Not since the heyday of the Erie Canal has there been this much movement between Buffalo and the New York City area.
The Giants keep signing players away from the Bills, the team that employed their new general manager and head coach during the past four seasons as a moribund roster was turned into a perennial playoff contender.
Running back Matt Breida and offensive lineman Jamil Douglas became the latest free agents to make that move from Buffalo to the Meadowlands, signing their contracts on Monday. They follow offensive lineman Jon Feliciano, receiver Robert Foster, quarterback Davis Webb and running back Antonio Williams, who arrive with an understanding of Brian Daboll’s playbook.
More important is that they arrive with an understanding of Daboll’s expectations.
“I think it’s guys who know how to win, leadership, guys who know what it takes to get to the playoffs, and that’s definitely what we expect here with the Giants, nothing short of that,” Breida said of the trait that all of those imports from Western New York have in common. “Having those guys here is going to help with the rest of the team and I’m excited to get to work.”
Said Douglas: “I definitely think it’s a culture-type thing.”
Having so many familiar faces around him should allow Daboll to quickly put his thumbprints on the character of the team once the Giants come together for the start of the voluntary offseason program in April. He’ll already have plenty of players in the locker room who will vouch for him to those who remain from the previous regime.
“The number one thing is trust,” Feliciano told Newsday last week of building relationships when a new staff takes over. “It takes some time for coaches to get to know coaches and for players to get to know coaches, to learn what they want. Sometimes coaches yell at you and you have to find the meaning in what they are trying to say. Being with Bobby [Johnson, the offensive line coach, who also comes from Buffalo] and being with Dabes for three years, we just pick up right where we left off. They’re good dudes. It’s rare to find great coaches and good people. That combination is unfortunately hard to find.”
Douglas said he thinks the Giants will enjoy playing under Daboll. “Just being around him in my short amount of time in Buffalo, he’s high energy,” he said. “You know he’s a guy that’s going to coach you hard, and as a player, that’s what you want. I think a lot of guys respect that as you go throughout the league and a lot of guys want that feeling when they walk into a building that this coach cares. He’s going to be on you, but it’s for the better of the team and for the better of myself.”
Ultimately, what the Giants really want to get from Buffalo aren’t players or their perspective and appreciation for the coaching staff, but the blueprint for wins. Breida thinks that can be transferred just as easily as these offseason personnel moves that are happening.
“It’s a winning culture,” Breida said of the attitude the former Bills bring. “I believe the guys here that are around the team with the Giants obviously have one, too. We’re just coming in to add on to that and build on what’s already been here.”
Notes & quotes: The Giants signed one of new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s old players. Defensive end Jihad Ward, who was with the Ravens in 2019 and 2020, inked his contract on Monday. “He’s a great coach,” Ward said. “I wanted to go somewhere where they’re going to make me feel loose, and Wink is one of those coaches where basically he’s going to make me extend my career being the best that I can be. Wink is one of the coaches that did a hell of a job with me when I was a Raven, so I’m here now and ready to win some games.” . . . Ex-Giants linebacker Lorenzo Carter agreed to a one-year deal with the Falcons.He started 12 games in 2021, coming back from a torn Achilles, and recorded five sacks, all in the final four games of the season.