How about six weeks off?
That is what Giants players have in front of them after this week’s mandatory minicamp. The next time they will gather en masse will be the last week of July for the start of training camp. That’s when the real grind starts, and it does not stop until Week 13 of the season in early December, when the Giants finally get their bye.
Time away from the field is imperative, for the body and the mind. Even the coaches know it, as Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale made clear when he recently completed his thoughts about his new inside linebacker, Bobby Okereke, by saying, “And we’ve just got to get ready to take the next step. Which, for me, is vacation.’’
Teams always worry about players once they leave the facility for such an extended period. Will they stay in shape? Will they stay out of trouble? Will they retain what they learned the past few months? Will they be careful not to get hurt as they engage in activities unsupervised by the team?
There is only so much that can be accomplished during the spring work. The Giants thus far have managed to stay healthy and continue to build on the concepts that were installed one year ago, when Brian Daboll and his staff were hired.
Last spring, everything was new, and that was a challenge. This time around, the returning players were familiar with the playbook and the coaches, making this spring more about taking the next step in the development of the entire football operation.
What did the Giants, given the limitations inherent in an NFL offseason program, accomplish this spring? Here are five items to consider:
It is true the Giants did not add a No. 1 wide receiver — rookie Jalin Hyatt may one day evolve into that — but it is not true the Giants failed to address the need for a prime weapon on offense.
Acquired from the Raiders in March, veteran tight end Darren Waller is a huge presence on the field, every bit a 6-foot-6 gazelle with long arms and plenty of quickness.
In the organized team activity practices open to the media, it looked as if Waller will line up in-line, on the outside, in the slot. You name it, he will be there as the Giants try to create ways to get the ball in his hands.
The key with Waller — great for the Raiders in 2019 and 2020, injury-plagued in 2021 and 2022 — is his availability. The Giants must find a way to keep him healthy.
Traditionally, an inside linebacker relays the defensive calls to his teammates after getting the call from the defensive coordinator via the helmet radio transmitter. In 2022, the Giants did not have an experienced, reliable inside linebacker to handle this assignment, so it was given to safety Xavier McKinney.
Okereke, the one big-ticket free agent signed by the Giants, spent the past four years making tackles for the Colts, and it appears he’ll be doing that and more in New York.
“Here we go, the green dot question,’’ Martindale joked last week.
No decision has been made as to which player will wear the green dot helmet (the one with the transmitter inside). Okereke has worn the green dot helmet in 11-on-11 work with the starting defense, but Martindale cautioned that McKinney still has a green dot helmet, as well.
“We’ll just see how that goes during training camp and everything else,’’ Martindale said.
It’s a snap
Thus far, the “dead snap’’ is alive and well with the Giants, but that could change.
An unorthodox method of shotgun snapping, the dead snap is when the center holds one point of the ball in the palm of his hand and snaps it back to the quarterback end over end, instead of with the traditional spiral motion. It supposedly increases accuracy, but it also takes a split-second longer to get to the quarterback.
It is not used very often in the NFL, but rookie center John Michael Schmitz regularly deployed the dead snap during his college career at Minnesota.
This spring, the Giants allowed Schmitz to snap the way he was comfortable snapping, and Daniel Jones said it is fine with him. Once Jones faces a live rush, he may form a different opinion.
“At the end of the day, as long as the quarterback is good with it, that’s all that matters,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said. “Hasn’t been an issue, and I think he is doing a good job, nothing that I think is concerning.’’
It is becoming increasingly clear that there are starting spots up for grabs in the defensive backfield, which will lead to serious competition this summer.
Only two of the five top spots (three cornerbacks, two safeties) are set: Adoree’ Jackson at one cornerback spot and McKinney as one starting safety.
At safety, the starting role that was owned by Julian Love before he signed with the Seahawks is open. Love played 95 percent of the snaps on defense in 2022, meaning there are a load of snaps to be replaced by someone else.
Returnees Jason Pinnock and Dale Belton, along with veteran Bobby McCain (signed to a one-year deal) are the contenders. At this point, Pinnock can be seen as the front-runner, but that could change.
At cornerback, first-round draft pick Deonte Banks is the clear favorite to start, but any rookie has to earn it.
Cor’Dale Flott spent most of his 2022 rookie season playing on the perimeter, but he could get moved inside, where he might be better suited as a possible upgrade over Darnay Holmes. Nick McCloud, who played well at times last season as a fill-in starter, is competitive enough to challenge on the outside. If Aaron Robinson can finally shake the injury bug, he will get a shot to find a role.
