NFL News & Analysis

New York Giants training camp: Takeaways, standouts and more

2REJARN New York Giants' Darren Waller (12), left, talks with quarterback Daniel Jones at the NFL football team's training facility in East Rutherford, N.J., Thursday, July 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

• PFF's Brad Spielberger attends Thursday's practice: Rookie Jalin Hyatt, veteran Darren Waller and safety Jason Pinnock were among those who stood out.

• Saquon Barkley is a clear leader: The star running back could be seen coaching up young players, old players, offensive players and defensive players almost all day.

• Darren Waller already meshing well with Daniel Jones: Waller proved unguardable, creating separation with ease thanks to his long strides.

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The New York Giants wasted no time posting the highlight of the day, with third-round rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt turning on the after-burners and hauling in a bomb from quarterback Daniel Jones up the right seam over the outstretched hands of two defenders. 

But we knew about Hyatt’s long-striding, smooth track star speed, and that’s not all he put on display Thursday. Hyatt was labeled as a prospect lacking refinement in his route running, sometimes relying on his physical gifts in a Tennessee offense that got him wide open downfield, but he made a handful of nice catches in the intermediate areas of the field, including one impressive snag over the middle on a ball thrown behind him after he created a mile of separation by quickly getting out of his break. Veteran cornerback Adoree’ Jackson mentioned after practice that from what he’s seen, Hyatt does not lack route-running acumen whatsoever.

A procedural note that stood out was Hyatt lined up out wide a good amount, with questions abounding about how the Giants are going to deploy a depth chart of about eight wide receivers who have all predominantly played in the slot, including Hyatt last season in Tennessee. The rookie looks like he could spend a good amount of time out wide, and he was productive in that role Thursday.

The other highlight of the day illustrated exactly why the Giants wanted running back Saquon Barkley on the field as soon as possible, with the star back shaking newly signed linebacker Bobby Okereke on an out-and-up that left him wide open for a casual one-handed snag. You can see yours truly admiring the play right at the catch point.

But it wasn’t just the catch that demonstrated why Barkley is critical to this team's success. He went on to talk with Okereke — the new anchor of this defense over the middle — about footwork and breaking off the route for a good 30 seconds. In fact, we saw Barkley coaching up young players, old players, offensive players and defensive players pretty much all day long.

Last but certainly not least, while there may not have been one particular highlight play, if Daniel Jones and tight end Darren Waller were on the field together Thursday, the ball was going to find its way to Waller no matter what. Waller was simply unguardable, whether he was lined up against a linebacker, safety or slot cornerback. He can get a defender in his hip pocket and then use two or three long strides to all of a sudden have 6 feet of room, almost out of nowhere. With the plethora of wide receivers on this team, it could cause fantasy football owners a weekly headache trying to figure out who to start, but Waller looks like the focal point of the passing attack thus far.

The soundbite of the day came on a question from Kim Jones of Newsday and WFAN when she asked defensive coordinator Wink Martindale if he had a memory of a rookie Darren Waller back in Baltimore in 2015. Martindale quickly responded, “Yeah, it came back [to me] the other day in practice when he's like eating peanuts off the top of people's heads, picking balls up.”

Emptying the notebook

Safety Jason Pinnock continues to be around the football, dropping a would-be interception in one-on-ones while matched up against Darren Waller. Pinnock self-imposed a push-up punishment, but he was the only defensive back to come particularly close to turning the ball over in a drill skewed toward the offense.

Rookie sixth-round running back Eric Gray was back shagging punts with a veteran group consisting of Kalil Pimpleton, Jaydon Mickens and Jamison Crowder, among a few others. Gray looked very calm hauling in each kick, never bobbling the ball and quickly getting upfield with some good short-area burst. The Oklahoma product may not be the Week 1 returner, but he seems like a legitimate option at some point during the season if necessary.

The defense was showing a bunch of different looks all throughout seven-on-sevens. We saw Kayvon Thibodeaux a few times as a standup linebacker mugging the A-gap, for example. It’s still very early, and the players weren’t even in pads today, but the positionless defensive philosophy of Martindale was on full display. Both sides of the ball are very fluid, with players lining up all over the formation on any given rep. 

Sixth-round rookie cornerback Tre Hawkins has generated a lot of buzz throughout camp, and Martindale lit up when asked about him, saying he’s had a great camp thus far. Martindale also spoke highly of first-round cornerback Deonte Banks and his mentality along with his ability to quickly learn new aspects of the game. Banks is a physical, press cornerback who will probably stand out more when the pads come on, but that isn’t to say he was struggling Thursday. 

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