With training camp kicking off, the Giants.com crew discusses the biggest obstacles facing the Giants during an unprecedented time in sports.
John Schmeelk: The Giants combination of having to rely on a lot of young players in a season with no in-person off-season program and a limited number of practices at training camp will be their biggest challenge this year. Making the jump from college to the NFL is tough enough, but it will be made even more difficult with a limited amount of time on the field for the rookie class. They will be participating in their first full-speed practice three months later than they usually would - with only a little more than a month to get ready for the season.
In a normal season, it can take until mid-season or later for rookies to get their feet underneath them and be ready to contribute. How much their progress is delayed in an unusual off-season like this is probably going to vary from player to player and there is no way to quantify it. On top of the football work, consider that the rookie class is visiting the team facility for the first time. In previous seasons, they would be making that transition in May. They will be dealing with a lot, including all of the CO-VID-19 protocols.
Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian told me on the Giants Huddle Podcast that depending on this year's rookie class for early-season production is a very risky proposition, especially given the lack of an off-season.
There is also no way to tell how the limited off-season may impact second-year players. For most players, their biggest jump comes in their second season. They get a full off-season program inside an NFL facility to prepare for football rather than targeting the NFL Combine. They also have a year's worth of pro knowledge and their team's schemes under their belts.
The changes to the Giants' coaching staff and the installation of new offensive and defensive schemes add a layer of potential difficulties for their second-year players. The players won't be able to build upon the language and scheme familiarity from their rookie seasons and must learn something almost completely new, without the benefit of being able to use them in a full-speed practice session until the middle of August.
These challenges are not impossible to overcome. It will take a lot of hard work from the young players and excellent teaching from the coaches, who must make the most of every practice, walk-through, and meeting they have with their guys to have them ready to play the Steelers in Week 1.
Dan Salomone: The best football coaches don't just read playbooks; they are well-versed in psychology, too. Bill Belichick is that way, Nick Saban is that way, and Joe Judge won a combined five championships coaching under them in the professional and collegiate ranks. The biggest obstacle facing teams right now is how to maintain a sense of normalcy in the most abnormal times, the advantage going to the CEO-type head coaches who can manage it all and not just worry about Xs and Os. After all, it is about the Jimmies and Joes.
As you will see in the debut episode of "Giants Life: Training Camp" on Giants.com, Judge's fingerprints are all over the re-modeled training camp setup at MetLife Stadium, even down to the placement of "cafeteria pods" where players can sit at a safe distance while maintaining a sense of fellowship.
Think about this: Judge hadn't even been on the field with his entire coaching staff until two weeks ago. He had to hold a mock practice, just so everyone could go out and physically see where they would stand for each period. No detail can be overlooked this year, including the unseen ones like coaches' and players' mindsets as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
"I think that my job is to make sure that we're preparing for all the possible scenarios that could come up throughout the season," Judge said. "It's not only things we've thought of already, but things that pop up as we go. 'Ok, what if this happens? What's our plan in place?' Now, you do that as a football team, anyway. This year, you just take into a different account with COVID and how that may affect our team or other teams, as well. But the biggest thing is just to talk about the situation. You talk out how you're going to handle it. A lot of it is personnel oriented."
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.
Lance Medow: This season will be hard enough for teams who are bringing back the bulk of their rosters and coaching staffs, so you can only imagine what it will be like for teams sporting a new coaching staff trying to implement two new schemes. Well, the latter clearly applies to the Giants. While Joe Judge and Co. are experienced and more than capable of adapting, it's still going to be quite the challenge for everyone involved to get on the same page without much on-field work and no preseason games.
Although the 2011 lockout season isn't equivalent to what teams are experiencing now, it's still the closet measuring stick to 2020. In 2011, players and coaches couldn't communicate during the off-season until a new CBA was finalized and they went straight into camp in late July/early August. Of the 12 playoff teams that season, just one team completely revamped its coaching staff (San Francisco 49ers); the others, had plenty of carryover from 2010.
The Ravens had a new defensive coordinator in Chuck Pagano, but he was an in-house promotion from secondary coach) and the Broncos hired a new head coach in John Fox, but he retained offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The Texans brought in new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the Bengals added Jay Gruden to run their offense, but the head coaches and other coordinators remained intact. The common theme among the playoff teams was continuity and that was evident with the Giants as Tom Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride and Perry Fewell each returned to their respective roles.
Based on the 2011 trends, the newness of the Giants' coaching staff and schemes provides a challenge and just 14 padded practices without a preseason adds even more hurdles. With a few preseason games, Jason Garrett could have gotten a "live" feel for Daniel Jones and worked out any issues in terms of communication, play-calling, etc. The same can be said for Patrick Graham and his defense. While the preseason may not be exhilarating from a fan's perspective, it's critical from a coaching/evaluation standpoint and extremely beneficial for a new staff. Even Joe Judge running through a dress rehearsal of game day operations would go a long way in helping to make a smooth transition to the regular season.
View photos of veteran players getting in their conditioning at training camp.