Giants mandatory minicamp concluded with a third practice at the Quest Diagnostic Training Center on Thursday.
It was humid and hotter than the first two days of work, with the sun out for much of practice. It was the shortest of the three practices, with the players departing this afternoon for a three-day weekend before returning next week for their final four OTAs. Here's what I saw from the sideline:
*The team did a lot of situational work with a focus on the red zone. The first-team offense and defense had a fierce back-and-forth with quarterback Eli Manning failing to connect with wide receiver Sterling Shepard twice against cornerback Janoris Jenkins in the first red-zone period. The first pass to Shepard was too close to the sideline and he failed to get his feet inbounds after a leaping grab. On the second attempt, Jenkins got his hand on the football to knock it away. Shepard would catch some passes during later periods, but Jenkins won his share of battles, too. It was great to see the pair go back and forth.
*Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones looked good during red-zone period, with touchdowns on his first two passes. The first went to wide receiver Cody Latimer, who ran a wicked whip route. His second touchdown went to Bennie Fowler on a quick screen. Jones' third pass did not hit the ground, either, but it was the defense that came up with it. Jones was a bit high on a throw to wide receiver Russell Shepard, and the ball hit off his hands and then bounced off Kamrin Moore's hands and into the grasp of Kenny Ladler in the back of the end zone. Jones continues to get more and more reps with the second team.
*Corey Ballentine is starting to get comfortable on the field. One play stuck out to me. He was playing short zone, and Jones tried to target the receiver behind him going towards the sideline. Ballentine read Jones' intentions quickly, and was deep enough to deflect the pass. It showed very good instincts from a cornerback out of Division II Washburn University.
*The last play of practice showed exactly how competitive practice is becoming between the offense and defense. Both third teams were on the field, with Kyle Lauletta at quarterback on a third-and-seven. Whichever side of the ball lost the play would have to do pushups. The defense made the stop, but a flag was thrown indicating a defensive penalty that would have resulted in a first. The defense was about to do pushups as Pat Shurmur tried to wrap practice, until Saquon Barkley stepped in and started yelling "one more play!" Shurmur relented and had both groups line up again for one more play. This time, Lauletta hit undrafted rookie free agent receiver Reggie White Jr. on a slant for a first down. As the defense did pushups, Barkley started yelling good-naturedly to the defense, "It's time to get stronger, you need it!"
*The final sequence of practice demonstrated how Barkley is using his own brand of leadership. He is getting more and more vocal and seems to have a really good feel of when to lead by example and when a little friendly trash talk is a good thing. He is respected throughout the locker room and his words go a long way.
*I've written this a few different times during spring workouts, but it's important to reiterate: the constant energy and competition between the two sides of the ball has been extremely high throughout the spring. There has been yelling back and forth and some trash talk between the two sides, but it is never mean-spirited or nasty, which hasn't always been the case in prior years. It's simply both sides trying to motivate each other. If I've seen anything that reflects the culture that Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur are trying to install with this group, that's it.
*Aldrick Rosas kicked field goals, and all his attempts came from inside 40 yards. He was a perfect four for four kicking with Zak DeOssie as the snapper and Riley Dixon as the holder. He made three of five with the second-team battery working with him. When kickers say they need a well-oiled operation to succeed on field goals, they aren't lying.