The Giants practices have been open to the media for nearly two full weeks, and while it’s still too early to draw any big conclusions about the 2020 team, it’s never too early for some observations. So here’s a look at what’s been seen and heard from the Giants this summer, heading into their big intra-squad scrimmage at MetLife Stadium on Friday night:
1. Joe Judge has renewed the energy – I know the focus is all on the hitting and the yelling and the penalty laps, but don’t underestimate the crispness of the practices Judge is running. They are completely choreographed and not a moment seems wasted. Players move quickly from drill to drill and are constantly being instructed – which is something I remember from the best of the Tom Coughlin Era. That kind of detailed teaching and constant motion will pay off more than any hitting and yelling will. It helps, by the way, that this is a very young team more than willing to buy in.
2. QB Daniel Jones looks sharp (and probably bigger) – It’s hard to tell from Zoom or the media’s distant practice vantage point just how much bigger the newly chiseled Jones is, though it’s definitely noticeable. Also noticeable: He looks sharp. Granted, he’s not facing a live pass rush yet or a defense scheming against him. But his throws look strong, he looks confident, and for the most part he’s been on target.
3. TE Evan Engram looks healthy – This wasn’t a given after he underwent Lisfranc surgery last year, because any foot injury is a big deal for a 6-3, 240-pounder who relies on speed. But Engram is practicing with no restrictions and seems as quick and as explosive as ever. The Giants seem intent on using him as a weapon, too, so that’s a good thing for everyone. If he can make it through 16 games, they think he’s a guy that could top 80 catches and 1,000 yards easily.
4. Rookie LT Andrew Thomas will be fine – The first-round pick got bulldozed by Lorenzo Carter in live drills two weeks ago. He was pushed around by Leonard Williams, and beaten by moves from Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell, all of which at one point it left him shaking his head in disgust. That was just one practice, of course, and he’s held his own at other times. But it’s good that his defensive teammates are pushing him hard. They are testing him with an array of moves in camp, and that will only help him since the regular season is coming up quickly. He hasn’t been perfect, and certainly not dominant, but remember that the one-on-one losses get highlighted far more than the wins. If he starts at left tackle, which seems like a safe bet, it won’t always be smooth, especially early. But there’s no doubt he belongs.
5. Lorenzo Carter looks like a different person – The third-year pro just looks different. Maybe he’s a little bigger. He certainly seems quicker, or at least less tentative when he moves. We’ll see if that transfers into the season, but the 2018 third-round pick seems primed for a breakout year. That’s what the Giants are counting on, by the way. They believe he could be the key to reviving their pass rush, maybe more so than anyone else on the team. Yes, they hope to catch lightning in a bottle with Golden and Fackrell, too. But they believe Carter and, to a lesser extent, Oshane Ximines have a shot to be their pass rush of the future.
6. Nick Gates has a real shot to be the starting center – Considering he’s mostly been a tackle in the NFL, he has looked very comfortable in his short time at center, and there’s no doubt he’s going to get an opportunity to win the job from Spencer Pulley. Given how much the Giants like him – and how much they are now paying him – he could even be the favorite. So far the early returns in camp on Gates are definitely good.
7. The Giants think they can ‘fix’ Leonard Williams – Mock the trade and the franchise tag if you want, but Dave Gettleman isn’t the only one in the organization enamored with the former Jets first-rounder. They see him as an excellent run defender who gets more pressure on the quarterback than people realize. His problem? Finishing, and getting sacks. But there is a belief in the organization that some work on pass-rushing technique will help that. Williams also added some upper body strength in the offseason which they think will help, too. He’s been a force in camp, but we won’t know if he’s a better finisher until the games are live.
8. Rookie CB Darnay Holmes is getting a big shot to win a starting job – With the arrest of DeAndre Baker and the opting out of Sam Beal, the Giants’ cornerback corps is a real mess. But one bright spot is rookie corner Darnay Holmes, a fourth-rounder out of UCLA., who has shown to be a playmaker – almost every day. He has looked fast and sure-handed in camp so far, and he’s clearly getting an opportunity to win a job. He’ll probably at least start as the slot corner, though there is an actual starting job up for grabs across from newcomer James Bradberry, too, and no one has seized that yet.
9. There is talent and size along the offensive line – I don’t advise taking early camp judgments about linemen seriously because no one really knows for sure about them until the games start. But this line definitely looks bigger and better. Assuming Thomas progresses as expected, Cam Fleming seems like a more than solid right tackle. Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler are more than holding their own in early live drills, too. The chemistry is key, as is the identity of their center (Gates or Pulley). But there definitely looks to be more talent there than there has been in years.
10. Rookie G Shane Lemieux is feisty – The fifth-round pick is tough, full of energy, and doesn’t seem to back down from anyone. He’s a couple of training camp fights away from being another Rich Seubert, really. The Giants love him. He’s probably not going to be a starter this year, especially since he doesn’t appear to be in the mix at center, but he looks like a keeper and valuable depth for now. That’s just more proof that Gettleman’s long rebuild of the offensive line is nearing completion.
11. Don’t sleep on Corey Coleman if he’s healthy – The former first-round pick, whose career has been devastated by injuries, looks very healthy after missing last year with a torn ACL. The Giants took a flier on him in 2018, hoping he could contribute something as maybe their fourth receiver. He definitely has skills. He probably doesn’t have the speed he once had. But if he can stay healthy – a big “if” – he could help since the Giants’ receiving corps gets awfully thin after the top three.
12. Julian Love was going to have a role, and now it will be big – After being a non-factor early last year, he broke into the lineup late and showed he belonged. Clearly, the new coaching staff agreed and they had big plans for using him as a third safety and sometimes-cornerback this season. But now, after the loss of rookie safety Xavier McKinney to a fractured foot, Love will be more than a “Big nickel." He’s going to have to start, and the Giants don’t think the drop off will be that big at all. Love has had a strong camp, and new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has some ideas on how to use him.
13. A look at some ‘sleepers’ – The most impressive of the bottom-of-the-roster guys to me has been cornerback Jarren Williams, an undrafted free agent out of Albany. The Giants need help at his position and he’s having a solid summer. It’s hard to say if he can push veteran Grant Haley or second-year pro Corey Ballentine for a spot in the top three, but it looks like the coaches are giving him that chance. … The top four receiver spots are locked up, but there are openings for one or two more and several have been impressive, including first-year players in David Sills (6-3, 211) and Alex Bachman (6-foot, 190), and Austin Mack, a 6-1, 212-pound UDFA out of Ohio State. The Giants love (and need) Sills’ size, but their battle might come down to which ones are better suited to replace injured special teams ace Cody Core.