Giants OTAs wrapped up Friday with a 10th and final practice, so now all that stands between Big Blue and training camp in late July is next week’s three-day mandatory minicamp beginning Tuesday.
Deep into the offseason, then, here are 10 things the Daily News took away from Friday’s conclusion of OTAs as Ben McAdoo’s team draws one step closer to putting on the pads.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s absence Friday wasn’t a surprise considering he skipped every voluntary OTA practice reportedly to make a statement about his contract. But it was yet another bad look because Beckham was just in Manhattan on Thursday night for a meet-and-greet with fans near Bryant Park. He couldn’t stick around to join his teammates the next morning. It is yet another sign that Beckham is clearly trying to make a point with his no-shows. He told NFL Network in late May that he intends to attend minicamp next week and reiterated that to ESPN this week, but it is unclear if he would change his mind if the Giants don’t initiate contract talks with Beckham’s agent by Monday night. Beckham would be fined $80,405 if he skipped minicamp, though, so he does have financial incentive to attend. Ben McAdoo’s comment on Beckham and other absent players, meanwhile, was: “I am not going to talk about attendance.” McAdoo articulated his true feelings at the first OTA media availability on May 25 when he said “you want all your players here, especially the great players,” and since he simply hasn’t wanted to repeat himself. Of next week’s minicamp, McAdoo said: “I expect everyone to be here. I am not spending time talking about attendance, but yeah, it is minicamp and we look forward to everyone being here next week.”
First-round pick tight end Evan Engram is working impressively with the first-team offense and says his confidence has improved significantly even in just the two weeks of OTAs. “Those first couple of days, the installs and everything, I was learning but I wasn’t really confident,” Engram said Friday. “I was thinking a lot, I was second guessing myself. But (I’ve been) really digging in in the film room, correcting my mistakes and not letting those same mistakes happen again. That really boosts my confidence. When I know what I’m doing and I could play fast, that’s the biggest leap I’ve taken during these OTAs.” Meanwhile Davis Webb, the third-round QB out of Cal, is making some good throws and more importantly demonstrating encouraging habits. In Friday’s practice, for example, even when Webb wasn’t working in a drill, he stood 15 yards behind Eli Manning – who was under center – and still identified the defensive coverage and simulated the play as if he were the starting QB. McAdoo noted increased “chemistry” in the team with new players acclimating and gelling with holdovers, including rookies taking those steps.
The other players not at Friday’s practice were chronic absentees Olivier Vernon and Owa Odighizuwa, and offensive linemen Justin Pugh and Bobby Hart. Vernon said Monday night at David Tyree’s charity event in Manhattan that he will be at minicamp next week, but Odighizuwa’s whereabouts frankly are unknown. And the Giants are being unusually deflective on the subject. D-line coach Patrick Graham on Wednesday, asked simply if he’s seen Odighizuwa, replied: “You will have to talk to the head coach with those questions.” But predictably McAdoo wouldn’t address the matter on Friday. He twice reiterated he would not discuss attendance, and then when asked if he had spoken to the defensive end, replied: “I keep our personal conversations personal.” Odighizuwa’s absence is especially significant because he tweeted on April 3: “I believe it’s in my best interest to take some time to get away from the game.” The 2015 third-round pick out of UCLA, who has appeared in 18 games in two seasons, already was entering a pivotal year to take the next step. Now it is difficult to know if the Giants can count on him, or if he does show up, if he’ll be able to win back his roster spot against increased competition from rookie Avery Moss and veteran signing Devin Taylor.
Rookie defensive tackle Jarron Jones, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, switched sides of the ball this week. Coaches pulled him out of meetings on Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday Jones was practicing on the offensive line as a left tackle – a position he knows well, having played as a tight end/third-offensive tackle for Aquinas Institute in high school in Rochester. “It comes naturally,” said Jones, a 6-6, 316-pounder with quick feet. “Of course I have to clean up mechanics and I may need time for my technique to come back. But my Dad always knew this day would come. He always saw me as a left tackle. If I had my choice would I play it? Maybe not exactly. I like playing defense. But the last two days have been a lot of fun playing offense, and whatever I can do to contribute and stay in New York, I’ll do. I love it here.” Jones said he plans to return to Notre Dame before training camp to hone his mechanics with Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. McAdoo called Jones a “flexible young man.” Jones was roommates the summer going into his freshman year at Notre Dame with Romeo Okwara, the Giants’ second-year defensive end who made a splash as an undrafted rookie when Jason Pierre-Paul went down late last season. There is opportunity for Jones to make a push at left tackle, too, considering it has been a position of weakness for the team.
