For the first time in the Joe Judge era, the New York Giants played in front of their home crowd.
The team welcomed back the Big Blue faithful for a Fan Fest on Wednesday night at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. From a standing ovation for Eli Manning's cameo on the video board to people booing a couple of Eagles and Cowboys fans who must have been lost, it felt like football again in the Land of the Giants.
Amid the festivities, though, was a full-padded practice as the Giants stand just one month away from the regular season opener.
Here are the standouts from the night:
WR Sterling Shepard
Fans got accustomed to seeing Shepard in his new No. 3 jersey as the longest-tenured Giant racked up a handful of catches. Shepard recently said he is in the best shape of his life, which was useful on a hot and humid day in East Rutherford.
"I worked my tail off this offseason to come in the best shape," Shepard said. "I think that was one of the things that Coach Judge and I had a conversation about right before I left for OTAs, just coming in shape and being able to be on the field at all times and being able to run around and move to these different positions and being versatile. That's the mentality that I had going into the offseason, and I can say that I'm in some of the best shape of my life right now. I've been feeling good and just have to keep stacking the days and continue to improve."
CB Rodarius Williams
Facing the first team? Doing it in front of fans? The rookie hasn't backed down from a challenge in his first training camp, and he stacked on another encouraging performance at MetLife Stadium. A sixth-round draft choice from Oklahoma State, Williams prevented two touchdowns – one on a pass defense during 7-on-7 drills and the other on a forced incompletion in red zone work.
"I'm definitely not where I want to be, but we definitely take it each day at a time and get better," Williams said. "Each day, I go in the film room and I don't only watch the good plays, I watch every play that my technique is bad and stuff like that. There's mental errors. Just learning from (CB) James (Bradberry) and learning from (CB) Adoree' (Jackson), small technique issues that I'm working on every day."
Before Wednesday night, Giants fans hadn't seen their team play at home in person since the end of the 2019 season. They will see them again in three days for the preseason opener against the Jets and then again on Aug. 29 against the Patriots in the preseason finale. After that, it's all systems go for the Sept. 12 home opener against the Broncos.
"There's a reason this is such a paramount organization in the National Football League, and that really starts with the fans," Judge said. "I mean, the game is about the players, it's about the fans, that's really what the connection is. The passion of New York, having the experience to be in MSG during a Knicks playoff game and feeling the energy of those fans really pouring into the game, that's something that's unique. You don't go into every stadium and feel that energy and passion. There's a natural demeanor in this area of the country, specifically in North Jersey and New York of – look, it is a mentally tough area. That's the way it is, that's the way it's supposed to be and that's the way we've got to train our team to be, and I like that atmosphere. I like coming to the stadium and people expect to see excellence, and that's what they deserve for the money they spend. That's the product we have to work to give to them."
DB Logan Ryan recovered a fumble near the start of team drills…TE Cole Hikutini caught a handful of passes, including a touchdown from QB Daniel Jones in the red zone…QB Mike Glennon scrambled for a touchdown…LB Reggie Ragland had a nice run stuff, a good sign after he passed his physical last week after starting training camp on the reserve/non-football injury list with a hamstring injury.
View the best photos from the Giants Fan Fest on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium.