The Giants on Thursday held their sixth practice of organized team activities.
They have four of these voluntary practices left, and then their three-day mandatory minicamp. And then they’re off until training camp starts in late July.
So let’s bring you some observations and takeaways from Thursday’s practice (the second of OTAs that was open to reporters), along with a bit of context for the bigger picture.
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Remember, all of these spring practices are no-pads, no-contact workouts. The pads don’t go on – and contact doesn’t begin – until training camp. So don’t read too much into these practices.
Still, here’s what we noticed Thursday – and what it means.
• How does the offensive line look? It’s impossible to assess blocking competence in the spring, without pads on. But we can take an early look at how the depth chart might be shaping up.
Shane Lemieux continues to lead the left guard competition. He was the starter there last season before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. (Ben Bredeson wound up stepping in.) Lemieux worked with the first-team line again Thursday. Left tackle Andrew Thomas, recovering from ankle surgery, was with the first team during a walk-through period, but not during the 11-on-11 action.
Interestingly, rookie third-round draft pick Joshua Ezeudu was the first-string left tackle during Thursday’s team periods – not Korey Cunningham, who filled that spot last Thursday. Ezeudu also figures to be in the mix for the left guard job. But he is getting an opportunity this spring to showcase his versatility.
The rest of the first-string line was obvious: Jon Feliciano at center, Mark Glowinski at right guard, and Evan Neal at right tackle. As for the second-string line Thursday, Cunningham got work at right tackle, while Max Garcia was at left guard, Bredeson at center, and Marcus McKethan (rookie fifth-round pick) at right guard. (Backup tackle Matt Gono was absent.)
Bottom line: The Giants clearly have some depth issues with their interior line.
• Who didn’t practice? Kayvon Thibodeaux was the most notable absence. He appeared to get hurt last Thursday. No point in pushing him this spring. The Giants need his pass rushing production when it actually matters.
Before practice, Brian Daboll said he didn’t consider this injury to be serious, though he didn’t elaborate on its specifics – in keeping with how he’s done things so far. So we’ll see.
No. 1 wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons, appeared to go inside the Giants’ facility at one point during practice. When he returned, he just observed. The Giants desperately need him – and Kadarius Toney – to stay healthy this season. Toney again didn’t practice Thursday. No surprise. He is recovering from knee surgery.
Golladay didn’t begin Thursday’s practice in a red jersey (which typically signifies an injured player). Nor did he put one on at any point. But he ultimately didn’t really practice at all.
These players either didn’t practice or got no work in team periods: defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, inside linebacker Blake Martinez, center / guard Nick Gates, offensive tackle Matt Peart, linebacker TJ Brunson, cornerback Rodarius Williams, receiver Collin Johnson, cornerback Darren Evans, receiver Sterling Shepard, and (as noted above) Thomas, Golladay, Toney, and Thibodeaux.
No major surprises in that group. Lawrence was limited, so his injury doesn’t appear to be significant. We’ll see how much Thibodeaux and Golladay wind up doing for the rest of the spring.
• Wan’Dale Robinson’s debut. Well, at least his debut in front of reporters, since he had to attend a rookie event last Thursday and was absent. With all of the Giants’ injury issues at receiver this spring, Robinson will have a chance to show what he’s got in the slot.
The Giants’ primary first-string outside receivers Thursday were Darius Slayton (no surprise) and Richie James, who has just 38 catches through four NFL seasons. David Sills, who still isn’t particularly consistent, also got some first-team work. Robinson got a bunch of it.
And he made the catch of practice, in a one-on-one drill. Daniel Jones threw a 40-yard deep ball to the end zone and Robinson went up and got it over Aaron Robinson. A really nice contested catch for a really small receiver who will have to prove he can make those physical plays in big spots.
• Bigger-picture cornerback issues. We’ll see how Aaron Robinson adjusts in his move from the slot to No. 2 outside cornerback. His defensive coordinator (Wink Martindale) and position coach (Jerome Henderson) are expressing early optimism.
But given all the change in the Giants’ secondary, there’s all this concern: Will this group hold up when asked to play man-to-man coverage?
That question is important because Martindale likes to play man coverage and blitz a tone. Henderson made a couple of interesting points when talking about this after practice.
“The other side of that is, the ball has got to come out quicker now, so hopefully we don’t have to cover quite as long,” he said. “And if we can be disruptive early, hopefully we can help the defense play at a very high level.”
Still, he understands the pressure his overhauled group will be under at times, with Adoree ‘Jackson replacing James Bradberry as the No. 1 corner and Robinson taking Jackson’s old role.
“We know quarterbacks aren’t going to have all day to sit back there and pat the ball on us,” Henderson said. “We’re going to be aggressive. We’re going to go after them. That’s going to put some, at times, stress on us in the back end. I’m excited that we’ll hold up and we’ll do our job at a high level. ”
As for whether Jackson will always follow the opposing no. 1 receiver, Martindale for now is having Jackson and Robinson just play the left and right sides – and getting them work on both sides. So for what it’s worth, Jackson isn’t “following” the No. 1 receiver this spring, though it’s not like the Giants have a lot of healthy star power at the receiver right now anyway.
It seems entirely possible that once the season rolls around, Jackson will be asked to often follow the top opposing receiver, since Robinson is a second-year pro who was drafted to be a slot corner and is now being thrust into a new role, in the wake of Bradberry’s release.
“We’ll see how that plays out as we go, whether we will match [the opposing top receiver]whether we won’t match, ”Henderson said.
• Daniel Jones‘day (and Darius Slayton). Ah, yes. The quarterback.
As we’ve mentioned, Jones’ most important work this spring is being done behind the scenes, as he learns Daboll’s offense. It’s hard to take too much from what he’s doing on the field, especially considering the state of his receiver group.
But we tracked Jones’ throws Thursday anyway, because why not? Remember, a Richie James was out there as one of Jones’ primary targets with the starting unit Thursday. Still, these were Jones’ stats: 20 reps, 13-of-18 passing, two interceptions. (More on those picks in a bit.)
Jones uncorked an excellent deep ball to Slayton, 35 yards down the sideline, past Jackson in coverage. That was Jones’ best pass all day – and one of the few times he went deep.
As for his three non-pick incomplete passes, one came when James fell down, another was just a high ball to James, and the third was broken up in a goal-line situation to end practice.
Not that Daboll particularly cares about Jones throwing interceptions in practice – as long as he’s being aggressive – but it’s worth noting that neither pick Thursday was Jones’ fault. On the first, James fell down as the ball was in the air, and Jackson grabbed it. On the second, Sills juggled the ball, and Xavier McKinney snatched it.
There will be more consecutive days for Jones – and presumably, he’ll have at least a couple more high-profile receivers with him on the field when those days come.
But as for Slayton, that was a strong catch he made on Jones’ deep ball, as Slayton tries to show Daboll he deserves a role in this packed receiver room – Golladay, Toney, Robinson, Shepard (once he returns from a late-season torn Achilles tendon). It won’t be easy for Slayton to find action, presuming he isn’t cut or traded this summer, since the Giants still need salary cap space.
• Tyrod’s Tyrod mixed results. He is a better backup quarterback than Mike Glennon (low bar), but he produced mixed results Thursday – great 20-yard pass to the sideline for CJ Board, but also a short ball that Elerson Smith intercepted and a throw over the middle that was too far behind a wide-open Ricky Seals-Jones.
Ultimately, Taylor is competent. But the Giants hope he never plays in 2022, since Daboll wants Jones to stay upright and finally show he can be a legit quarterback.
• A fight! No big-picture takeaway from this one, but Cunningham and Quincy Roche did go at it – and throw some actual punches – for about 15 seconds late in practice, before teammates intervened. And no, Daboll didn’t make anybody run a lap after the fight.
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Darryl Slater may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.