In this week's edition of Cover 3, we discuss what we've learned so far at training camp.
John Schmeelk: We've seen a handful of practices and has been a lot to take in. It is far too early to make any judgments on how well players are doing, or the strength of the position groups. Guys are still going through their first on-field installations of the game plans in full-speed situations.
I've been most impressed by the attention to detail of Joe Judge and his staff. They are teaching technique details, rep after rep. Since the off-season has been so truncated with limited practice time, Judge is having different groups run the same sets of plays simultaneously on different fields to maximize reps. He knows exactly what groups he wants to be with for what reps, so he sees certain players do specific things on isolated plays - this setup will help his evaluation of the team.
I honestly didn't even notice there weren't any names on the back of the players' jerseys, and to me that isn't very significant. I do think there is more significance to holding players responsible for mental mistakes by making them run. This isn't punishing physical errors, but instead the consquence of mistakes that reflect a lack of preparation or discipline on the field. Those are things that can cost a team games over the course of a season.
From the COVID-19 protocols to everything that happens at practice, everything has been very specifically planned and is being held to a high standard of execution. Drills, transitions and everything else at practice must happen quickly and crisply or the players will hear about it. As a new regime begins to install their culture, standards must be clear and applied to everyone.
The national NFL reporters making random comments on Twitter about how Judge is just trying to be like Bill Belichick with his methods haven't been here to see the differences in the two, starting with Judge's open personality. Judge knows he has very little time to install his program before real games start and is doing all he can to make sure he gets that done during training camp.
Dan Salomone: Veteran offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler delivered the best line of training camp so far when he said the coaches aren't "hoping" the team gets better; they are "making sure." That speaks to the level of detail and intensity permeating through the Giants' football operations, which is the biggest takeaway from camp. Part of the reason is because of the circumstances. Installing new systems without the benefit of on-field work until August is not ideal, but I think it is safe to say that Joe Judge and his staff would not be any different under normal conditions.
Players still would not have names on their jerseys, the team still would run penalty laps, and coaches still would be barking. Judge's methods will be put to the test starting Monday, Sept. 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but until then, all he can do is what he believes will get the team ready.
"We have a lot of moving parts, but our players understand that there's a purpose in everything we're doing," Judge said. "We're trying to make sure everybody maximizes the time on the field, maximizes our reps, and gives us a chance to evaluate everybody, and for them to improve on their individual techniques."
Lance Medow: The team took a step forward last week with OTA-style workouts in which all 80 players on the roster were allowed to be together simultaneously. Considering there wasn't any on-field work all Spring, every phase in training camp is considered a milestone, even though there's only so much you can take away from the earliest form of practice. It's also why hearing from the assistant coaches was the most notable portion of Phase 2.
Cross-training is a big theme during camp, thus far, as the Giants look to capitalize on the versatility of their roster. Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson emphasized flexibility when discussing his unit: "If you watch this system of defense, you'll see that the parts are really interchangeable in the secondary. You'll have safeties sometimes moving down and playing corner. You'll have corners sometimes moving back to play safety. We're asking all those guys to be versatile. We're asking them to learn multiple positions." Henderson specifically brought up rookie Darnay Holmes, who is working on the outside and inside and has already shown some nice flashes during practice, thanks to his aggressiveness and smarts.
Joe Judge echoed similar sentiments when discussing Jabrill Peppers and pointed out how he may play some corner (which he's already done in his career) depending on the type of matchups opponents present on a week-to-week basis. Judge also emphasized the importance of cross-training inside and outside linebackers so they may be prepared to move around. If Patrick Graham's defense is best described as "multiple," then it's no surprise that certain players will take on more than one role.
The same can be said on offense, specifically on the offensive line. Assistant Marc Colombo noted Nick Gates and rookie Shane Lemieux are working at multiple spots as they continue to hone their versatility. Gates is getting more and more reps at center as the Giants explore potential options to anchor the line. The fact that Colombo also played on the offensive line during his NFL career has helped in developing a unique relationship between he and his players. Will Hernandez said, "That's something that any offensive lineman appreciates, a guy that understands you. It's a very unique position. You don't meet too many offensive linemen. There are not too many offensive linemen. It's a unique position. To have somebody that actually played there, it definitely helps us out a lot. We really like having him here. Hernandez even referred to Colombo as "one of the guys." The next few weeks will determine whether Colombo's persona and toughness will translate to his players on the field.
View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.