Friday is a big day for the New York Giants. Rookie head coach Joe Judge has led his team through a slew of Zoom meetings, followed by conditioning work, practices in shorts and t-shirts, then shells and finally this week fully-padded practices.
Without preseason games to hone skills or get a real read on how players react to game situations, the Giants will do the next-best thing. During their 10:45 a.m. practice at the Quest Diagnostics Center the Giants will hold an old-fashioned intra-squad scrimmage.
Roughly a week ago, Judge said Friday’s scrimmage “will look a whole lot like every high school and college scrimmage in America.”
The offense will be on one side. The defense will be on the other. When the situation calls for it, there will be special teams plays.
“Tomorrow will be a lot of put the ball down and play it out,” Judge said on Thursday. “We may put the ball down more in a red area and let them play in the red area, or we put them in a backed-up situation and let them play it out from that zone. But tomorrow is definitely going to be a lot more of just aware on the field, see the sticks, what’s the down and distance. Jason (Garrett) call it, Pat call it, T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) have his unit ready to go if it’s third down. Go down to fourth down and let’s just go ahead and play it out and see how smart our players can react, see how physical they can play, and see how we can hold up our fundamentals and execution through a higher intensity.”
Judge has often talked about the need to put players in competitive situations. That is important to both prepare them for the regular season, scheduled to begin Sept. 14 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, and to allow Judge and the coaching staff to get more information as they try to put together the regular-season 53-man roster and 16-man practice squad.
“We’re looking to go ahead and give everyone a chance to compete and put on tape their resume,” Judge said.
Here are a few things yours truly will be looking for during the scrimmage.
Daniel Jones’ comfort level
I’m not going to obsess over Jones’ scrimmage statistics (though I will likely track them). Or flip over every good or bad throw. There will be some of both. I want to see how comfortable Jones looks calling and executing Jason Garrett’s offense in a live situation for the first time.
Judge said earlier in the week that Jones is showing “a command within the huddle” thus far.
“I see improvement every day. I see a command within the huddle, where he’s aware of not only what we’re calling but he knows the situation we’re calling it in,” Judge said. “I see someone who’s understanding why Jason’s calling the play he is at that time and how the pieces fit and I see a lot of confidence in his eyes when he goes to the line of scrimmage.
“He still has a long way to go to reach his potential, but he’s working every day at getting there and it’s enjoyable to watch.”
We will get a glimpse of that on Friday morning.
Offensive line stuff
With the Giants, isn’t “offensive line stuff” always worth watching and talking about?
First-round pick Andrew Thomas, who will almost certainly be the left tackle (shhhhhhhh!) although the Giants won’t tell you he is the left tackle and NFL rules will prohibit yours truly from telling you he’s lined up at left tackle during the scrimmage, fare?
Thomas has had ups and downs this week going against Lorenzo Carter and other Giants’ pass rushers. He will have ups and downs all season as a rookie tackle in the NFL.
Can Nick Gates do enough to wrest the starting center job away from Spencer Pulley or the right tackle job from Cameron Fleming?
Can the Giants open some holes for running backs? Sure would be nice if Saquon Barkley didn’t have to get most of his yardage on his own in 2020.
There are backup jobs available. Can tackle Eric Smith put himself in consideration for one? How about undrafted interior linemen Kyle Murphy and Tyler Haycraft?
Young wide receivers
The Giants have undrafted Austin Mack, Derrick Dillon and Binjimen Victor fighting for jobs, along with David Sills V, C.J. Board and Alex Bachman. I’m interested in who gets reps with which groups, and whether any of these guys separates from the pack. Board had a terrific practice on Monday. Sills keeps showing up with catches, generally seeming to consistently toast Grant Haley.
Outside of veteran James Bradberry, there isn’t a single, established, quality cornerback on the Giants roster. How that situation shakes out is going to be a work in progress and it won’t be solved on Friday. Still, we will get some early indications as to what Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham are thinking.
First, how healthy is Corey Ballentine? He reportedly sat out of practice on Thursday, two days after an injury scare during Tuesday’s physical practice.
What about fourth-round pick Darney Holmes? Will he work in the slot? Outside? Both?
How often will Graham bring a safety like Julian Love down into the slot?
Can anyone like Prince Smith, Jarren Williams, Christian Angulo or Dravon Askew-Henry make a push for playing time?
I wrote earlier in the week that the cornerbacks had a rough go during 1-on-1 drills on Monday. Thursday, I asked Judge if he was seeing progress and what he was hoping to get from that group in Friday’s scrimmage. Here is part of his lengthy, pretty technical, answer:
“We’re looking for a level of improvement every day. When we go in after today, we’re going to turn the tape on. There are things to highlight that are positives and there are things that coaches often will correct that everybody has to learn from. They have to start first with the scheme that fits into it, and that’s really what leverage they play, where their help is, and how they’re matched up on a specific play. Secondly, it’s the technique that fits into each kind of coverage we have. Different kinds of man require different kinds of coverage. Different kinds of zones require different kinds of coverage and leverage. Within each one, there’s some variety.
“The biggest thing we’re looking for is just consistent improvement day by day. For every guy, it’s a little bit different. Some guys need to be better on the line of scrimmage, some guys in the deep part of the field, some guys have to react to the breaking and movement of the receiver. We’re trying to get all of them right now on the same page across the board and make them consistent throughout the play.”
All the rookies, of course
We get to see Xavier McKinney, Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux and the rest of the rookies in as close to live action as we will get before the regular season. It’s always exciting to see these guys for the first time.
I have said it before, but it honestly doesn’t take long to figure out who belongs and who is a deer in the headlights.
How well the Giants operate
Considering how detail-oriented Judge and the Giants have been I don’t expect there to be too many issues here. This, though, is the first time this team and this coaching staff will operate together in something resembling a game environment.
It will be interesting to see how well the Giants get play calls in, how well they get to the line of scrimmage and get plays off, how well they function on defense, how well they get sub packages and special teams units on and off the field.
All in all, Friday should be an interesting day in East Rutherford.