Coach Pat Shurmur, running back Saquon Barkley, and all three coordinators took the podium before Friday's training camp practice. Here are five things we learned:
1. What can Saquon do for an encore? AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Pro Bowl. NFL leader in yards from scrimmage. Now what? After setting the bar so high, many wonder what the former second overall pick can do to top himself in his second year. His response: "For me, I consider a proper encore would be just doing whatever I can to help my team to get in position to compete in the playoffs, and compete for a championship."
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Shula said he "selfishly" wants the same production but "in different ways." What he meant was some of Barkley's yards came from when the Giants played from behind. Having a more experienced offensive line will help.
"We want to have that production when we have the lead, or the games are close, that's where we want to be each and every week," Shula said. "I would say other than his consistency which has improved, his knowledge, you can tell his focus on blitz pick-ups, that will be the first thing he will tell you if he hasn't told you already. We want to continue to use him in as many ways as we can. He's going to be a huge part of our offense and make the guys up front look better and, in turn, they can help him and make him look better and the same thing with Eli [Manning]."
2. Daniel Jones is impressing coaches and teammates with his deep ball accuracy. The talk coming out of Thursday's practice was the nearly 50-yard pass that Daniel Jones dropped in perfectly to running back Paul Perkins for a touchdown. Naturally, it was also the talk heading into Friday's media availability as everyone takes the temperature of the sixth overall draft pick on a daily basis.
"He's throwing the ball deep very well," Shula said. "He has a better understanding of the routes we are running across the board. To hit a halfback like that down the field was pretty impressive for any quarterback, rookie or veteran."
"It was outstanding," Shurmur said. "He's made excellent throws in every practice, and that was evidence to me that he has the arm to play in this league. We sort of knew that before we picked him. We've seen it throughout the training, and that was actually a very good throw."
As for the daily when-will-he-play question, Shurmur said he's "on track to be ready when it's his time to play."
3. CB Grant Haley injured his shoulder; OLB Markus Golden had a rest day. There were two injury notes today. Second-year cornerback Grant Haley dove for a pass in practice yesterday and injured his shoulder. "He's going to be fine," Shurmur said. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Markus Golden had a scheduled rest day. Golden signed with the Giants this offseason as he looks to return to his 2016 form. That season, he had 12.5 sacks for the Cardinals under James Bettcher, who is now in his second year as the defensive coordinator of the Giants. Unfortunately, Golden followed up the breakout season with a serious knee injury in 2017.
"Markus doesn't look at this year, and I'll speak for him and say this, and I'll speak for him because I know him, this is not a prove-it [year] for Markus," Bettcher said. "I think Markus has approached every year as a prove-it for himself. That's the kind of player that we have here with him. He's a guy that loves to work and absolutely loves football. I think that the first thing with him, when you're coming off a knee injury, you need a year to be able to get back to the type of player you are capable of being – and he's at that point now. You see him working, and you see a guy that is laughing and smiling, and having fun playing the game again.
"I think a year ago he was really frustrated with his body that he wasn't able to play at the level that he expects from himself, and we are at that point now. Right now we just have to do a good job managing his reps. He's getting better, he's getting in shape, he's sharpening his tools. Like any of the vets that we have, you're not trying to get back to where you were after your injury, but you're trying to become a better player than you were before the injury. I think that's really where we're at with Markus."
4. The kickoff return situation is fluid. Corey Coleman was in line to contribute more as a receiver this season, but losing him to a torn ACL greatly impacted special teams. Coleman ranked sixth in the NFL in kickoff return average last year, frequently putting the offense in good field position to set up touchdown drives. Right now, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said Cody Latimer is the first guy up, but the situation remains "fluid."
"[General manager Dave Gettleman] did a good job putting this roster together, so we've got guys with skill, speed," McGaughey added. "And we've just got to get them healthy and get some of these guys back on the field and get them to full strength so they can get out there in the game and get game experience. Especially these young guys, guys like Darius Slayton, guys like that they need to get out and practice reps, get in the game and feel the pressure of a punt cover team coming out, the kickoff cover team coming out. So they can see the speed of it, but it's a little bit different."
5. Giants have officials at the facility to go over new rules. The 2019 NFL preseason kicked off last night with the annual Hall of Fame Game between Denver and Atlanta. The rest of the league tuned in to see the new rules, notably one that allows offensive and defensive pass interference subject to review. Coaches can now challenge those calls outside of the final two minutes of each half. Inside of two minutes, they will be subject to a booth review. It was put to use on Thursday night as the Broncos challenged a pass interference penalty called on their defense. The call was upheld.
"This is a good couple of days for us," Shurmur said. "We have the officials here, so they were able to watch practice yesterday, work with the players. They talked to the players last night and showed a video. We had a really good, open dialogue about some of the rule changes, some of the emphasis, some of the OPI-DPI (offensive/defensive pass interference) stuff. It was really a good back and forth between the players and the crew that's here. I thought Shawn Hochuli and the guys that are here did a good job with that. We're going to do the best we can to learn as much from these guys, with regard to some of the rule changes, in the next couple of days. Then there'll be continuing dialogue. I think we, as coaches, will use the preseason to see how these rules are applied."
Shurmur added: "Well, it's a new deal. We have our system in place for challenging, so to speak. It's going to come down to if we think the call should be changed or not, based on what we either see live or maybe have some visual evidence of. There's going to be a lot of calls, and we've seen it in the past that didn't apply to replay, where if it was called one way, it would stand, and if it was called another way, it would stand. There are a lot of those-type calls. I think the challenge will be for all of us to try to get it right."