Better to receive
There are a whole lot of them. Wide receivers, that is.
Is any one of them feared by opponents as a No. 1 threat? Probably not.
Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins were re-signed, and will be fixtures high on the depth chart. They figure to be more than serviceable if not special.
Parris Campbell, wearing No. 0, arrives from the Colts with a world of speed and talent and an injury history that makes him a question mark.
Jamison Crowder, 29, is a proven slot target, a classy veteran.
Hyatt was taken in the third round of the NFL Draft, and will challenge for immediate playing time.
Jeff Smith came over from the Jets.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton is an undrafted rookie free agent the Giants paid enough to allow him to stick around in the program, at least on the practice squad.
And then there are the receivers coming back from injury: Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson and Collin Johnson. Robinson is behind the other two in his return timetable, based on how late in the 2022 season he got hurt.
At this point it seems as if the collection is heavy on slot guys and a bit short on outside weapons. The pecking order will be developed this summer, and it should make for interesting viewing.
Want to catch a game? The Giants schedule with links to buy tickets can be found here.
The Giants hope they eventually pay Jones more than the $46 million — $36 million in a signing bonus, $9.5 million salary and $500,000 workout bonus — he is set to make in 2023.
Why is that?
Well, there are several incentives built into Jones’ contract, and the more of them he hits, the more productive the offense will be and the more winning the Giants will do.
Jones can make an additional $4 million this season if he hits all of the statistic-based incentives.
If Jones does not, the Giants will be in trouble because it means their starting quarterback was ineffective or injured.
For example, all Jones needs to do is pass for 19 or more touchdowns or rank in the top 15 in the NFL in touchdown passes to earn $250,000.
He has to throw for 3,325 or more yards or rank in the top 15 in the league in passing yards to get another $250,000.
Those should not exactly be high bars for him — though he did not reach either of them in 2022, when he started 16 games and threw for 15 touchdown passes and 3,205 yards.
A few more targets for Jones to hit to earn even more money: He’ll get $375,000 if he throws for 25 or more touchdown passes or is in the top 10 in the league in touchdown passes. There’s another $375,000 if he reaches 3,800 passing yards or finishes in the top 10 in the league in passing yards. He’ll earn another $375,000 for 31 or more touchdown passes or a top-5 finish in the league and an additional $375,000 for 4,550 passing yards or a top-5 finish in that category.
There are similarly tiered bonuses for Jones if he combines for a certain number of total touchdowns, passing and rushing, which takes his strong leg-work into account.
If Jones is on the field for 65 percent of the snaps on offense and the Giants make the playoffs, he’ll get $500,000. That bumps up to $750,000 if the Giants win the NFC East.
If Jones wins two playoff games in 2023 and plays 65 percent of the snaps in those games, he gets an additional $1.5 million.
There are even contingencies for the Giants getting a bye in the playoffs that enable Jones to cash in. And if Jones plays at least 65 percent of the snaps in the Super Bowl, it’s another $1.5 million. The most he can make if he hits every team-based incentive is $5 million.
Bottom line: The more Jones produces and the more the Giants win, the more his bank account grows.
Asked and answered
Here are two questions that have come up recently that we will attempt to answer as accurately as possible:
What is the deal with the football camps Giants players host around the country? Does the team sponsor these camps?
No, the player himself often runs these camps, with help from a local sponsor.
It is a way to give back, usually to the community the player comes from. These camps are almost always free of charge to the youngsters, who get to meet and receive tips from NFL players.
Offensive tackle Evan Neal recently hosted his Inaugural Youth Football Camp in his hometown of Okeechobee, Fla. Neal has only been around the Giants for one year, but he is respected by his teammates, as shown by the presence at this camp by several Giants offensive linemen, including Andrew Thomas and Mark Glowinski, as well as outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
Saquon Barkley hosted a AMPT (Athletes Making Progress Together) camp in Jersey City, and Waller (as well as Martindale) were part of a strong Giants contingent. These are selfless acts by players, and should not go unnoticed.
Is this week’s mandatory minicamp two days or three days?
The minicamp is listed for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and the team will be together those three days before players go their separate ways until the start of training camp in late July. The Giants will take the field the first two days, but they will not practice on Thursday.
That day will be set aside for a team-bonding event, most likely some sort of barbeque outing at the team facility. Daboll liked the way it felt when he did this last year, so he will do it again. Daboll didn’t sweat it when the team canceled two organized team activity sessions last week because the Canadian wildfires compromised the air quality inside the field house. He knew anything missed on the field could be made up. The same with the third day of the minicamp.