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‘Things I think’: Daniel Jones-Darren Waller connection didn’t happen by accident

Let’s talk about that and a few more things on a day off for your Giants

NFL: New York Giants Training Camp Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier on Sunday, Big Blue View’s Tony DelGenio took a deep dive into what the New York Giants can expect from veteran tight end Darren Waller this season. As Friday’s three catches for 30 yards in one series, and Tony’s fine analysis, indicate I think the answer is a lot. Provided, of course, that the 31-year-old remains healthy.

After Friday’s game, Waller opened up about how he and Daniel Jones have built what looks like a smooth connection in a short window of time since the Giants traded the pick they acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs for Kadarius Toney to acquire him.

It certainly didn’t happen by accident. Or in front of the cameras.

“A lot of reps. A lot of reps that take place since April with OTA’s and then throwing sessions that nobody else was at except us and a couple of receivers,” Waller said. “Just continuing to get reps in, knowing where each other is – the timing we want. Where we expect each other to be, where I expect the ball to be, where he expects me to be when he releases something, so just a lot of time on task.”

Is it fair to expect a 1,000-yard receiving season, which would be Waller’s first since 2020? I don’t know about that. The Giants have a lot of mouths to feed in the passing game, and Saquon Barkley to hand the rock to. I do know Waller’s presence on the field changes everything about the Giants’ passing attack.

Oh, and Tony D. is correct about one more thing. At one time, the Kadarius Toney pick seemed like a disaster. But, GM Joe Schoen turned Toney into Waller and sixth-round pick Tre Hawkins III. If those two players continue to perform the way they have this offseason I think that will be a net plus for the Giants.

Here are a few more things I think as we head toward the final week of the preseason.

Let’s talk about rookies

Every rookie that Schoen drafted in April has been impressive this summer. Every. Single. One.

Deonte Banks, John Michael Schmitz, Jalin Hyatt, Eric Gray, Hawkins, Jordon Riley, and Gervarrius Owens should all have some role with the Giants during the 2023 season.

I have already seen the idea online that this draft class could rival the 2007 class that propelled the Giants to an unexpected Super Bowl title. I will admit that comparison has crossed my mind.

Let’s pump the brakes just a bit, though.

The 2007 class of Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Jay Alford, Zak DeOssie, Kevin Boss, Adam Koets, Michael Johnson, and Ahmad Bradshaw helped the Giants win a Super Bowl. A couple of those guys helped the Giants win two.

The current rookie class has played two preseason games.

All seven players Schoen picked in this draft have been impressive. There is a tremendous amount of ability there, and it is easy to get carried away dreaming about the possibilities. I wouldn’t doubt that many of those players have long, successful careers.

Things change, though, once the regular season comes. Once teams exhaustively study the film of each player and game plan to expose weaknesses they believe they have uncovered.

Brian Daboll and Wink Martindale should talk confidently. It’s no easy task, though, to be a rookie cornerback in the NFL, and starting two of them will have difficult moments.

There will be a learning curve for all of the rookies. Giants fans have watched Daniel Jones, Andrew Thomas, and Dexter Lawrence grow from what they were as rookies. They know that Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, last year’s first-round picks, are expected to be better.

As offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said the other day, every second-year player should make a leap from Year 1 to Year 2 in his NFL career.

So, as excited as you are about these young players right now, keep in mind that there will be rough patches.

Roster construction

I think it is worth remembering that Schoen name-dropped undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton during the broadcast of Friday’s game. Schoen pointed out Ford-Wheaton’s play on special teams as noteworthy, which needed to be considered when building the roster

Coach Brian Daboll reiterated that point on Saturday.

“If you’re not a starter or you can’t do it [play special teams], then you’re probably not going to be around very long,” Daboll said.

“If you can earn a role and you can do something really well, regardless of what team it is on, a defensive unit, an offensive unit, a punt team unit, a punt return team unit, and you’re really good at it, you have a chance of sticking around a place. So, there’s I’d say a lot of competitive spots right now that people are kind of vying for, and certainly special teams, particularly with role players, backup players, can make a big difference.”

Bubble players who would seem unlikely to contribute much — if anything — on special teams include wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Cole Beasley, David Sills (and maybe Jamison Crowder), veteran safety Bobby McCain, and running back James Robinson.

There will be a couple of surprises when the Giants set their initial 53-man roster. Ford-Wheaton making the team at the expense of an accomplished veteran would be one. Schoen’s words, though, provide a reminder of how much special teams matter in building a roster.

PUP guys

The Giants have only two players remaining on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list — wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and cornerback Aaron Robinson.

Schoen recently said that he thought Wan’Dale Robinson was close to being taken off PUP. I will be concerned about the second-year receiver’s availability to start the season if that does not happen Monday or Tuesday.

As for Aaron Robinson, we have heard nothing. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he begins the regular season on PUP.