opportunity. The more you can do, usually the better it is. Whether you can play in the kicking game or not, create another role for yourself but we are still in the thick of it."

One of the players firmly in the competition is veteran Cole Beasley. The 34-year-old led the team with four receptions (on four targets) against the Lions, which he turned into 33 yards. Beasley spent three seasons (2019-22) with Daboll in Buffalo, including the 2020 campaign in which he was named Second-Team All-Pro.

"He's quick and experienced, has good hands," Daboll said about the veteran. "He's done it for a while, he's been a pretty consistent player."

4. Riley has made 'steady improvement'

Heading into the season, the Giants' defensive line has been anointed by the media as the defense's biggest strength. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams might be the top interior D-line duo in the entire league, while Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A'Shawn Robinson were added to provide depth up the middle. Another newcomer to the group is rookie Jordon Riley, the seventh-round pick out of Oregon whom Daboll believes will benefit greatly from sharing a positional room with that group of veterans.

"I think he's made steady improvement," the head coach said about Riley. "He's got a good room to be in for a young player with the veterans Dex, Leo and Nacho and A'Shawn. They are really invaluable in there for young players. And then (defensive line coach) Dre (Andre Patterson) and (assistant defensive line coach Bryan) Cox do a good job. He's come along slowly, he's improved every day since he has been here. Thought he showed out well for himself, played a lot of snaps. He's in a good spot relative to the room he's in, the people that he can learn under. He's got the right mindset."

Riley registered one total tackle in his NFL preseason debut Friday. However, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound lineman made numerous plays during joint practices last week, which might have played a part in the rookie seeing some snaps with the first-team defense during Monday's practice.

"He's really just improved day-by-day," said Daboll. "Come into this league, it's all new and then you are inside, he's big, he's long, he can bend. He's learning stuff every day from Dre and Cox but then I'd say those four veterans they are really good teammates and they take those guys underneath their wings and talk to them a lot and he's done a good job of listening and just trying to get better each day."

5. Injury updates

Daboll relayed some injury updates to the media prior to the start of practice, starting with Evan Neal, who wore a red non-contact jersey as he passes through the concussion protocol. The list of other players who were sidelined Monday included offensive lineman Devery Hamilton, guard Tyre Phillips, running back Gary Brightwell, inside linebacker Cam Brown, defensive lineman Ryder Anderson, cornerback Nick McCloud and wide receiver Collin Johnson.

Johnson suffered a knee injury during Friday's game in Detroit. However, Daboll doesn't believe it will keep the receiver sidelined for too long.

"I don't think it's long term, but I'm not a doctor either," said the head coach. "Right now, I think he is not practicing today."

Prior to the start of practice, the Giants announced that defensive lineman D.J. Davidson passed his physical and would return to practice. Davidson was removed from the physically unable to perform list, leaving only wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson and cornerback Aaron Robinson as the only remaining players on the list. Daboll was not yet ready to put a date on the return of the two Robinsons.

"I'd just say making progress, but no timetable yet," he shared.

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