When the New York Giants returned to practice Sunday afternoon, it was with the intention of addressing problems that cropped up in their game against the Detroit Lions, as well as preparing to play the New York Jets.
When he spoke to the media after practice, Pat Shurmur was clearly in a good mood following his first victory as the Giants’ head coach. He opened his press conference by joking with the assembled reporters.
“Training camp. Just one injury – Ralph Vacchiano, lower leg injury, he’s day to day,” Shurmur said to laughter. “I actually fined him this morning for missing treatment. His agent wants to fight it, but we’ll just call it a lower leg injury.”
Joking aside, Shurmur confirmed that not only would the team actively game-plan for the Jets on Friday night, but they have started looking ahead to their Opening Week game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With his opening remarks out of the way, Shurmur took questions.
On Ray-Ray Armstrong
It was noted during the Giants’ practice Sunday afternoon that linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong had worked his way up the depth chart to play with the starters in one of their nickel packages.
“As a linebacker, he’s long and he can cover,” Shurmur said of Armstrong. “He’s what linebackers should look like and he’s made progress. We feel like he’s done some really good things as we work through training camp, so it was good to see him have some success.”
Shurmur hinted that Armstrong coming up with the interception on the tip-drill might have played a role in his move up the depth chart.
“We felt like he had a winning performance in the game the other night, and every once in a while everybody has a bad play, but in total we felt like it was a winning performance and that was a game-changing play. We were able to intercept the ball, get it close and then offensively, we then punched it in, so it was good.”
The Giants are likely hoping that Armstrong’s athleticism and background as a (big) safety at the University of Miami will help their coverage in the middle of the field in nickel situations. Shurmur said that Armstrong’s blend of size and athleticism is what they are looking for in a linebacker”
“Certainly this is a big man’s game,” Shurmur said, “and so the bigger you are, as long as you can run and you’re athletic like he is, it’s good. It’s what we’re looking for. Hard to throw the ball around because he’s taller, but he can run and cover, and he’s done a good job with his run fits as well.”
On Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold
The Giants’ head coach has a fair amount of familiarity with two of the quarterbacks for whom he will be game-planning.
Shurmur coached Teddy Bridgewater as a Minnesota Viking, first as his quarterbacks coach, then as the offensive coordinator.
“Teddy is an outstanding, competitive guy and he’s got a unique charisma,” Shurmur said. “When I was there with him, the whole area loved Teddy. He just had that way about him, and then when he got injured everyone was pulling for him to come back. I’m thrilled for whatever success he’s having. I did peak at their game and it appears to me like he’s playing pretty well. The only thing I would say is don’t sleep on Teddy because I think he’s got it in him.”
The Giants also heavily scouted rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in the lead-up to the 2018 NFL Draft. They ultimately passed on Darnold, opting instead for running back Saquon Barkley. That decision will be litigated and re-litigated again and again over the coming week, months, and years.
Asked about his take on Darnold as a quarterback, Shurmur said, “He had some of the same traits that Teddy has. Very charismatic, he has that winning presence about him and you can see being with him on campus at USC that the players really kind of came to him. He had that, and he was obviously highly successful as a quarterback.”