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Giants OTA takeaways: Darren Waller’s potential impact, and other things we learned on Thursday

Media gets its first glimpse of the 2023 Giants

New York Giants Offseason Workout
David Sills (left) and Chris Myarick of the Giants go through a drill early in Thursday’s OTA. Sills left with an apparent injury late in practice.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Thursday was, figuratively, Darren Waller Day for the New York Giants. The team’s new tight end was the featured attraction for media, which was in attendance for the first time during OTAs, and on the field.

Head coach Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka must have felt like feeding the media beast. Thursday’s first play, with Waller lined up split wide right, was a deep shot to Waller down the right sideline. The veteran tight end, acquired via trade this offseason, made the catch past a stumbling Darnay Holmes.

Later in practice, Jones and Waller connected on another deep ball. This was a “50-50” ball deep down the right sideline with Waller double-covered by Holmes and Adoree’ Jackson. In truth, this was a play where the cornerbacks, with no pads on and no real incentive to make a play on the ball, didn’t really compete with Waller for the catch.

Still, the two plays illustrated some of the speed and downfield play-making ability the 30-year-old Waller brings to the Giants.

On Thursday, we saw Waller used in motion, split wide and aligned in the slot as the Giants worked through a number of potential ways they could use their new pass-catching weapon.

Safety Xavier McKinney said the Giants’ offense is “really different” with a player like Waller.

“When he’s out there, you’ve got to be aware of where he’s at, at all times,” McKinney said. “He’s one of the best tight ends in the league that we have. Obviously, it’s a lot of pressure just him being out there on the field. You can feel his presence. Like I said, you’ve got to be aware of where he’s at. He’s able to make plays inside, outside, against the corner, against the safety, it doesn’t matter.”

Jones has been impressed by Waller thus far.

“Darren’s been great,” Jones said. “I think as soon as you walk on the field, you can see he’s a big guy. He can run. He can run every route. Catches the ball really well, great body control. He’s been really fun to work with. A really smart guy. He’s picked up things really quickly too.

“I think it feels like you hear about most guys or you see them in the program and they’re listed at 6’6, and they’re really like 6’4 or 6’5. He’s a true 6’6. He’s a true 250, 260, and can fly, can run, can run all the routes. He’s just an impressive athlete. He’s just been locked in. You can tell it’s important to him. He’s put a lot of effort into learning the stuff and getting caught up. It’s been fun working with him.”

The Giants hope the fun is just beginning.

Here are more takeaways from Thursday’s practice.

Nothing new on Saquon

Head coach Brian Daboll wasn’t entertaining talk about running back Saquon Barkley, who has not been in attendance at the voluntary workouts. Barkley, of course, has not signed the franchise tag and negotiations toward a long-term contract don’t appear to be gaining momentum yet.

“That situation is going to be between Saquon and the organization,” Daboll said. “I’m not going to get into detail of any of the discussions we’ve had.”

Daboll would not say whether or not he expected Barkley to attend the team’s mandatory mini-camp June 13-15.

The Giants and Barkley have until July 17 to work out a long-term deal.

Down goes David

Wide receiver David Sills left practice early after a hard fall sustained while trying to corral a deep pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Competing with Rodarius Williams for the ball, Sills slammed to the turf. He was down for an extended period of time, with trainers and teammates, Darius Slayton, Lawrence Cager, Taylor and Jones coming to check on him before he walked slowly off the practice field.

You’ll cringe when you read this

Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was among players catching punts during a special teams period early in practice. Jackson, of course, missed several weeks last season after suffering a knee injury while returning a punt.

Jaydon Mickens, Kalil Pimpleton, Darnay Holmes, Darius Slayton, Jamison Crowder, Eric Gray and Jalin Hyatt were also taking reps catching punts from Jamie Gillan.

Not spotted at practice

Wan’Dale Robinson, Jason Pinnock, Aaron Robinson, Trenton Thompson, Nick McCloud, Marcus McKethan, Makai Polk, A’Shawn Robinson, Elerson Smith, Dexter Lawrence, D.J. Davidson and Leonard Williams were not seen on the field.

Some of those absences were likely injury-related as Wan’Dale and Aaron Robinson, McKethan and Davidson are all returning from season-ending injuries.

Linebacker Darrian Beavers was on the field but did not participate in team periods. Beavers spent last season on IR with a torn ACL.

A Shep sighting

Veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard, trying to come back from a second major leg injury in as many seasons, was at practice.

Shepard took three reps during an install phase with no defense, jogging lightly through pass routes. He did not participate in any 7-on-7 periods or individual drill work.

Interestingly, Shepard and Beavers were not wearing red non-contact jerseys. Only quarterbacks and kickers were adorned with those.

The dead ball era

Jones said on Thursday he is fine with rookie center John Michael Schmitz employing the “dead ball” snapping technique he mastered in college at Minnesota.

“I’m good with it. He’s accurate. I’m good with it,” Jones said. “He asked me [if he could use that snapping technique], and I said yeah.”

‘Learning, teaching camp’

Daboll said that this phase of the offseason is not about evaluation. Rather, it is “a learning camp, a teaching camp.”

What, though, does the coach need to see from the team’s rookies, who are mixing in with veterans for the first time, to know that they are on the right path toward bring as productive as they can as first-time NFL players?

“The biggest thing is taking it from the classroom to the field. I would say they are behind considerably, which is the same every year I’ve been in the NFL, so our job as a coaching staff is to try to get them up to speed as quickly as we can. Lay a foundation for training camp so when we get to training camp which I think is in about two months,” Daboll said.

“They have a lot to learn in a short amount of time and try to get them as prepared as we can, so in training camp they can go out there, and again, players slow down when they are thinking a lot. When you are just learning a new system, maybe not playing as fast as you’d like to play because you’re thinking about a lot of different things, so just try to get them acclimated to our systems, our calls, to how we do things, but a long way away from training camp, actually. They will get reps, learn from those. There will be a lot of mistakes on everybody’s end, including mine, so try to get better so we can be ready to go for training camp.”

A couple of highlights

  • Waller wasn’t the only receiver to catch a deep ball. Darius Slayton caught a deep ball from Jones, beating Amani Oruwariye down the left sideline.
  • Slayton also caught a touchdown pass from Jones, making a beautiful move to shake free of Bobby McCain at the back of the end zone for a score of roughly 10 yards.
  • Cornerback Cor’Dale Flott and rookie safety Gervarrius Owens had pass breakups.

Offensive line alignment

Because I know you want to know, during an install period the Giants’ starting offensive line was as follows:

Andrew Thomas (LT); Ben Bredeson (LG); Schmitz (C); Mark Glowinski (RG), Evan Neal (RT). That could be the Week 1 alignment if everyone stays healthy.

Taylor time

No, not Tyrod Taylor. The Giants highlighted the fact that Taylor Swift will be performing at MetLife Stadium Friday, Saturday and Sunday by playing several Swift songs at the beginning and end of Thursday’s practice. They also paid homage to Tina Turner, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 83, by playing ‘Simply The Best.’

Remaining OTA schedule

The Giants return to practice next week. The schedule is as follows for the remainder of Phase 3:

May 30-31, June 2, June 5-6, June 8-9.