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Friday's scrimmage means business for Joe Judge, Giants

Giants head coach Joe Judge talks to offensive

Giants head coach Joe Judge talks to offensive lineman Shane Lemieux during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Tuesday. Credit: Brad Penner

Joe Judge has already learned a lot about his team.

After a week of practicing in training camp, he said he’s been impressed by their enthusiasm, attention to detail, and coachability. He also likes that they seem to be jelling as a group after spending the entire offseason spread out around the country and with very few physical connections.

“I’ve seen a lot of camaraderie being built through the competition on the field, as well as the interaction off the field in the meeting rooms, in the dining hall and the locker room,” Judge said on Thursday. “You’re starting to see a lot of the personalities really start to come out. It’s a fun group to work with.”

Aww. That’s sweet.

But when it comes to what he has learned about them as a football-playing team – as in whether or not they can be any darn good this season – Judge said he has yet to be able to make any determination.

“It’s entirely too soon,” he said.

It’s about to become just a little bit less too soon.

That’s because Judge will run his first scrimmage with the Giants on Friday, a somewhat orchestrated but mostly fluid portion of the practice in which he’ll pretty much put the ball on the grass and let ‘em play. It will be the latest step in his evaluation of the roster with cutdown day in just about two weeks (gulp now if you are on the bubble) and the regular season looming just beyond there.

Judge called it “an opportunity to go out there and really start working.” As if the live-tackling lap-running, scream-so-loud-you-lose-your-voice practices that have already been held were a mere warmup. Asked if it will be the closest thing to actual football that he has asked of the players so far, he said: “The answer to that one is a simple yes.”

“You structure a lot of practices to see specific situations that match your install so the team can develop what you’re teaching,” he said. “(Friday) is definitely going to be a lot more of just awareness on the field, see the sticks, what’s the down and distance. Jason (Garrett), call it. Pat (Graham), call it. T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey), have his unit ready to go if it’s third down. Let’s just go ahead and play it out and see how smart our players can react, see how physical they can play, and see how we can hold up our fundamentals and execution through a higher intensity.”

That still won’t answer the big question about whether the Giants can be competitive this season. There are too many steps before that answer becomes clear. Next week, for example, the team will inch closer to an actual game setting when they have a more traditional scrimmage, broken into two teams that will go head-to-head, at MetLife Stadium instead of at their practice facility. Then of course there will be the Sept. 14 opener against the Steelers.

But even that won’t be the determining factor.

“This is an evolving process,” he said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to see a lot of teams come out there and no matter how they look, good or bad in Week 1, they’re going to be a completely different team Week 16.”

He referenced his final season in New England last year when the Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0 in Week 2, then lost to the same team (actually a decimated version of the same team), 27-24, in Week 17.

“To me, it’s not what you are right now,” Judge said. “It’s where you’re building toward. Where is this progress going?”

Friday figures to be one of the milestones in that assessment... perhaps only because it’ll be the most current one.

New York Sports