OTA No. 4 is in the books.
The New York Giants returned from Memorial Day weekend with another spring practice that had a whiff of the dog days of training camp with the rising temperatures. They will be on the field for the next two days before a day off on Friday.
"It was a good day for us," coach Pat Shurmur said after practice. "Coming off a four-day weekend, we had little bit of heat to it. We promised OV [defensive end Olivier Vernon] this was going to feel like Miami, and it did, finally. It's always good when you add the elements to it. I told the players that we want to build a gritty team that can overcome the environment, and this is the first they had a little bit of heat and I think it was good, they pushed through it. So, again, just one more step closer to being a good football team."
Shurmur as well as a handful of players met with the media today. Here is what we learned:
1. Shurmur is 'hopeful' Collins gets cleared for training camp. Two-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins continues to progress in his rehab from a second forearm surgery, working his way up to limited reps during seven-on-seven drills today at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Giants have six more OTAs and a mandatory minicamp (June 12-14) before breaking until training camp, which typically begins at the end of July.
"I'm hopeful [he'll be cleared for training camp]," Shurmur said. "There's a break, right? So, as it heals up and he gets back to where he's 100 percent, then we'll get him out there."
Meanwhile, defensive tackle Damon Harrison participated in today's voluntary OTA. "Damon was here today and he did a good job," Shurmur said.
2. Saquon has not disappointed one bit. Shurmur and the staff have high expectations for all their rookies, but that is especially true for second overall pick Saquon Barkley. The Penn State product was taken in the middle of a hyped quarterback class, but general manager Dave Gettleman thought he was too special to pass up. It has been over a month since the decision was made, and there appears to be no drafter's remorse.
"He hasn't disappointed us one bit," Shurmur said. "We have high expectations for all of our rookies, especially Saquon. He has been out there running the ball well and is catching it well. He did a nice job today in pass protection. He is doing all the things now that we need to see him do to trust him out on the field next fall. He has done a good job."
Third-year wide receiver Sterling Shepard is also an admirer.
"Really explosive," the former second-round draft pick said. "If you look at his legs, it's like tree trunks, so I can imagine how hard it is to tackle that guy. But yeah, it's definitely a great piece to add to the puzzle."
3. Giants are absorbing new kickoff rule. Last week at the 2018 spring meeting in Atlanta, NFL clubs adopted two playing rules proposals, including changes to the kickoff rules. Among the changes are: at least eight players must be in 15-yard "setup zone" prior to the kickoff; no wedge blocks are permitted; and until the ball is touched or the ball hits the ground, no player on the receiving team may cross its restraining line, or initiate a block against the kicking team in the 15-yard area from the kicking team's restraining line.
"I don't know [how it will affect personnel] yet," Shurmur said. "We have to think about that a little more. The new kickoff rule is designed to make our game safer and to keep that play in the game and keep it exciting. We are going to need big, athletic guys that can cover, regardless if they are kicks or punts."
4. Thomas: A 'low standard' won't be acceptable on special teams. From trading for a punter to acquiring one of the most dangerous kick returners in college to signing veterans like Michael Thomas, Gettleman made clear that special teams is a priority on the roster. The phase of the game is now led by Thomas McGaughey, who was the Giants' assistant special teams coach from 2007-10 before taking over coordinator jobs for the Panthers, 49ers, Jets and LSU Tigers.
"It is very clear what they are thinking on special teams," said Thomas, who led the NFL with 44 total special teams tackles over the last three seasons with the Dolphins, according to STATS LLC. "I am excited to be a part of that. I don't think having that low standard on special teams is going to be acceptable here. That is how we want to be a team that goes out there, puts in the work. Learn together and grow together. We are going to set the tempo. I love that."
5. The ball will find the best player in Shurmur's offense. As wide receiver Sterling Shepard said today, the Giants have all the pieces to the puzzle on offense; they just have to put them all together. Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning has one of the best arsenals of his career with the likes of Shepard, Barkley, Jonathan Stewart, a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison, and a revamped offensive line. So how will the ball be shared?
"Yeah, that's a good question," Engram said. "We definitely have a lot of talent, we're going to utilize all of it as well. So, it's definitely interesting to think about. But I mean, in practice, we've got guys making plays all over the field. So, the ball's going to find the best player. We don't really care where the ball goes. I just know we have a lot of talent."