Each day this week, the Giants have been able to spend some time together on the field. After such a long layoff, the initial reaction to even the slightest resemblance to actual football must have been met with joy and elation. And as they go through their walkthroughs — events that Joe Judge said “doesn’t look tempo-wise anything like what you would expect practice to look like” — there has been a deep sigh of relief to be back.
But coupled with that pleasure is undoubtedly a sense of terror. Because while each day on the field is a step forward, it is also another box on the calendar that gets crossed off before the Giants are scheduled to open their season. In about five-and-a-half weeks they’ll be facing the Steelers in a game that counts.
They are, in other words, a team currently moving in slow motion with a season that is fast approaching.
The Giants have been focusing on the very basics at this point — calling plays, breaking huddles, recognizing formations — and it’s all new. Judge even noted that second-year quarterback Daniel Jones is beginning from “ground zero” in the new system and trying to find a rhythm with receivers … even those he has worked with in the past and spent time with during unsanctioned practices in the offseason.
“We’re going to work obviously at a much slower pace, a much more controlled pace,” Judge said in a virtual news conference on Wednesday. “The fundamentals that we are teaching, we’re giving them a chance to walk through them at a slow pace.”
Agility drills, when the players are broken up into three groups to allow for social distancing, are about the only time they can go full speed. Often those drills are designed to emphasize whatever lessons were taught in the previous day’s walkthrough.
“We’re getting some group time where we work multiple positions together, whether that be a quarterback with receivers or tight ends next to tackles talking about different block combinations,” Judge said. “A great deal of this is being run on air. On defense they’re lined up across from trash cans or maybe coaches posing as players to give us a sense of a formation that they can line up and make checks against.”
Remember: Five-and-a-half weeks. Tick tock, tick tock.
For Jones, Judge said, the most important part of this phase of training camp is actually being on the field and in the huddle with teammates, no matter how slow the action is.
“With a quarterback it’s such a mental game, it’s really the grasping and the understanding,” Judge said. “If it was somebody’s second year in the same offense, you’d want to see their command of that offense on the field. For Daniel, to be fair, this is a new offense. It’s a new system, new scheme for him. He’s had a limited number of walkthroughs of actually being on the field and able to do this. At this point I’m just looking to see his progress day by day and not compare him to where he was last year … It’s important for everyone to understand that we’re starting completely over right now and we’ve got to start from ground zero.”
Despite the lack of full-speed football that is undoubtedly driving Judge bananas— you may recall his introductory news conference when he promised to add physicality and even full tackling to Giants training camp practices but now must adapt to these pandemic-modified rules and paces — the head coach said he is pleased by what he has so far seen from the team.
“We have a lot of guys who have already reached out to coaches on their own for extra help, we’ve had players in meeting rooms doing extra together, and you can see the things you want to go ahead and breed within your culture coming together already,” Judge said. “That’s important. Now that has to sustain over the test of time. A few days together doesn’t solve all of the problems. But as far as the starting point, I’m very pleased with that and the direction that we’re going.
“There is an urgency to improve, there is an urgency to learn,” he said.
With five-and-a-half weeks, there’d better be.
Beal opts out
Sam Beal was supposed to be one of the possibilities to replace DeAndre Baker at starting cornerback this season. Now the Giants have to replace Beal.The third-year corner became the third Giants player to opt out of the upcoming season due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to the league’s transaction wire. Beal, selected in the 2018 supplemental draft, was entering his third NFL season but had played in just six games due to various injuries.
With Baker on the commissioner’s exempt list and facing eight felony charges in Florida, the Giants were hoping Beal might be able to step in as a starter opposite free agent pickup James Bradberry. Now that job will be up for grabs among Corey Ballentine, Grant Haley and Montre Hartage, 2020 draft choices Darnay Holmes (fourth round) and Chris Williamson (seventh),and perhaps second-year pro Julian Love.The Giants could also add a veteran free agent at the position, but that will require nearly a week of COVID testing and quarantine before any such player can be on the field with the Giants.
NFL players have until 4 pm on Thursday to opt out of the season. Beal is the third to take advantage of that option, following LT Nate Solder and WR Da’Mari Scott.