Free safety Andrew Adams told the Daily News Friday that his benching for the Giants’ 38-13 playoff loss in Green Bay doesn’t haunt him. He doesn’t wishfully wonder if he would have been able to break up that crushing Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary at the end of the first half. He’s not stewing on starting 13 games as a rookie but being yanked for veteran Leon Hall. “No, the coaches made a decision for the best of the team, I’m a team player, and I don’t think of it like if I were in, this might happened,” Adams said. “Everybody has a job and if you get off-track a bit you have to self-evaluate. I can’t take it like, ‘This happened and I don’t know why.’ The first person you have to look at is yourself. Either you’re getting the job done or you’re not.” Adams also is remaining humble. The UConn product said, “I’m still an undrafted free agent trying to make the roster and contribute,” just as he was last summer. Competition is stiff, too. Third-round 2016 pick Darian Thompson is healthy after missing most of last season with a Lisfranc injury in his foot that required surgery. Thompson was on track to start in 2016 before his injury. Wednesday, at least, safeties coach David Merritt threw support behind Adams and said just because Thompson is healthy does not mean Adams falls down the depth chart. He called strong safety Landon Collins, Adams and Thompson a “three-headed monster” and said the Giants are looking for a fourth guy to step up. But Merritt also said he’s looking for one free safety “who’s going to go and take the job” next to Collins. Of starting Hall, Merritt said he, Steve Spagnuolo and McAdoo made the decision together to go with the veteran and “don’t regret it” despite the result.
Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers by all accounts has had a great offseason. GM Jerry Reese, McAdoo, offensive line coach Mike Solari, and offseason workout partner Bobby Hart, the right tackle, all have spoken highly of Flowers’ improved fitness, quickness, determination and growth. Flowers has not spoken to the media since the end of the Giants’ season, though, so it is unclear how much one of the Giants’ most scrutinized players has matured in accountability and in his ability to thrive in a role critical to the success or failure of the 2017 season. Reese didn’t draft Flowers’ replacement, so the Giants seem to be throwing support behind him. Still, we don’t have Flowers’ reaction to any of it yet.
Wide receiver Roger Lewis Jr. was practicing normally with the Giants Friday one week after an arrest in Ohio for operating a vehicle while impaired. McAdoo said: “We are going to let the process take care of itself. It is a legal process right now.” So it appears Lewis remains on the team despite his arrest and that the Giants will not treat him any differently until the situation is resolved legally. The furthest McAdoo would go – only when pressed repeatedly – was to say: “We have to make sure that we put ourselves in good situations.” He has had to make similar statements before about his receivers, Lewis included.
Merritt, the Giants’ safeties coach, said he has started having his players take their helmets off while doing tackling drills on a bag in order to emphasize safer strategies to limit head contact and hopefully avoid concussions. He spoke to his safeties about rugby-style tackling and how to “take the head out of it.” Merritt said he once had to teach Antrel Rolle how to stop tackling “face-first.” Merritt said he is trying to more of that teaching with Nat Berhe, who hits hard but who missed time with multiple concussions last season after injuring himself on a big, head-first collision in Week 3. “When I played for the Buddy Ryans and all those guys, you just had a little headache,” Merritt said. “But today it’s a different ballgame.”
9. Line of the day: “You don’t have to be … the golden knight”
Second-year linebacker B.J. Goodson is working in the middle of the first-team defense, but he’s learning a complicated position, so returning defensive captain Jonathan Casillas had some well-phrased advice for his fellow linebacker: “Just take your time. Don’t try to do too much,” Casillas said. “You don’t have to be the saving hero of the defense, the golden knight. You don’t have to do that. Take it in stride because this defense is not a simple defense.” Goodson, a fourth-round pick last year out of Clemson, appeared in 15 games as a rookie last season mostly on special teams and sustained a concussion late in the year.
10. Apple and Ellison still limited at end of OTAs
Starting corner Eli Apple (sore hamstring) and free agent tight end signing Rhett Ellison (sore calf) both ended OTAs on the sidelines. Apple was riding a bike when Friday’s practice started, and Ellison was going through a workout in uniform but remained limited and out. Ellison, a former Viking, was signed to be a critical piece of the offense and of the run game as a blocker. He is excited about the work he’s done off the field but remains anxious to get back on it. The Giants say they are simply being cautious with both players.