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Giants training camp takeaways, 8/11: “Unbelievable” energy at Fan Fest

Giants practice in front of crowd said to be around 29,000

Syndication: The Record
Fans wait to enter MetLife Stadium for Giants practice on Wednesday night.
Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — “Unbelievable.”

That is how New York Giants coach Joe Judge described the energy of practicing Wednesday evening in front of a crowd announced at roughly 29,000 delirious fans during the team’s ‘Fan Fest’ at MetLife Stadium.

This marked the first time the Giants had played in front of their fan base, aside from a closed workout in front of a couple thousand fans at a local high school, since the end of the 2019 season.

“Unbelievable. Outstanding,” said an obviously fired up Judge at the end of the practice. “It’s a whole lot different, you guys hear the noise at practice, the music, but then when you’re down in the end zone, you’ve got the fan noise right there. Listen there’s a whole lot different stimulus to the game we’ve got to get back used to being a part of.”

Judge said re-familiarizing players with dealing with crowd noise was a big part of Wednesday’s focus.

“You hear music at practice, but when there’s actually people out there yelling player’s names, yelling your names, you’ve gotta stay locked and focused through that,” Judge said. “t’s the first time we’ve had this kind of noise since we’ve been here. We’re at that point. We’re glad they’re back.”

Media in attendance spent most of practice in the press box. We were allowed on the sideline for the final few minutes, and the energy was absolutely something that could be felt from field level.

Practice observations

  • It just had to happen, didn’t it? Evan Engram dropped a short pass from Daniel Jones in 7-on-7 and was lustily booed. That is the only pass I have seen Engram drop thus far in training camp.
  • I was trying to track each throw by Daniel Jones, but lost track when media transitioned from the sixth floor press box to field level. In the throws I was able to track, Jones went 9 of 14.
  • Ryan Santoso handled two placekicking sessions as Graham Gano rested. Santoso went 6 of 7, making a pair of 54-yard attempts with relative ease. His one miss was a 58-yard attempt that he pushed just left.
  • Running back Devontae Booker fumbled on the first play of 11-on-11, resulting in his being replaced by Corey Clement.
  • Judge cut what was scheduled to be a two-hour practice a couple of periods short with threatening weather in the area. That turned out to be a good decision. Shortly after the post-practice fireworks show ended, a thunderstorm that included some scary lightning began.
  • There is always one. A Philadelphia Eagles fan wearing a DeVonta Smith jersey was sitting in the front row when Wednesday’s practice began.

Practice buddies

Judge mentioned on Tuesday that he had paired linebacker Blake Martinez up with Saquon Barkley, who is still recovering from last season’s torn ACL, during drills in which Barkley participates.

“We did a drill (Monday) yesterday where it’s a non-contact, just a space kind of tracing,” Judge said. “We don’t do it as a tackle drill, and I told Saquon he was up, I told Blake Martinez, ‘You’ve got Saquon,’ because I know these guys can work with respect and what they’re going to do against each other. It’s just two guys that we trust that Saquon can execute the technique, build in his rehab, get in a football movement. Blake can work what he’s going to do, and we also knows that he’s not going to do anything and make a mistake that maybe someone else would make. I’m not accusing any one of our players, but sometimes you may get someone who’s maybe a little outside their lane and we want to make sure we keep them safe.”

Turns out, this is not a new thing. Martinez said that began last year.

“I think last year every single time we did things, it was always me and Saquon,” Martinez said. “Every single time he came up for a certain competition drill, and things like that, I made sure I was right there. It kind of goes back to saying it again, the iron sharpens iron type of thing. Also, with Saquon coming back with his injury, and things like that, I think the coach trusts me. He knows that we’re going to get the work in needed, but no kind of funny business, or something out of control, is going to happen during those drills.”

“We love him”

Count safety Jabrill Peppers among players who adamantly defend Joe Judge, whose old-fashioned methods draw criticism from outside sources not around the team with any regularity, or at all.

“I mean, the guys here, we love him. We like coaches who coach us hard, going to tell us how it is, and not sugarcoat anything,” Peppers said. “He’s going to push you places that you can’t take yourself. I just think if you don’t like to be coached hard, then you’re not going to like it here.”

Get your stories straight, fellas!

GM Dave Gettleman told Sirius XM NFL Radio on Tuesday that fourth-round pick Elerson Smith, who hasn’t practiced in any substantive way during camp, injured a hamstring during a conditioning run before camp.

Judge was taken aback when asked about that on Wednesday morning.

“It was absolutely not a lap or a conditioning test of that nature. That’s not what happened at all,” Judge said.

Hmm. Curious.

Line help arrives ... on defense

The Giants made a series of roster moves on Wednesday, adding defensive linemen Elijah Qualls and Willie Henry, and cutting wide receiver Derrick Dillon, linebacker Cale Garrett and defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh, a 2018 fifth-round draft pick.

The roster churn is something we should all be used to by now. The Giants are using this time to continue to search for help on the fringes of the roster, and that’s fine. It remains interesting, though, that no offensive linemen have yet been added.

If the Giants are not going to play starters on Saturday vs. the New York Jets, and veterans Jonotthan Harrison and Nate Solder are limited by injuries, they will be very thin on the line entering the preseason opener.

Did not practice

The list of players who did not participate in practice, or were extremely limited, was looooong.

  • Running back Saquon Barkley dressed, but was held out after practicing Monday and Tuesday.
  • Rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney did not practice. Judge said it was a maintenance day for the first-round pick.
  • Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring), wide receiver Austin Mack, wide receiver John Ross, running back Gary Brightwell, edge defender Elerson Smith, center Jonotthan Harrison and defensive back Chris Milton also did not practice. Offensive tackle Nate Solder did some individual work, but no team drills.
  • Reserve offensive linemen Kenny Wiggins and Brett Heggie each left practice during 11-on-11 drills to be checked for unknown injuries. At one point during a walk-through session the Giants were so short of offensive linemen that assistant coach Ben Wilkerson, a former NFL player, lined up at left guard.
  • Jabrill Peppers left practice early with cramps.