It looked like football. It smelled like football. Heck, it even sounded like football.
But the main takeaway from the Giants rookie minicamp, which still has one more day to go – the players will be in meetings with the coaches on Sunday, and then those under contract are expected to roll right into the OTAs, which begin on Monday –is that it wasn’t so much about football as it was for both the players and coaches to get to know one another.
You know, like a family.
That’s why head coach Brian Daboll, conducting his first rookie minicamp as an NFL head coach, opted to scale back on the team drills – both practice days had zero 11-on-11 drills – and instead allow the players to settle in.
“I think each year you try to evolve and do what you think the best thing is to do. I think the more stuff you have in your head, the slower you play,” Daboll said Saturday.
“These guys are pretty anxious as it is coming in new, learning the new building, learning new people, learning how we do things as a program. Just thought that was the best thing for those guys. They did a good job of it out there. “
Rookies, especially those who are undrafted or on a tryout basis, are anxious to impress the head coach and general manager, sometimes to a fault. That anxiousness can lead to tightness and mistakes, which hurts their chances of getting a training camp invitation.
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Daboll realized this when putting the plan together for both practices, and the plan seemed to play out well.
“And they even practiced the right way, you know, not dragging people down and things like that, “he said.” Again, this is more of a teaching camp. “We are going to see them in individual drills and skillsets that they have, and when we go competitive periods, just making sure we are taking care of one another.”
For some, though, taking it slow and competing in what’s otherwise a fast-paced game can be challenging. To help control that, Daboll said it came down to the instruction provided by the assistant coaching staff, which over the coming weeks is going to increase in tempo.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s such a long way away right now. We have so far to go, “he said.” So again, these guys, to get from the locker room to there or from the locker room to the cafeteria, you’ve got to take all that stuff into account, how to log into their iPad and get into movie.
“There are so many things for these players. They are moving from different spots. It’s the first time for some of them just on your own. Sometimes there are a lot of family members that help out in college. We are taking it slow, and we are going to try to help them grow off the field as well as on the field. “
Here are some more takeaways from Day 2 of the Giants rookie minicamp.
Giants Rookie Minicamp: Day 2
The Giants did not do much in the way of actual football stuff, but in what little they did do, tight end Daniel Bellinger, the first of their two fourth-round picks, was one of the rookies who stood out.
Bellinger looked smooth in and out of his breaks and showed soft hands. He also had one of the prettiest plays of the day, catching a pass from Brian Lewerke down the seam.
While not deployed much as a pass target at San Diego State – he had 103 passes thrown his way over four years – Bellinger only had three drops, none of which came in his final season (43 pass targets, 31 receptions).
“A lot,” Bellinger said when asked how much upside the receiving part of his game has. “I think I have a lot to show and a lot to improve on. So that’s another thing is I want to come out and show that I can be a receiver and not just a blocker but also both. Just be a hybrid and help the offense, whether it is blocking or pass-catching. “
Bellinger, listed as 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, is cut. He also appears to be at just the right weight that should allow him to anchor if asked to block or win his route against smaller and lighter defenders.
For as promising as he’s looked in limited action, Bellinger very humbly stated that he has a lot of stuff to work on in his rookie season.
“Especially the technical side of things,” he said. “Whether it comes to footwork for blocking or attacking leverage on routes. The biggest thing for me is the technical side of the game and getting those things down as much as I can.”
Evan Neal and the Laws of Physics
Giants offensive tackle Evan Neal, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 345 pounds, is a big human being who should be an immovable force against smaller defenders who come at him on the pass rush.
If only it were that easy, though. For as successful as Neal was at Alabama, where, in 2,585 career pass-blocking snaps, he allowed 36 pressures, there is still room for growth in Neal’s game, particularly when facing elite pass rushers.
“The athleticism of the players that he’s going to have to face, the movement upfront that he’s going to get, the quickness that some of these guys have, and ultimately the experience,” said Daboll.
Thankfully NEal is a bright young man who has opened his mind to the coaching he’s received thus far from the Giants, and Daboll sounded pleased with Neal’s attitude shown thus far.
“There’s a lot of things that he’s going to have to learn and keep building on, but I think he’s a mature young guy,” he said. “He’s played a lot of different sports, and I think that will help him, too, in terms of how he sees it. When you are a rookie, you have a long way to go, really, with everything.”
One thing that might not take as long for Neal to master is Daboll’s offensive scheme. Although this is the first time Neal is playing for Daboll, the experience he gained from playing at Alabama, where Daboll was once an assistant coach, is part of the same package the Giants are planning to run here.
“Being that Coach Dabs is from Alabama, it’s pretty similar schematically,” Neal confirmed. “There are a few nuances as far as verbiage and terminology and things like that, but from a technical standpoint, it’s pretty much what I’ve done.”
Hopefully, that familiarity will help neal hit the ground running when he and the rest of the rookies begin mixing in with the veterans starting this week.
Kafka, Daboll Clicking
Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka both come from very different offensive systems, but so far, they’ve been able to marry the best of both worlds as they continue developing the Giants’ new system.
“Yeah, it’s been great,” Daboll said about working with Kafka, previously the Chiefs quarterbacks coach. “First of all, he’s a good person. He’s a good father, good husband – very easy to talk to. Smart. He went to Northwestern. But smart football-wise, too.
“I think he’s had a good upbringing in this profession. He’s 34 years old, but he’s learned a lot from (Chiefs head) Coach (Andy) Reid and the things they did at Kansas City. He has some really good ideas and thoughts on some of the stuff they did there. “
It also does not hurt that Kafka, who, along with Daboll, will be looking to bring the best out of quarterback Daniel Jones, is a former NFL quarterback who’s had some success at the college and NFL levels.
“I think experience at that position is always helpful,” said Daboll, who is thought to be planning an audition for Kafka to call plays this summer. “That does not necessarily mean you’re going to be a good coach at it, but he started the right way. He started way back at Northwestern and kind of went up the ranks. Has really good eyes for the position. He sees it obviously like he’s playing it.
“But he’s really good at teaching, which is an important part of being a coach. You have to be a good teacher and make sure they can see it through your eyes and have good communication with your players. I’ve been happy with him. “
Jashaun Corbin, the undrafted free-agent running back out of Florida State, is a shifty little runner with good vision and decisiveness in his running ability, and that has not gone unnoticed by Daboll.
“Athletic. Got some quick twitch. He had a pretty good day yesterday [Friday]. Kind of stood out a little bit, “Daboll said.
“Some of the drills that we even do out here are some of the drills that we do when we work guys out, so you get a good feel for them. You can compare apples to apples.”
Corbin averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 4.01 yards after contact for the Seminoles. Initially projected as a fifth-round pick, he slipped out of the draft, but the Giants were quick to scoop him up, and now he’ll compete with Gary Brightwell, Antonio Williams, and Sandro Platzgummer for the third running back spot on the roster.
In yet another sign that the new regime will be a lot different, the Giants took three different group photos following the conclusion of Day 2 of the minicamp.
The first was of the entire group of participants, including the players who attended on a tryout basis. The second was of all the draft picks and signed undrafted free agents, and the third of just the draft picks with Daboll and Schoen.
The Giants signed two more rookie free agents: defensive end Ryder Anderson out of Indiana and defensive back Jordan Mosley from Maryland. The Giants now have filled out their 90-man roster ahead of training camp.
On Monday, the Giants will kick off Phase 3 of their off-season program, or the OTA phase. The next media access is Thursday.
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