The Giants take the field at MetLife Stadium tonight for an intrasquad scrimmage. While the coaching staff won't get the opportunity to see the team play in an actual preseason game, this will be the closest the Giants get to a real game before their Week 1 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 14th.
Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding the lead up to the start of the regular season, the Giants have a lot to gain this evening. They sport one of the league's younger rosters, as only five players are 30+ years old and any game-like situations should serve to benefit this youthful squad (50 players, including many key starters, of the 81 are under 25).
With all that said, let's take a look at five players to watch:
QB Daniel Jones
Jones put together an impressive rookie campaign last year, throwing for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games (12 starts) and setting numerous franchise rookie records. However, it wasn't all perfect as he led the NFL with 18 fumbles, 11 of which were recovered by the opposition. Ball security was one of the biggest areas where the young signal-caller tried to improve in the off-season.
Although we likely won't get to see him take big hits here, Jones' decision-making will firmly be on display. Look for the second-year quarterback to make quick, decisive decisions with the ball in his hands after he reads the defense. This is really the first chance we'll get to see how much Jones has improved in that area.
"Daniel's done an excellent job," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said earlier this week. "He comes in here and, again, he's so prepared, he's so into it, he wants to know every detail. To play quarterback in this league, or really play any position in this league, there are a lot of different things that happen over the course of a play or the course of a practice. There's so much to learn from.
"I've never been around a player who played a perfect game. I've never been around a player who had a perfect practice. We're always striving for that. We're striving for excellence in everything we do, and that's really what our objective is. We try to set high standards for our players. We try to give them the tools to achieve those standards. We try to instill belief in them, and we hold those to them each and every day. Daniel is one of those guys who's really embraced that. He's getting better and better in everything we do."
OL Nick Gates
Gates has shown versatility throughout his football career. After starting 25 consecutive games at left tackle for Nebraska, Gates filled in at right tackle and right guard for the Giants last year and earned admiration from Pro Football Focus. Gates, who has never taken a game rep at center, now finds himself in a competition with veteran Spencer Pulley at that spot. With veteran Kevin Zeitler on his right and third-year guard Will Hernandez on his left, Gates could bring some stability to the interior line this season. Gates, 24, has been developing a nice rapport with Jones throughout training camp.
"Nick's a guy that - when we got here - we knew he had a lot of flexibility position-wise," head coach Joe Judge said this week. "He had to learn the center position. I think he's definitely a guy who's just locked in to doing anything he could to give himself a chance. He's improved in the short amount of time we've been able to be together. He shows a good command out there in terms of understanding the offense, communicating the calls. He has a toughness about him that you like inside."
OLB Oshane Ximines
The Giants enter the 2020 season with an intriguing group of edge rushers. Kyler Fackrell was signed from the Green Bay Packers at the start of free agency, while Markus Golden was brought back for his second season with the organization. But the most important factor could be the growth of second-year OLB Oshane Ximines.
Ximines played in less than 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2019, yet still managed to record 4.5 sacks, five tackles for losses and nine quarterback hits. The young linebacker's best game came Dec. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles, when he took down Carson Wentz twice in only 28 defensive snaps.
"In Year 2, I'm just looking to do whatever I have to do to help the team win," Ximines said earlier in camp. "Coming in learning the playbook and doing whatever I have to do every single day. Getting better and being an asset to the team. … After playing a full season, I kind of already know what to expect when it comes to camp and different schemes on the field and things like that. It's good going into Year 2, you feel a lot more comfortable."
DB Julian Love
Love was likely to make this list before Xavier McKinney required foot surgery. Now, the Notre Dame product's role on the defense is expected to significantly increase. Love played well while logging at least 97 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the Giants' final five games last season. He finished the year with five tackles for losses, one quarterback hit, one interception, three passes defended and one forced fumble. More impressively, Love earned the ninth-best grade in the box over the final six weeks, according to Pro Football Focus, after allowing just 19 yards on his 80 coverage snaps in that alignment. A lot has been said throughout the summer about making use of a defender's ability to play multiple roles, and Love fits that bill perfectly.
"He is a smart football player, on and off the field, in terms of his awareness with the situations, awareness of personnel the offense is giving us," defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. "The fact that he's played multiple positions, whether he's been a corner, whatever he's played, that's a positive because it gives us an opportunity to use his skill sets.
"Whether it's covering a receiver from coming down, or covering a receiver and he's down there, covering a back from depth or lining up to cover a back, he can use his skill set to handle that. Because he understands the bigger picture, because he's played in multiple spots, it makes it even more interchangeable - if that makes sense."
CB Darnay Holmes
Holmes was a consistent force in UCLA's secondary for three seasons, starting 33 of 35 games and led the Bruins in interceptions each year. Holmes ended his college career with eight interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), 17 passes defended, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three tackles for losses.
Holmes could be looking at a big role in the Giants' secondary right from the start. He has impressed his teammates and coaches with his high football IQ and desire to learn. Clearly, he has been one of the standouts at training camp, making several spectacular plays over the last few weeks.
"I think Darnay's done a good job of really learning the speed of the game and adjusting fast," Judge said. "He's a smart guy, prepares very well. He learns. He's a guy that can apply the lessons not only from his own mistakes but from watching other people. He's a guy that comes out every day, really has a purpose and a plan for what he's doing. I'd say that I'm very pleased with the progress he's making right now, and he is learning to play faster."
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.