The offseason program is nearing its end. The Giants held their eighth of 10 organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. They will practice through Thursday before breaking until training camp. Rookies stay for another week and will report back on July 22, two days ahead of the veterans.
“The message is to just make sure that they take care of themselves,” said coach Pat Shurmur. “Be smart with their time off. Get away. Relax. I frequently say that it is really not time off, it is time away. I think as you get past the Fourth of July and into the summer, their mind will drift toward the season. Just be smart about the time that they have.”
But they’re not done yet. Here are the standout players from a windy OTA No. 8:
S JABRILL PEPPERS: The New Jersey native’s reputation precedes him. Peppers played 15 different defensive, offensive and special teams positions at Michigan in 2016, when he won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile player. The Giants aren’t using him on offense – that we know of – but the third-year pro made plays all over the field today in practice.
He caught running back Saquon Barkley, whom he played against in the Big Ten, in the backfield on a handoff. The 5-foot-11, 233-pound Barkley made a spin move just as Peppers, who is the same height but 20 pounds lighter, was approaching. Wolverine fans would bet on the latter making the tackle on the 2018 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year; Nittany Lions fans might beg to differ. Either way, the energy that Peppers brings can’t be debated. He was also strong in coverage today as he teamed up with cornerback Janoris Jenkins a few times to limit plays downfield, and Peppers let the offense know about it. The trash talk between the offense and defense has served a purpose this spring.
“Just to see how easy it is to get in guys’ heads,” Peppers said last week. “I know how defenses play the game, so if they are used to it in practice, they will be used to it in the game, and to see how they respond. Competition brings the best out in everybody. It never hurts a little bit.”
“I think it’s important for us to go back and forth with each other,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard. “That’s what’s going to happen on game day and on the field. Then, it just brings out the competitive edge of everyone. We go at it a lot, and I’m not one to back down or shy away from trash talk (laughter). We go at it, but I think it’s all great for the team.”
OK, we’ll buy that.
TE C.J. CONRAD: If you were looking for Maddenesque highlights today, this practice was not for you. The blustering winds in the Meadowlands didn’t make for a lot of pretty plays, but that was just fine with Conrad. The undrafted rookie from Kentucky continued to pile up the catches on Tuesday, benefitting from the increase in reps with fellow tight end Evan Engram sidelined because of a hamstring injury. Conrad made a nice catch down the left sideline from Alex Tanney, and another from Kyle Lauletta late in practice.
“I like Conrad,” tight ends coach Lunda Wells said after rookie mincamp. “He’s tough. He’s smart. He can learn. He’s not a blazer, but he’s instinctive in the pass game. It didn’t take a long time to figure out that this guy is very determined about being a really good player and I like that about him. He takes coaching very well.”
Conrad played in 49 career games with 42 starts, totaling 80 catches with 1,015 receiving yards. His 12 touchdown receptions are the second-most by a tight end in UK history.
S KENNY LADLER: The former first-team All-SEC defensive back has put together two strong practices in a row as he tries to set himself up for roster-decision time when the team gets into training camp next month. Yesterday, Ladler assisted on an interception that linebacker Mark McLaurin finished off, and later had a nice pass break-up on the sideline. Today, he made you take note of his number – 33 -- again with another pass deflection. Aside from a deep Eli Manning-to-Russell Shepard completion down the middle early in practice, the secondary muddied the passing game today, with Kamrin Moore and Grant Haley also making noteworthy plays in coverage.
The Giants get back to work Tuesday as 2019 OTA practices continue