Sports

Giants minicamp observations: Wink Martindale wins day, Daniel Jones (and the offense) struggles, Tyrod Taylor, more

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There are only two more practices left before the Giants break for the summer.

Tuesday, the Giants kicked off the first three-day minicamp of the Brian Daboll era. It was a 2.5-hour practice, with most of the 11-on-11 team drills taking place in the last half of the practice.

Everyone was in attendance – it is mandatory, after all – but many players remain out or limited due to injuries.

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Here are some immediate observations from Tuesday’s practice at Quest Diagnostics Center:

Defensive domination

This might be a recurring theme this week, but the defense quite clearly had the better day in 11-on-11 drills. There are a few factors that go into that – Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme, completely new offensive line group, and a banged up wide receiving corps – but ultimately the defense simply looks better than the offense right now.

The offense struggled to get things going all afternoon, and if sacks or QB hits were allowed during practice … Daniel Jones would’ve been on the ground a lot.

“Wink came out with some Wink stuff today,” center Jon Feliciano said after practice.

It is far too early to panic. If this keeps happening deep into training camp, then it’ll be time to worry. (Last year, it became clear during training camp that the offense was going to struggle.) The hope is that the Giants facing Martindale’s aggressive scheme every day in practice should help them when they start facing off against opponents. Martindale is throwing different looks at the offense just about every play, blitzing safeties, having edge rushers drop into coverage, going with extra defensive backs … it’s a lot for a new-look offense to handle.

At one point late in practice, safety Dane Belton was sent in as a blitzer two plays in a row – and both would’ve resulted in a sack in a game setting. Jones would’ve been sacked on back to back plays during red zone drills later on, too. One was credited as a touchdown pass to David Sills, but probably shouldn’t have been.

Just something to keep an eye on as the week progresses.

Daniel Jones’ day – and Tyrod Taylor’s too

As mentioned, it wasn’t a great day for the offense – and Jones wasn’t particularly accurate. Though, again, he’s playing without Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard. The first-team wide receivers: David Sills, Richie James and CJ Board. (Darius Slayton seems to be fully relegated to backup duty at the moment, though he, along with others like Wan’Dale Robinson and Travis Toivonen, often rotate in with the first-team offense.)

Unofficially, I had Jones completing 13 of 21 passes, without any turnovers, though he came close to an interception on a pass breakup from cornerback Aaron Robinson. He was pressured pretty consistently, though that’s something he’s well familiar with from his first three NFL seasons. But he had a handful of throws at the ground in front of his target, behind them or too high over their head.

James had the most catches (six on seven targets) of any receiver on Tuesday, taking advantage of the reps he’s getting with all the injuries. Saquon Barkley continues to flash as a receiver too, catching a few passes, including one touchdown during a two-minute drill.

Tyrod Taylor had a better day with the backups, albeit with fewer reps and against the second-team defense. He completed 8 of 13 passes, including a couple Patrick Mahomes-esque sidearm throws to the middle of the field to hit Bachman. He also had a beautiful deep ball that would’ve been a 60-yard touchdown where only Slayton could catch it – but Slayton couldn’t haul it in.

It is plainly obvious right away that Taylor is a significant upgrade over Mike Glennon and Colt McCoy as a backup, which isn’t really saying much. He still has impressive mobility for an 11th-year veteran too, scrambling for a big gain at one point.

Banged up – but improving

The Giants’ list of players wearing red jerseys (indicating limited or non participation) was lengthy again, but many participated more than they had in recent practices in front of the media. That list included outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, wide receiver Kadarius Toney, wide receiver Kenny Golladay, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, cornerback Aaron Robinson, cornerback Darnay Holmes, cornerback Rodarius Williams, left tackle Andrew Thomas and linebacker Blake Martinez, among others.

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Toney was spotted at the start of practices catching passes from a JUGs machine, but didn’t participate otherwise. Golladay was a participant in some individual drills at the start of practice, but sat out team drills again. Thibodeaux was working alone with a trainer on an opposite field during 11-on-11 drills, working on his agility and swim move. He seems unlikely to take part in team drills as a precaution this week but should be good for training camp.

Robinson was limited but got some reps during team drills, getting a PBU on Jones, as mentioned. Thomas also participated in some drills early in practice but he’s still clearly limited by his offseason ankle surgery. The hope is that he’s closer to a full-go by training camp.

Starting units, offense and defense

Our usual check-in for who is running with the “ones”:

The offensive line was the same as it has been lately with Thomas sitting out of team drills: LT Joshua Ezeudu, LG Shane Lemieux, C Jon Feliciano, RG Mark Glowinski, RT Evan Neal.

Second unit: LT Devery Hamilton, LG Ben Bredeson, C Jamil Douglas, RG Marcus McKethan, RT Matt Gono.

Third unit: LT Roy Mbaeteka, LG Josh Rivas, C Ben Bredeson, RG Max Garcia, RT Korey Cunningham.

Ezeudu, Bredeson, Douglas and Garcia are all guys that have moved around a bunch during OTAs and minicamp.

“I think now is a good time in the spring to give as many guys different roles as they can do out there, and you can figure out maybe this is something that we missed on that he can do,” Daboll said before practice. “It’s good time to do it now.”

On defense, Martindale rotated quite a bit at the same spots he has been lately – cornerback, safety, outside linebacker, defensive line. As usual, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Azeez Ojulari and Adoree ‘Jackson were unquestioned starters. Jihad Ward and Elerson Smith – often accompanied by Ojulari – got many of the reps at edge rusher. (On multiple occasions, Smith was lined up on the inside and even dropped back into coverage a couple of times.)

Michael Jacquet remained the primary corner opposite Jackson with Robinson still banged up. And Belton got a bunch of reps as a third safety, flashing as a blitzer.

David Moa or Justin Ellis get most of the reps when there’s a third defensive lineman.

Miscellaneous:

• The Giants had a few tryout players at Tuesday’s practice, including wide receivers Keelan Doss and Isaiah Ford. Doss played for the Raiders in 2019-20 and spent last year on the Jets and Falcons practice squads. Ford spent the last four years with the Dolphins, where he accumulated 63 catches for 681 yards and two touchdowns in 32 games.

• This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Daboll confirmed on Tuesday that Daniel Jones was already cleared for contact from last season’s neck injury and that he’d be able to play in a game right now if there was one.

• Undrafted rookie corner Zyon Gilbert had a pass breakup on a Taylor pass during team drills. Rookie Cor’Dale Fleet was also in coverage on multiple Jones incompletions.

• Backup running back Matt Breida caught a few passes from Taylor after pre-snap motion getting him to the outside.

• Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger lined up as an outside receiver on a couple plays with the first-team offense, though he wasn’t targeted.

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Zack Rosenblatt may be reached at zrosenblatt@njadvancemedia.com.

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