Three standout players from Tuesday's Giants minicamp practice:
It's that time of the year again.
The New York Giants hit the practice field on Tuesday for the first time this spring as part of a bonus voluntary minicamp provided to teams with new head coaches. They will be practicing for three days while the team simultaneously prepares for the 2018 NFL Draft, which begins Thursday night.
While live contact is not permitted in the offseason workout program, this week is an opportunity to see parts of the playbook start to come to life with new schemes being installed in all three phases under new head coach Pat Shurmur. Here are three players who stood out on Day 1 at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center:
WR STERLING SHEPARD
Embarking on his third season, Shepard was one of the few familiar targets Eli Manning threw to on Tuesday. Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris are no longer on the roster, and Odell Beckham Jr. continues to rehab and watch from the sideline. All four of those wide receivers were injured in that fateful Week 5 game against the Chargers last year, but Shepard was the only one whose season did not end there. Shepard looked hungry to get back on the field today, going as hard as you can in spring drills. He made the play of the day with a spinning catch over the middle on a Manning throw that threaded the needle. Speaking to the media before practice, Shepard said there are a lot of moving parts in Shurmur's offense, "so you kind of have to know it all."
"I'm loving it so far," Shepard said of the system Shurmur ran in Minnesota. "As an offensive guy, you look at the film on tape and you can't help but light up. You see guys like [Vikings wide receiver Adam] Thielen and [Stefon] Diggs – you saw what they did last year. A guy in my position can't help but smile when you look at the film."
TE JERELL ADAMS
A sixth-round draft pick by the Giants in 2016, Adams played all 16 games with one start last season while most of the reps went to Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison. Adams is looking to become a factor in Lunda Wells' tight ends room, and he started off his third NFL campaign by hearing his number called frequently in practice. He hooked up with second-year quarterback Davis Webb a handful of times and made a nice highlight catch over the middle.
"Well, I think the big thing for us is our game is very simple," Shurmur said of what he hopes to accomplish on the field this week. "It's about the ball, it's about negotiating the ground and it's really about man whipping man. Now this time of year there is not any contact so to speak, so that third part you can't work on very much. But we can work on throwing and catching; the defense can work on defending and trying to strip. We can work on the coordination of running plays and defending plays and the kicking and the punting and all of that. So those are the things we are trying to do.
"We've given the guys two weeks of meetings and we've put together a minicamp, there's not a whole lot of scheme, but there is enough here to challenge them mentally and then hopefully by the end of these three days we'll walk away and know a lot more about our players as we move forward."
LB DERRICK MATHEWS
Mathews is another player the Giants will get to know better if he makes more plays like he did on Tuesday. Signed off the practice squad for the 2017 season finale, Mathews had the lone interception of the day, pickong off a tipped ball. Mathews, who made his NFL debut in Week 17 against the Redskins, his former team, went undrafted out of Houston in 2015. The 6-foot, 232-pound linebacker has also spent time with the Packers. "I've watched the coaches work with the players and what I like about our defense is there's great communication," Shurmur said. "You can see they're excited about learning a new scheme [under defensive coordinator James Bettcher]. We have career coaches that are teaching the players and I see a lot of players that really feel challenged and want to be good. So, we'll get out here and try to be great."