Season 2 of the Joe Judge Era is heating up.
Veterans reported for training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Tuesday, joining rookies, quarterbacks, and players rehabbing injuries who arrived last week. With the first practice kicking off Wednesday, here are five story lines to follow this summer:
Joe Judge builds on foundation with more traditional training camp.
Although every team was in the same boat during an unprecedented 2020 season, Joe Judge navigated it as a first-year head coach who was installing a new offense, defense, and culture. His tenure began with a 1-7 first half of the season, which the team followed up with four consecutive victories and an overall 6-10 finish to the season. So, what's next for the Giants after laying a strong foundation in Year 1?
"We have our standards in this organization that we're not going to compromise for anybody," Judge said before Wednesday's conditioning session. "Look, it's training camp. Our expectation is to get this team operating to develop good fundamentals, develop chemistry within the units and start getting some execution on all three phases of the ball going forward. This training camp is about getting our players in football shape, starting to have an identity as a team to build going forward and building this season and getting ourselves ready to go out and play."
When will Saquon Barkley return?
Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second week of last season, was among six players who opened training camp on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The others were center Jonotthan Harrison (hamstring), tackle Matt Peart (back), tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot), linebacker Oshane Ximines (hamstring) and rookie cornerback Aaron Robinson (core muscle), the team's third-round draft choice.
Players on the Active/PUP list can be activated at any time during training camp. If they are still on the list at the final roster cutdown to 53, they must either be activated or moved to the Reserve/PUP list. Players on the Reserve/PUP list must be inactive for the first six weeks.
"We just took the approach of anybody who's not 100 percent from day one that we're going to put them on the PUP list," Judge said. "This wasn't anything unique to one player, just an approach we're taking with every player. With the PUP list, we can pull them off at any point. We're optimistic with all the players that are on it currently, they're all working with our training staff and making a lot of progress."
Additionally, two players are on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury (NFI) list: linebacker Ryan Anderson (back) and running back Sandro Platzgummer (hamstring). The NFI list is very similar to the PUP list, except the player must have sustained his injury away from the team. Such players can return to practice when they are medically cleared.
Daniel Jones looks to get on same page with new offensive weapons.
With less than 50 days until the Sept. 12 opener against the Denver Broncos, Daniel Jones will use the coming weeks to get on the same page with a handful of new offensive weapons brought in as part of the front office's top off-season priority. The process started during Spring practices with players such as Kenny Golladay (free agent) and Kadarius Toney (first-round pick), but the intensity ratchets up a notch with each passing day.
Adding a wrinkle to the process, Toney was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list last week. He was able to report to the facility with the rest of the team as he comes out of the protocols, but his on-field work will have to wait.
"Obviously, coming off of that protocol as we learned last year with the number of players on our team throughout the season, we're going to go and move them around the field and make sure that he's ready to go, then we'll start integrating with our team," Judge said. "We're not going to go ahead and rush anything to get in the process. He'll be in the meetings with all of our players. He'll be able to go out there and operate some of the meetings [where] we get a little bit more on our feet. But in terms of practice itself, we're not going to do anything with him on the field with the team until we know he's fully ready to go. His timetable will be different, I'm sure, than a lot of the guys last year that we learned from. One thing we really took away from last year was these things are all very specific to each person, what their symptoms were or what their exposure was, but that time away from training is what's critical."
Nate Solder returns to offensive line with new position coach.
As is the case for any year, the Giants will go as far as their offensive line takes them. The Giants have expressed their confidence in letting young players like Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Matt Peart, and Nick Gates grow through in-game experience, but the Giants will also have an eye on how veteran offensive tackle Nate Solder returns from opting out of last season due to pandemic concerns.
It will all come together under new line coach Rob Sale, who has 14 years of collegiate coaching experience on his resume and spent the previous three seasons as the offensive coordinator and line coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Meanwhile, former offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who helped the Giants win Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, joined the staff as a consultant.
How does the defense pick up where it left off?
The Giants' success in the second half last season was largely attributable to Patrick Graham's defense, which added cornerback Adoree' Jackson to a loaded secondary over the off-season. However, Judge and Graham, who both come from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, know every season begins anew.
"I think every year is its own year," Judge said. "When we started back in the spring in terms of our expectation, the standards of the organization, we started team building back in the spring even when we were just on Zoom before the players all got in here during that Phase 1 period. It's something that we build on and carry over all the time. Look, there's some things we've laid down as far as groundwork in Year 1, but not all these players were here last year. So, it's important that we go ahead and start at ground zero for these players to understand everything that we expect them to do."
View photos of the team reporting for the start of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.