The first two weeks of training camp are over and done with for the Giants. They went through 10 practice sessions at their team facility, with fans cramming the bleachers surrounding the fields.
Next up: A trip to the Detroit suburb of Allen Park, Mich., for two days of joint practices with the Lions (Tuesday and Wednesday) in advance of the preseason opener Friday night at Ford Field. When the Giants return home, the fans will not be there to greet them — the open-attendance portion of camp is complete for the summer.
There already has been much to observe, with plenty more to see before the regular season commences. Here are a few observations from the first two weeks of camp:
• The thing about Jalin Hyatt is not that he is fast. We all knew that already. After all, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds at the scouting combine. That speed was a big reason why the Giants traded up to get him in the third round of the NFL Draft.
What has stood out in his first NFL training camp is how much space Hyatt eats up as he glides across the field.
He looks much taller than the 6-feet he is listed at as he runs his routes. His long legs seem to allow him to move past defensive backs with ease. Hyatt also has shown an ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point.
It will be interesting to see how Hyatt fares when the preseason games begin and he faces press coverage and more physical play at the line of scrimmage. He has been an effective and, at times, dominant receiver in his practice reps.
• The identity of the two starting guards remains uncertain.
It seemed coming into camp that veteran Mark Glowinski was locked into the starting right guard spot he manned in 2022, his first year with the Giants. That may end up being the case, but the way the guard spots have been interchanged this summer seems to indicate there are two open spots, to be filled by some permutation of Glowinski, Ben Bredeson and Josh Ezeudu.
The current front office, which selected Ezeudu in the third round in 2022, believed he would be ready this summer to challenge for, and win, a starting job. He might be. Ezeudu adds raw power into the mix, but he must prove he can hold up as a pass blocker.
Bredeson is a versatile interior lineman who started eight games for the Giants last season and is entering his fourth NFL season.
It would be an upset if Glowinski, with 90 NFL starts in his eight-year NFL career, is supplanted out of the right guard spot. But he has to compete for it this summer.
• One of the reasons Saquon Barkley was so unhappy with the contract offers the Giants made to him is that the offers were based on comparable running backs in the league. Barkley sees himself as more than the standard definition for the position. To his way of thinking, he’s a multi-faceted offensive weapon who can run the ball and catch the ball with lethal effectiveness.
Barkley really has nothing to prove in his sixth NFL camp, but he looks more dangerous than ever as a receiving threat. At times he has almost toyed with linebacker Bobby Okereke when the Giants’ free-agent addition was matched against him in coverage. Barkley, at times, also had his way with Darrian Beavers. Through the first two weeks of camp, Barkley has beaten the coverage deep, which is not something he did much of last season, when he averaged only 5.9 yards per reception. Will this summer awakening show up again during the season?
• Go against Dexter Lawrence at your own risk. He is simply relentless and looks unstoppable in one-on-one pass rush drills. These drills can at times favor the defensive player, but almost every time they have favored Lawrence. When an offensive lineman can manage to gain a draw on a snap against Lawence it should be considered a victory.
The Giants gave Lawrence a four-year extension worth $90 million, believing the 25-year-old is entering his prime. Nothing Lawrence has shown this summer disputes that belief.
• It is important to not put too much stock in what you see from a rookie early in camp because first impressions often are not long-lasting impressions. Still, it is difficult to ignore the work of Tre Hawkins, a sixth-round pick from Old Dominion — the school, not the country music band.
Ourlads Scouting Services listed Hawkins in its pre-draft publication in the “additional cornerbacks’’ category and designated him with a grade of 2.45, which correlates to a player not deemed worthy of getting drafted and more of what Ourlads designates as an “emergency player for camp.’’
Hawkins thus far has done his best to bust that evaluation.
He looks the part at a sleek 6-foot-3, and he showed he can use that length to bother receivers running their routes. He has been given snaps with the starting unit and held his own.
At times, the Giants have deployed two rookies, Hawkins and first-round pick Deonte Banks, as the perimeter corners, with veteran Adoree’ Jackson working inside in the slot — a place he has played only sparingly in his NFL career.
Still, a lot has to go right for Hawkins to earn a spot with the first unit. Even if he doesn’t, Hawkins is playing his way into a role on defense, and that was not a given when he arrived as a late-round pick.
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Spread the wealth
Two head coaches who enjoyed unexpected success in 2022 bring their teams together for the Giants-Lions joint practices. Brian Daboll got the Giants in the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a record of 9-7-1, and Dan Campbell turned the Lions into a legitimately competitive outfit, going 9-8 to narrowly miss the playoffs in the NFC.
Daboll was named the NFL Coach of the Year. Campbell received plenty of praise, but was not one of the five finalists — Sean McDermott (Bills), Nick Sirianni (Eagles), Kyle Shanahan (49ers), Doug Pederson (Jaguars) and Daboll — for the award.
Daboll and Campbell have a brief history together. When Daboll was the Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2011, he brought Campbell in as his tight ends coach. They worked together on head coach Tony Sparano’s staff until Sparano was fired in December of that season.
Both clearly have excelled in their new roles — as their records in the wagering world indicate. The Giants and Daboll in 2022 were 14-5 (counting the playoffs) against the spread. That makes Daboll’s winning percentage against the spread 73.7 percent, the highest figure of any NFL head coach, albeit in a small sample size.
The Lions are 23-11 against the spread under Campbell, for a winning percentage of 67.7 percent — second among NFL head coaches, according to multiple betting sites.
Rounding out the top five are Zac Taylor of the Bengals (48-28-2, 60 percent), Matt LaFleur of the Packers (42-29, 59.2 percent) and Bill Belichick of the Patriots (204-148-9, 58 percent).
Asked and answered
Here are two questions that have come up recently that we will attempt to answer as accurately as possible:
How much did the Giants actually show on offense during their practices that were open to the public?
Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is not going to call a play during the season unless it has been properly vetted. That means every play is worked on repeatedly in practice.
There is a trial-and-error aspect to everything that is worked on in training camp. Sometimes a play looks good, but a change in personnel is needed. Sometimes a play doesn’t look good, and it is thrown out or tweaked. If, for example, the Giants run a gadget play in practice, it does not mean that particular play will ever be used in a game.
But you have to be there to see it.
The Giants do not allow anyone to record video of their team periods, so the 11-on-11 work — and also the 7-on-7 drills — do not get distributed on social media, where other teams can see them, unless the Giants’ website posts its own videos.
That’s what makes it cool when fans see a play hit big in a game and can remember seeing that exact play worked on during a camp practice they attended in the summer.
How does Sterling Shepard look in camp?
So far, there has not been much to see. Shepard was activated off the physically unable to perform list a week into camp, and he has been brought along slowly. He is coming off ACL surgery last October, and the coaching staff, medical staff and Shepard are in agreement that this latest rehab and reacclimation back onto the field has to move along at a predesigned pace.
Shepard played in only seven games in 2021 before rupturing an Achilles tendon. Suffering two significant injuries so close together means this realistically looks like the last shot for the 30-year-old. He cannot afford any physical setbacks in his comeback.
There is a great deal of competition at receiver, especially in the slot, where Shepard does his best work. But it showed how much the new Giants regime values Shepard’s presence around the team that he was given a one-year contract to try to make the roster. The key for Shepard will be to make steady progress throughout the summer.
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