The New York Giants are now two weeks into training camp, with their first preseason game Thursday against the New England Patriots. With that in mind, let’s open the Big Blue View Mailbag and answer a few questions.
Gino Phillips asks: The new regime, through the draft and free agency, added half a dozen new players to the roster and improved the quality of depth. What do you think are the biggest injury liabilities for the current roster? Injuries at which position on either side of the ball would be the most devastating to the overall strength of the team?
Ed says: Gino is a roster that will suffer if one of the best players is lost. It is a work in progress. However, there are two positions that spring to mind.
The center is one. We saw the Giants have extraordinary difficulty snapping the ball with Jon Feliciano sidelined. To the point where left guard Shane Lemieux took a few shots at center with rookie Joshua Ezeudu at left guard. Could Lemieux be the long-term center somewhere down the line? Maybe. For now, however, its use there illustrates a current problem.
The cornerback is the other. I think Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson and Darnay Holmes might be – at least – adequate as a starting trio. I have no idea what the Giants are going to do behind them.
Randy Tatano asks: Just curious… what’s the story behind these weird training helmets? I assume they are for safety, but I’m just wondering about the design and who invented them.
Ed says: Randy, they’re called ‘Guardian Caps’ and you can read our story about them here. Basically, these are soft concussion shells that the league requires all offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers to wear in practice during Game 2 of pre-game. season. Research shows at least a 10% reduction in impact severity if one player is wearing the cap, and at least a 20% reduction in impact if two players wearing it collide. Here’s a video from the NFL on the caps.
Pierre-Yves Bianchi asks: My question may seem naive (I’m French and I’m still learning this fascinating game) but I wonder if the defense in training camp has access to the playbook of the attack. As far as I know, in regular games the defense has to guess what happens to them, so it would make sense to have the same situation in camp, but how do we know the players aren’t talking about it among themselves?
Same question in reverse, do offensive players know the defense playbook?
Ed says: Pierre, thank you for reading Big Blue View. No, offensive and defensive players do not have access to each other’s playbooks. What can happen in a boot camp environment is that because you’re training against each other every day, you can look at the formation or the situation and start predicting what’s going to happen.
Now each practice is designed to work on certain narrow situations. So in that sense, each side can get a general idea of what’s coming.
Although these practices take place in a controlled setting, the coaching staff wants to see the players read and react as they would in a game situation.
Edwin Gommers asks: Reading your training camp coverage, Evan Neal pops up and not necessarily for the best reasons. It looks like he regularly loses 1-on-1 matchups against what will likely be, at best, relief/rotational pass runners on Giants D like Ximines who may not even make the roster. In your opinion has Ximines taken a huge leap forward, is this going to be an adjustment year for Neal where he has to adjust to play in the NFL against college like Thomas the did last year (first half) or do we as fans have to temper our expectations/worry as it looks like Neal is slated for the starting RT job. However, from the reports on BBV, it looks like Neal still has some way to go.
Ed says: Edwin, Neal undeniably had a tough few days in the 1-on-1 workouts. He lost several reps to Oshane Ximines on Monday (and, no, Ximines didn’t take a huge leap forward). He lost a 1-on-1 rep on Wednesday to Quincy Roche and had a very clear holding penalty against Kayvon Thibodeaux in an 11-on-11 session.
The thing that bothered me the most was that Neal ended up on the floor on two of those reps. Now, I’ll let Nick Falato or Chris Pflum break down the reps and tell you why, but attacking tackles that land face-first in the grass aren’t ideal. In pre-draft scouting reports, I read that one area of concern for Neal was a tendency to lean over, thus losing his balance. Maybe that’s part of what we’re seeing.
This comes from a Pro Football Network scouting report:
Alabama’s OT likes to rush at opposing defenders. This causes Neal to throw his weight over his toes, throwing him off balance and making him prone to pulling moves. There are plenty of examples of him hitting the deck when this happens, both at tackle and guard.
Neal is seven practices into his first NFL training camp. It won’t be perfect. I think Andrew Thomas faced a lot of adversity as a rookie due to the apparent power struggle between Joe Judge and Marc Colombo, and the mid-season move to Dave DeGuglielmo as coach of the offensive line – Gugs being a man who has been bluntly said he has no use for rookies.
Neal will have some tough times, and right now I guess it’s the balance issue that’s on display, but I don’t think we’ll see anything close to what we’ve seen with the difficulties that Thomas had as a rookie.
Kolnerbigblue asks: What are your three biggest surprises so far in training camp? It can be players or staff.
Are there any significant disappointments or is it too early for this assessment?
Ed says: It’s still too early, but here are some thoughts. I won’t put tight end Jeremiah Hall or wide receiver Richie James in the “surprise” category, as I expected both to make good offers. They are.
I would go like this:
- See Shane Lemieux get reps at center. I didn’t see it coming, and I wonder if it might have long-term repercussions.
- See how well Darnay Holmes has performed.
- Here’s a dark horse we haven’t talked about much. Sixth-round pick Darrian Beavers got first-team reps in running situations.
Disappointment? I’m disappointed with rookie Dane Belton’s injury. I think the Giants had, and still have, big plans for Belton.
Taj Siddiqi asks: Some recent articles cite Daboll looking like tackling drills that aren’t in training camp yet. It was also quoted that he could use second and third tier players for these drills in the coming weeks. I used to think that tackle drills are one of the most essential parts of training camps. Why not subject beginners to tackle drills? Is this a new strategy that all NFL teams are adopting to avoid injuries? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy in your opinion?
Ed says: Taj, I think you misunderstand what was said here. NFL teams don’t usually tackle training camp. You rarely see that these days. I may have seen Joe Judge subject players to a live tackle drill once, but I’m not sure. Very few teams do it longer because keeping players healthy is the top priority. Even in the 11 v 11 work during the padded trainings, the defenders “noise” the ball carriers or envelop them. They won’t bring them to the ground.
Does this mean teams don’t practice tackles? Absolutely not. There is work on the tackling technique, positioning, etc. You’re just not going to see drills where guys are pushing running backs on the ground. Coaches usually panic when defenders take ball carriers down. They want the players to stay up.
Daboll said he could have the second and third team guys do some live tackle drills. It might be in preparation for the pre-season games in which they will play the bulk of the snaps. You won’t see anyone taking Saquon Barkley to the ground on purpose in practice. Already.
I believe in practicing actual tackling to get better, which is why I also say that tackling is something that usually can’t be taught at the NFL level anymore. If you’re not a good tackler in college, you won’t be a good tackler in the NFL. The structure of practice today simply does not allow this, for better or for worse.
That’s why when you read a scouting report on a prospect’s draft that says he’s a dodgy tackler, maybe you should hope your team is hesitant to write it.