The Giants bumped hip-hop on the practice loudspeakers Wednesday, but it would have been more appropriate to play the old Eagles song “Take it Easy.”
First-year coach Brian Daboll had his players take their helmets off for a light walkthrough in the final period of practice on day two of mandatory minicamp, rather than holding a rematch of Tuesday’s showdown won by the defense.
Injured receiver Kadarius Toney did some of his rehab workouts on the sideline shirtless. And Daboll excused his players and coaches from conditioning work because kicker Graham Gano made a 53-yard field goal with crowd noise blasting at the end of practice.
This is not a new NFL strategy. The LA Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers give their veterans plenty of breaks and regularly hold walkthroughs in shorts and flip-flops.
They’ve also won the last two Super Bowls.
Yet there were some Giants players who came out of Wednesday’s practice wanting more.
“It could be seen as both ways, good and bad,” strong safety Julian Love said of dialing practice back. “Bad in the sense of there’s a lot of competitive talk in the locker room each day about who won the day. Heated battles. And so I didn’t think we were given enough of a chance to compete today. So there’s that conversation.
“I think defensively we wanted to get after it a little more today,” Love continued. “But tone it down, health wise, making sure everybody’s good, I guess that’s a good thing.”
Maybe there is something to be said for Daboll protecting his team against further injuries. He had 15 injured players in red jerseys again, many of them key starters, and injured corner Rodarius Williams was absent from the field.
Daboll might simply want to get this roster to training camp in one piece.
“I feel like coach does a really good job of listening to the players, listening to the staff and understanding we’ve been grinding,” said Saquon Barkley, who was in favor of the plan. “We’ve been going since April 4. If he felt like we could chop the practice down, I feel like that means as players we’ve been doing a really good job of giving him the confidence to do that. And also [it’s] him just understanding and listening to personnel, listening to everyone in the building, where we need to be and where our bodies are.”
That said, the Giants need to get dramatically better quickly to compete in 2022, especially on offense, where they were sloppy on Tuesday.
Before Wednesday’s practice, Daboll actually bristled when told of center Jon Feliciano’s admission that defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s defense had won the first day of minicamp by giving the offense a lot to handle.
“I wouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here,” Daboll said. “It’s practice and OTAs right now. I’ll tell Jon that, too.”
“Everybody wants to win every period,” the head coach added. “There were some good plays. There were some bad plays, both ends. I’m learning as a head coach [that] it’s never a good practice because one side is either doing good or the other side is doing bad.”
Daboll is incorrect, however, that a side of the ball always has a bad practice. One side of the ball wins and loses each play, technically, but an offense or defense can lose plays and still have a solid practice.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday. The offense was overwhelmed.
Daboll got some better feeling into his offense on Wednesday with one 11-on-11 live period from the 5-yard line in. The ball didn’t hit the ground as much, which was a welcome change.
Jones completed passes to CJ Board, Wan’Dale Robinson and Saquon Barkley. Backup QB Tyrod Taylor hit Richie James on the day’s best throw in the back right corner of the end zone.
Third stringer Davis Webb connected three times with Austin Proehl, and also hit Robert Foster, Collin Johnson and Antonio Williams.
That’s where the competition stopped, though. The helmets came off next, and that was that.
Veteran outside linebacker Jihad Ward said it doesn’t matter to him what the practice looks like as long as the team is getting its work done.
“It don’t matter if [practice] is short or long,” Ward said. “Whatever weakness we got going on that we need to work on, that’s what we really care about … So whenever you feel like it needs to be tightened up, we’ll do it. But I’m not gonna leave outta this field and we ain’t work on the stuff we need to work on.”
Daboll was hired for his football expertise and can run this team as he sees fit. It will be interesting to see if this player friendly strategy pays off, though.
Love was trash talking the offense at the podium after practice.
He joked that he saw some of the offensive linemen “crying” because Love was lining up on the line of scrimmage, showing blitz. That’s something Feliciano said had confused him Tuesday.
Love also said the defense and offense have a score to settle.
“There’s a big discussion of who won the offseason,” he said. “Of course I say the defense won the offseason.”
At this rate, the offense might not get its chance to deliver a payback punch until late July.
Maybe this is the right way to handle a rebuilding team in June.
RED JERSEY CREW
There were 15 injured players in red jerseys and one absent from the field without explanation (Williams) on Wednesday. Receiver Travis Toivonen shed the red jersey for blue, reducing Tuesday’s 17 injured player group by one.
Again, there were varying degrees of participation. Here is a breakdown of who was doing what while wearing red. Injury is listed if it’s known (or not previously above):
Absent from field: Williams
No practice, only individual work: Toney (knee), Sterling Shepard (Achilles), LB Blake Martinez (ACL), C Nick Gates (leg), RT Matt Peart (Achilles), CB Darnay Holmes, DB Jarren Williams, edge Quincy Roche, CB Darren Evans
One or two soft drills, no 11-on-11: Kayvon Thibodeaux
Drills, no 11-on-11: LT Andrew Thomas (left ankle), WR Kenny Golladay, CB Aaron Robinson, LB TJ Brunson
Participating in 11-on-11: WR Collin Johnson
Thursday’s final minicamp practice is scheduled to last only 45 minutes, reduced from the two-hour scheduled sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.