With no preseason games to be played this year due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the New York Giants, like all NFL teams, will be flying into the regular season blind. Coaches will be relying on the data gathered only in training camp practices and intrasquad scrimmages to make roster decisions.
Normally, teams bring 90 players to training camp. This year, that number has been pared down to 80. Veterans who have starting roles for them earmarked will now get more reps to get them ready for the season. That means rookies and other roster hopefuls will see less reps and none will get the benefit of playing in a game versus another NFL team.
“I think it will be a little bit of a change and a challenge,” Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams said this week in a Zoom interview. “I think the team is doing a great job of creating that competitive environment to see everybody’s best. We’re making do with what we have. The coronavirus is affecting everybody in the world and we’re not excluded from that. We are doing the best we can.”
No one is more behind the eight ball than head coach Joe Judge, who did not get the benefit of the normal jump-start to workouts the league affords to first-year head coaches. Instead of being ahead of the league curve, Judge finds himself trailing it. But excuses are not his style. He is a man who embraces a challenge.
“When you talk to a lot of the coaches on the staff, you have to reach back to your previous experience this is almost more like a college training camp,” Judge said. “You’re not worried about getting ready for a preseason game. You’re not concerned about having a plan in place for a specific opponent. You really have more time to work on your own installs and what you can address within your own team at your own progression. The number of coaches on our staff, myself included, who have been through college football, we have thought back as to how you can have this progression. For us, there are waves to training camp.”
The Giants have a load of new faces both in the coaching and the player ranks, including a 10-player draft class and several veteran free agents at integral positions such as inside linebacker Blake Martinez, cornerback James Bradberry and offensive tackle Cam Fleming.
“This will be my fifth year in the league, and for me I should know how to tackle and do all these things,” Martinez said. “For practice, it’s just working on those fundamentals. Whether it’s the fundamentals of the right feet, the right stance, the right approach to tackle and the perfect drops and things like that. Once you get on the football field, you know how to tackle and how to go play.”
If only it were that easy. For a Giants organization that is basically starting from scratch, this season — which promises to be one filled with uncertainty — could be the most challenging one in recent memory.