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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
It’s hard to believe another preseason is in the books without further clarity on Daniel Jones’ career trajectory. Everyone knows this is his make-or-break year, but which direction he goes is a complete mystery. The bad news is Jones had another erratic summer and more bad practices than good ones. The good news is the Giants were shuffling the offensive line, and neither Kenny Golladay nor Kadarius Toney were involved much. If you’re an optimist, you hope as Golladay and Toney get healthy and the offensive line builds cohesion, Jones finally unlocks his potential. But the reality is he should be viewed as a bottom-third quarterback entering the season. The front office was careful not to put someone in the backup role who fans would clamor for if Jones struggles, which is why Mike Glennon has a hold on the No. 2 role.
Saquon Barkley’s road to recovery has been smoother than freshly paved asphalt. The elite playmaker hit every goal of his rehabilitation and comes into the season with encouraging momentum. Multiple ligament tears, and his value to the offense, understandably demanded a careful, methodical approach. So far, so good. Barkley participated in team drills for the first time late last week and is on track for an early-season return. “We’re going to just do right by him, by seeing how he practices — and make a decision based on that,” head coach Joe Judge said. It’s not clear if he’ll play in Week 1, but he’ll have a full workload sooner than later. Devontae Booker was touted as an “every-down back” by GM Dave Gettleman upon signing the veteran free agent, and he did enough in camp to keep hold of the backup role. But Booker wasn’t particularly impressive as the lead ball-carrier while Barkley rehabbed, so expect the team to utilize a running back committee in Barkley’s absence. Corey Clement is not a star, but he plays hard and is a jack of all trades. Upon signing, he immediately grabbed hold of the No. 3 spot and could see as many snaps as Booker, depending on the game script.
Concern is mounting for Kenny Golladay, but it’s not time to sound the alarm bells yet. Golladay hasn’t practiced in nearly a month after re-injuring the same hamstring that cost him games last year. The organization publicly endorses Golladay’s potential Week 1 return, but it’s hard to have confidence in him being ready in less than two weeks. If he returns to practice soon, perhaps all the worry was for naught. But the recurring nature of the injury, and the lack of positive comments from the coaches or Golladay himself, bear scrutiny. Sterling Shepard took Golladay’s signing and Kadarius Toney’s drafting in stride and turned in a career-best preseason. Shepard will have a significant role regardless of who is healthy and could lead the team in targets if he maintains the focus and explosiveness we saw in the last few months. Darius Slayton had a surprisingly stellar rookie season and regressed last year; his 2021 likely slots in the middle of those two outcomes. Slayton had more good days than bad in camp and will be a part of 3-WR sets, at a minimum. Toney was banged up and unfocused this summer; it’s hard to envision Toney having a significant role as a rookie.
Evan Engram has never lived up to his athletic potential and may never. But he had an excellent summer, particularly as a route-runner. His snap share is guaranteed, presuming the injury he suffered in the final preseason game is minor. Kyle Rudolph missed all of camp but came off the PUP list last week and is trending toward Week 1 availability. Kaden Smith has flashed in brief opportunities and would be next in line if Engram’s injury lingers.
It’s been an injury-riddled summer for the cadre of promising rookies. Azeez Ojulari has been dynamic from the first snap but suffered a leg injury recently that may impact him all season. If he’s healthy, he’s earned a starting role immediately. Neither linebacker Elerson Smith nor cornerback Aaron Robinson were healthy for camp and will be deeply buried on the depth chart to start the season, if not hidden on IR or the PUP list. The defense should be significantly better than the offense, at least early in the season. The unit got torched on the first day of joint practices with the Patriots – leading many to forecast Mac Jones as a future star – but the veteran-laden defense bounced back on Day 2. Xavier McKinney – who looks like a star – broke up several passes against Jones and the Patriots starters, and then defensive back Logan Ryan intercepted the Patriots rookie signal-caller. Lorenzo Carter, Ifeadi Odenigbo, and Jabrill Peppers all had “sacks”, too. “I wasn’t really happy with how I played," Ryan said of Day 1 of joint practices. "I probably played my worst day I’ve played football in a long time, and personally, I just felt like I didn’t lead our guys either. I felt like I was out of it. I didn’t lead our guys the right way, whether it be, whatever the reason may have been, no excuses, so — that’s football though. This ain’t best-of-seven. You strap it up, play the next game, and fortunately, we got a second chance at it, and I think we responded better."
There are quite a few moving parts to the return puzzle. Jabrill Peppers is a defensive starter and has experience. Dante Pettis was arguably the best punt returner in recent college history but hasn’t been given many snaps in that role this summer. Rookie Kadarius Toney would be a logical choice to handle both kickoffs and punts, but he’s been hurt much of the preseason, and it’s hard for coaches to trust an inexperienced rookie.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
A week ago, it was unclear what the Giants have in Daniel Jones. That question remains unanswered, but at least the young quarterback strung together a week of solid practices, particularly in joint sessions against the Browns. Whereas many teams will rest their Week 1 starters in the third and final preseason game, head coach Joe Judge plans on giving his starting quarterback a long look against the Patriots. “My expectations at this point would be for Daniel to play at least the first half [vs. the Patriots] and we’ll decide what we’re going to do in terms of coming out at halftime later in the week.” Mike Glennon has been terrible this summer, and it’s a concern. But like many of his teammates, he put together a much better week against Cleveland. It’s hard to ignore everything that happened before this week, but if Glennon can match this week’s performance against the Patriots in joint sessions, maybe the Giants don’t need to consider making a move for a new backup.
When GM Dave Gettleman signed Devontae Booker, he and the coaches characterized Booker as a three-down back capable of flourishing as the starter while Saquon Barkley recovered. Yet, Booker hasn’t looked much better – if at all – than his teammates during the preseason. Fortunately, the veteran is rounding into shape at just the right time and looked sharp against the Texans. He ran for 27 yards and a touchdown and had two receptions for 13 yards. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett used Booker’s strong night as a chance to reiterate his confidence in him. “We think he’s a good player,” Garrett said. “When he’s gotten opportunities as a runner, as a pass receiver, as a protector during his career he’s done a good job ... He’s just one of those guys you want to see play, and we’re comfortable putting him in any situation right now.” Barkley still hasn’t participated in team drills but worked on individual drills last week in joint sessions with Cleveland. There’s a chance Barkley ramps his activity against the Patriots this week. Coach Judge was noncommittal about Barkley’s Week 1 status: “I don’t have a crystal ball.” Corey Clement grabbed hold of the No. 3 spot; he runs hard, has patience, and is a skilled receiver.