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Giants training camp, 8/5: Kadarius Toney ramps up, Azeez Ojulari, John Ross, more takeaways

Giants hold a walk-thru as players get a bit of a breather

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There wasn’t much to see during New York Giants practice on Thursday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Truthfully, there was virtually nothing to see. After a pair of practices in full pads, the Giants held a walk-thru in shorts and helmets that lasted just a bit more than an hour.

The real action of the day came both before and after practice. Coordinators and position coaches spoke before practice. First-round pick Kadarius Toney spoke to media for the first time in camp following practice.

Let’s get to some of the takeaways.

Toney ramping up

Walk-thru or not, this was the most we have seen of the 20th overall pick on the field. Toney did some work with the second team offense, catching a couple of balls from Mike Glennon. He worked on fielding punts. As practice concluded, he ran through some plays with a group quarterbacked by Clayton Thorson.

Toney even got some personal attention from coach Joe Judge.

Toney said it was “kind of exciting” having Judge punting him the ball.

“Having hands on with your coach, that’s the kind of relationship you would like to have,” he said.

Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert is anxious for Toney to be able to handle a full workload.

“I can’t wait to get him out there because he has a lot of talent,” Tolbert said. “He’s a ways behind everybody from a physical standpoint because of COVID … he’s been studying away from the building, just champing at the bit to get out there.”

Todd Davis, Joe Looney retirements

Two veteran players signed by the Giants over the past few days retired this week — linebacker Todd Davis on Monday and offensive lineman Joe Looney on Tuesday.

“Both guys are great guys,” Judge said on Thursday. “We looked forward to coaching both of them. In the brief time I had both of them both made strong impressions.”

Judge said the Giants “left the door open” should either player want to return.

“These are tough decisions on guys. You get into vets later in their career the start of training camp it’s not uncommon for this to happen. You don’t want it to happen but you have to respect the decisions each person makes for their family,” Judge said.

“I think both guys coulda helped us. We left the door open for both guys based on what may open up in the future.”

Sterling Shepard on another level

Veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard has been impressive early in camp. Shepard said Wednesday that his offseason work was paying off.

“I feel great. I worked my tail off this offseason to come in the best shape. I think that was one of the things that Coach Judge and I had a conversation about right before I left for OTAs, just coming in shape and being able to be on the field at all times and being able to run around and move to these different positions and being versatile,” Shepard said. “That’s the mentality that I had going into the offseason and I can say that I’m in some of the best shape of my life right now. I’ve been feeling good and just gotta keep stacking the days and continue to improve.”

Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, who has been with the Giants since 2018, said he thinks Shepard is “more focused” now than in the time they have worked together.

“When I would call him [during the offseason] he would tell me ‘I just got through working out here, got through working out there. I was in Charlotte with DJ (Daniel Jones), I was in Arizona with DJ,’ “ said Tolbert. “His whole summer he’s taken another level of approach to getting ready for the season. He’s a focused young man.”

Rob Sale on keeping it simple

Whenever I have talked to anyone, Judge included, about new Giants offensive line coach Rob Sale the idea that comes up is that Sale is a coach who is good at developing young players. A first-time NFL position coach, Sale has worked at various levels of college with players, of course, of varying ability levels.

So, what is the secret sauce of developing offensive linemen?

“You’ve just got to ingrain in them doing the same thing over and over and over. There’s going to be some good days you take a step forward and days you take a step backward,” Sale told me on Thursday. “I believe in doing the same drills, I’ve got a handful of drills run and pass, and doing it over and over and over and over and over again until we master it. I believe in a small handful of drills and keep doing it over and over again. I’ve been able to develop offensive linemen. Offensive line is a developmental position. We’ve got a good group to do that.”

I will have more from our chat with Sale over the next couple of days, so you can look forward to that.

Flashes from Azeez Ojulari

Watching practice from 100 or more yards away it can be difficult to pick up on nuances, or to really get a handle on how well or how poorly a player is doing on a play-to-play basis.

Second-round pick Azeez Ojulari, due to injuries to players like Oshane Ximines, Ryan Anderson and Elerson Smith, has been working a considerable amount with the first-team defense. We have seen that. From the media vantage point, though, we haven’t really seen Ojulari make plays or really get a sense of how well he is progressing.

Linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer said Thursday that Ojulari has “Shown a lot of flashes of really being the guy that we expected him to be when we drafted him. I think staying healthy he’s got a chance to have a good season.”

Sherrer then expanded on why he thinks Ojulari may be able to help early on.

“There’s a lot of the technical things that some people might not see from afar that we see as coaches that are really good. They’re, I won’t say advanced, but he’s a little more ready-made than some guys might be,” Sherrer said.

“He’s going to have the ability to ascend as he understands the league and the guys that he’s going to be facing week in and week out. I do see some things … over a period of time he’s going to have the ability to do that [be an impact player].

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has also been impressed.

“The thing that shows up when he get out there on the football field with pads on is he knows how to play football,” Graham said. “That’s a positive. He’s physical. He’s hard to move. He plays with his hands. I’m excited to keep working with him.”

Quote of the day

— Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham when asked what had made him angry during Wednesday’s practice

McGaughey: Why Levine Toilolo will be missed

The Giants lost veteran tight end Levine Toilolo for the season on Wednesday when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Toilolo caught only five passes last season, and was probably going to be the Giants’ fourth tight end. His impact on offense was expected to be minimal.

Where Toilolo, who was entering his ninth season, will be missed is on special teams. He played 155 special teams snaps last season (38 percent). Special teams coach Thomas McGaughey acknowledged on Thursday that Toilolo’s injury was a blow to his groups.

“Levine is a great man,” McGaughey said. “He shows up every day ready to work. His leadership he provides, being that quiet leader, guys follow him by example, him working his tail off every day and just his presence in the room. When you lose a guy like that it’s hard to replace — the leadership part of it.”

John Ross — kickoff returner

Despite his blazing speed and the fact that he was a successful kickoff returner in college, John Ross was never given an opportunity to fill that role in four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Giants are giving him that chance. Ross has been returning kickoffs whenever the Giants have worked on that facet of special teams.

“We’re going to find out in a minute,” McGaughey said Thursday when asked if Ross could return kickoffs for the Giants.

If Ross is being looked at as a primary kickoff returner that would mean he has an inside track at a roster spot. That might be bad news for someone like Dante Pettis.

“That’s a good trait to have,” McGaughey said of Ross’s 4.22 40-yard dash speed. “Speed is always good. John Ross is a very fast human being.”

Some video highlights

Jones and Garrett had just finished having a catch. Jones, in fact, was setting up targets for Garrett to try and hit, then retrieving the ball after Garrett’s attempts.

Garrett probably didn’t need to get snippy about someone using his first name, but while I know some media members got bent out of shape about this I’m not going to be one of them.

Odds ‘n ends

  • Veteran linebacker Reggie Ragland was activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list. He participated in practice for the first time.
  • With practice being held at a walk-thru pace, Shane Lemieux took some reps. Judge admitted before practice that if the pace were faster, Lemieux would do much less. Still, a step in the right direction for the second-year guard.
  • Left tackle Andrew Thomas has seen limited reps the past couple of practices. Judge said the Giants are just “being cautious” with Thomas following his offseason ankle surgery.