Jalin Hyatt has a problem.
It has nothing to do with learning the New York Giants playbook or gaining the trust of quarterback Daniel Jones. Those are things the rookie wide receiver knows how to address.
The problem is that Hyatt, 21, is the youngest player on the roster, 32 days younger than 21-year-old cornerback Cor’Dale Flott. And Hyatt has the barely ever been shaved babyface to prove it.
Hyatt is trying to address the issue. Above his lip is a sparse mustache, grudgingly growing to make himself look older.
“I’m trying to do something here,” he said laughing when I quizzed him about the barely perceptible mustache near the end of an interview after Thursday’s training camp practice. “Maybe one day it’ll come. Maybe I’ll get some goatee like yours or something. We’ll see. I hope it comes in in the next year or two. I don’t want to have a babyface the whole rest [of my career].”
Hyatt’s real priorities
While he waits and hopes for the miraculous appearance of a real mustache, the important work the third-round pick is doing this summer is trying to master the Giants’ offense and get Jones to believe in him.
Hyatt knows that will be a process.
“I think for me it’s just getting comfortable. Learning my teammates, learning Daniel, learning what he wants me to do,” Hyatt said. “I want to get open for him. You want to be on the same page with your quarterback, so that was the biggest thing I wanted to do this offseason, just get with him, learn how he throws, where he throws the ball. All that matters, especially when you get in a game.”
Hyatt spent most of the spring working with the third-team offense, not seeing a high volume of targets during team periods of practice.
Thursday, and again on Friday, as the Giants settled into the daily routine of training camp practices, Hyatt found himself with his initial opportunities to take reps with Jones and the first-team offense.
“You’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities,” Hyatt said. “Coach Groh [wide receivers coach Mike Groh] put me in there, put me in the fire. Just being with the 1s. Wherever I’m at, 2s, 3s, doesn’t matter. I’m going to go out there and compete.
“That’s what I’ve always been doing throughout my career. Whenever I get the opportunity I want to make the best of it.”
Hyatt was quiet with those opportunities on Thursday. On Friday, reports from media in attendance indicated that it was a different story.
From Jordan Ranaan of ESPN:
This was most involved we’ve seen Jalin Hyatt. Four catches in live drills. Speed is special.
From Art Stapleton:
Best practice to date for #NYGiants rookie Jalin Hyatt. A lot of run with the 1st team and made several catches on varying routes. It’s early, but he’s coming on if tonight is any indication.
The Tennessee offense
Hyatt understands the questions about how he will adjust to the NFL after playing in the unique spread offense engineered by Tennessee coach Josh Heupel. The NFL doesn’t use the wide splits Heupel used at Tennessee and requires a more diverse route tree. Hyatt, though, does believe he gained some useful knowledge from the Volunteers offense.
“The biggest thing it taught me was spacing. Getting open, how to win my matchups. It taught me how to be decisive in my routes,” Hyatt said. “We had a lot of option game in there, a lot of choice routes. It taught me about coverage, it taught me about alignments, it taught me really just the coverage and what you can do with coverages.”
Many concepts from the college game have made their way into NFL offenses in recent years. That seems to be the case with the Heupel offense, as well.
“We do some of it here, too, as well,” Hyatt said. “We have some that I ran in Tennessee that they put in here when they drafted me. When I got here Coach Kaf [offensive coordinator Mike Kafka] taught me about the offense, taught me about the things they brought in from our Tennessee offense.”
Hyatt said he played against “the best of the best” college had to offer in the SEC. He knows, though, that he has stepped up in class now.
“You come up here, that’s a whole ‘nother level. You’ve got guys that have done it for a while, you’ve got guys that are vets, guys that have a whole lot of experience,” he said. “The biggest difference for me is this is a grown man’s league. For me just competing, doing the best I can do to the best of my ability, and just go make plays.”
Speed to burn
Hyatt has one advantage that can’t be taught — speed that general manager Joe Schoen said he could “feel” when he got on the field to watch the Volunteers play against Alabama — a five-touchdown game for Hyatt that put him on everyone’s radar.
“A think a lot of guys, especially up here in the league, lot of people have that God-gifted ability that you can’t teach,” Hyatt said. “Is it how big they are, how strong they are, how fast they are, or how they run their routes? Sometimes people can’t cut the way some [other] people cut. There’s a lot of things that guys have that are gifted and you can’t teach.
“For me, knowing that speed is one of my gifts and one of my talents I try to use that every play, every rep, attacking with speed. Speed, it can do a lot of things for you.”
‘A lot to learn’
Hyatt understands that “it’s different up here” in the NFL and speed is just a starting point. He will need to master the nuances of getting open against the best cornerbacks in the world. Most notably, he will need to master handling press coverage — something he rarely saw in college — to justify the Giants’ decision to trade up in the 2023 NFL Draft to select him.
“I treat football the same way as when I was a little kid, like backyard football. I have fun with it,” Hyatt said. “I love this game. Even if I’m winning or losing a rep I’m always learning.
“Being a young guy, being a rookie, being 21 years old, really being the youngest on the team I have a lot to learn.”
Hyatt, though, also has big expectations.
“I always set the biggest goals for me. Always the biggest goals. I just want to come out here, I want to compete, I want to get better, I want to be comfortable in the offense, I want Daniel Jones to believe in me,” Hyatt said. “The only way you can do that is you go out there and compete and you make the best of your opportunities when he throws you the ball. The only thing I’m trying to do in this training camp is get open, show him on film that I’m getting open on every rep, or if I don’t get open what do you do the next play, come back and get open again. That’s what I want to show.
“When the games come that’s a completely different story. I want to compete, I want to show that I belong here and why they drafted me.”