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Giants rookie mini-camp: 5 things we learned this weekend

Rookies have now been introduced to the NFL

NFL: New York Giants Rookie Minicamp
Quarterback Clayton Thorson and the Giants run through some drills at rookie mini-camp.
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

What did we learn over the past couple of days as the New York Giants held their rookie mini-camp? We have talked about first-round pick Kadarius Toney a lot already, so here are some non-Toney takeaways.

Awed by Saquon? Hardly

Sixth-round pick was asked on Friday if he had an “oh, wow” moment when he realized he would be sharing a position with Saquon Barkley, second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

“Honestly right now I’m focusing on myself right now and I’m trying to become a better player myself right now,” Barkley said.

I actually love the fact that Brightwell seems to have not even given Barkley a thought as he prepares for his own NFL career. There’s no awe. There’s no “do I belong?” There’s just a ‘let get to work’ attitude’

The day he was drafted by the Giants, Brightwell talked excitedly about being part of special teams. Again Friday, he reiterated that he doesn’t care about a role.

“My role here is just basically being a football player, just like any other football player. You’ve got to earn your spot. It’s not just given to you,” Brightwell said. “I’m just going to be working on myself day-by-day.”

I have no clue at this point if Brightwell will be a successful NFL player. I do know he’s an impressive young man.

What’s in a number?

Kadarius Toney can’t wear the No. 1 jersey he wore at Florida with the Giants. The number is retired in honor of Ray Flaherty. Toney is sporting No. 89, and doesn’t seem to care one way or the other.

“Really wasn’t my choice, but I mean, at the end of the day at least I got a jersey, you know what I’m saying,” Toney said. “I mean, at the end of the day, I’m just thankful to have it. It don’t really matter what number I have. It don’t make the person. The number don’t make the person.”

Seeking running back depth

With the limited number of veteran tryout players allowed at rookie mini-camp, it was no coincidence that two of the recognizable players in attendance for the Giants were running backs Corey Clement and Ito Smith.

It’s also no coincidence that Clement signed a Giants contract Saturday evening.

With Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Brightwell and a few other unknown backs, it’s an obvious area where the Giants needed more competition.

Clement spent four seasons with the Eagles and averaged 4.0 yards per carry (163 carries, 655 yards), with 37 receptions. He caught a 55-yard pass in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl LII victory.

Door is wide open for Nate Ebner

Veteran safety/special teamer Nate Ebner is not on the roster right now. An accomplished rugby star who was on the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Ebner is trying out for the 2020 team that will compete in the 2020 Olympics this summer in Tokyo.

Technically, he is a free agent. Technically, that means he isn’t part of the 2021 Giants. Judge made it clear Saturday, though, that he fully expects Ebner to be a Giant again.

“We fully intend for him to be a member of the Giants,” Judge said.

Judge, of course, was the special teams coach with the new England Patriots when Ebner took part in the 2016 Games.

“That’s an experience I’ve been through with him before. Actually he returned from the Olympics in 2016 and had a tremendous year for us,” Judge said. “So I’ve gone through this before with him. I understand exactly how his training applies, rugby and can lead into football, and look, honestly it was one of his most productive years ever.

“He’s a guy that’s very locked in and focused. He was a captain last year and is a great team leader. This team, what he’s helping build is very important for him and while I don’t speak for anyone else, I don’t mind going echoing that for Nate because I know I can speak very directly and honestly. But look, he’s a very important part of this team and we look forward to getting him back.”

Elerson Smith indebted to Bryce Paup

Former NFL linebacker Bryce Paup has a prize pupil at Northern Iowa the past few seasons in Elerson Smith. Saturday, the Giants’ fourth-round pick took a moment to thank Paup, his position coach the past few seasons.

“To be honest with you, I pretty much learned everything I know about football from him. Going into college, I didn’t know much about this game. I just knew a little bit about football,” Smith said.

“So it was exciting to have him in my corner, obviously try to soak up as much as I can could, pass rush and the run, offenses, things like that. So he was awesome to have.”