Giants offense has long way to go after first day of mandatory minicamp

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All the pressure is on Daniel Jones in this make or break season. But Tuesday’s Giants offense was hard to watch, and it wasn’t the quarterback’s fault.

Wink Martindale’s first-team defense dominated Brian Daboll’s first-team offense on day one of the Giants’ three-day mandatory minicamp in East Rutherford, N.J.

Jones’ offensive line couldn’t protect him, and he was throwing lots of incompletions to backups because most of the starters are hurt.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas (left ankle) and wide receivers Kadarius Toney (knee), Sterling Shepard (Achilles) and Kenny Golladay (unknown) are all unavailable for 11-on-11 football.

It’s still June. They’re not wearing full pads and hitting yet. But training camp is only seven weeks away, and this was a mess.

“I think one drive wasn’t as clean,” Jones said after practice. “I thought the other two drives we moved the ball pretty well. There’s always gonna be plays you wanna have back. We’re seeing a lot of looks for the first time. I thought our defense did a good job mixing up pressures and bringing guys from different spots. So we just gotta look at that and correct some things. Kind of up and down. Certainly some things we wanna clean up.”

Center Jon Feliciano said Martindale’s blitz heavy scheme gave the offense problems.

“Wink came out with some Wink stuff today,” Feliciano said. “I think the defense won today. We want to be able to grow from it. I’m telling you, going against Wink’s defense is gonna be great for us in the long run, but I’m not gonna lie to you if it doesn’t get frustrating sometimes.”

The first series started with an incompletion when receiver David Sills fell down. Jones hit wideout Richie James with a couple short completions then overthrew a pass before connecting with Travis Toivonen.

The second series, Sills beat Adoree Jackson to the right back corner of the end zone but dropped what would have been a Jones touchdown pass. Then Jones took a sack on a play that continued with a completion to Sills.

The next series started with three sacks: two by blitzing rookie safety Dane Belton and one from Leonard Williams. Then Jones completed a pass to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger on the fourth snap.

Feliciano said Martindale moved Belton, safety Julian Love and other players around to confuse the offense.

“You have J Love on the freakin’ line of scrimmage, in the A gap as a safety, playing linebacker,” Feliciano said. “There’s so many people playing in positions you don’t expect them to play. And it gets a little hard when you have to identify it and you’re not actively scheming for it.”

Play-caller Mike Kafka seemed to start calling for quicker, shorter passes as the practice progressed just to get the ball out of his quarterback’s hands.

Jones got good pass protection to start the fourth drive, but Bellinger dropped a pass in the flat. Jones followed that with his best completion of the day before an incompletion, a quick pass to James, and a swing pass to Saquon Barkley up the left sideline for a TD.

It’s going to be hard for Jones to turn this offense around, though, if he’s throwing in practice to C.J. Board, Sills and James as his top receivers on a consistent basis. They aren’t the players who need to run routes for Jones this fall.

Jones acknowledged the big name guys need reps but said they’re working hard to grasp the offense behind the scenes. Golladay at least ran routes in drills on Tuesday for the first time this spring while the media was present.

“I think those guys have done a great job working in meetings,” the fifth-year QB said. “They’ve built a good foundation of understanding of this offense. And obviously the reps are extremely valuable, and we’ll need those. We’ll need to get those.

“But I think all of those guys have done a great job of locking in, learning the offense, building a foundation,” Jones said, “so when they can get out there and get reps, they’re able to go full speed and we’re able to get [things] done.”

Regardless, while it’s still early in the 2022 NFL calendar, it has gotten very late on Jones’ Giants career. He has no time to waste to get his full complement of weapons on the field and to get this offense looking right.

RAPID FIRE PRACTICE NOTES

— The Giants had three tryout players at practice Tuesday: wide receivers Keelan Doss and Isaiah Ford, and tight end Jaeden Graham. As of Tuesday afternoon, they were day-to-day tryouts. Clearly the team needs numbers at receiver, where they are decimated by injuries.

— Daboll said Jones (neck) has been cleared for contact, so he would be available if the Giants had an imminent game. Jones intimated that he was cleared a while ago, saying that “[last] season was over so I think it was somewhat irrelevant. But I feel good, I’ve been cleared and I’m ready to go.”

— Veteran tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, signed as a free agent this offseason, appears to be buried on the third-team offense behind Bellinger and second-teamer Austin Allen. It’s not clear why, but Bellinger almost never comes off the field as the lone first-team tight end.

— Wideout Darius Slayton dropped a touchdown catch for the second straight open practice, this one from Tyrod Taylor. Like Seals-Jones, Slayton did get a snap here or there with the first team, but he was largely working with the backups. His spring is not shaping up favorably. Third-string center Ben Bredeson snapped the ball over Davis Webb’s head on one play, too.

— Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence looked like he had badly injured his ankle on a pass rush when he was dragged to the ground by rookie second-team right guard Marcus McKethan. Lawrence popped up from the ground and played the next snap, but then he left the field and spent the rest of the practice on the sideline. Lawrence still met the media for an interview and joked he was just taking a “power nap” when he went down on the play that would have resulted in a sack of Taylor. But it wouldn’t be surprising if he was limited Wednesday.

— Reserve edge Niko Lalos makes a play a day, it seems. He sacked Taylor on Tuesday after pick-six’ing Webb last Thursday. The reserve defensive units also had their way with Taylor’s and Webb’s offenses. Zyon Gilbert had a nice pass breakup as an outside corner on the second-team defense and was talking some trash to the offensive sideline.

— Three players were full participants after being in red jerseys in recent weeks: linebacker Cam Brown, James at wide receiver, and corner Michael Jacquet III at second-team outside corner.

SEEING RED

A total of 17 players were injured and wearing red jerseys on Tuesday, with varying degrees of participation. Here is a breakdown of who was doing what while wearing red. Injury is listed if it’s known (or not previously listed above):

No practice, only individual work: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Shepard, Toney, CB Rodarius Williams, CB Darren Evans, LB Blake Martinez (ACL), C Nick Gates (leg), RT Matt Peart (Achilles), CB Darnay Holmes, DB Jarren Williams, edge Quincy Roche

Drills, no 11-on-11: Golladay, Thomas, WR Collin Johnson, LB TJ Brunson

Participating in 11-on-11: CB Aaron Robinson and Toivonen at WR

Daboll would not disclose whether Toney’s knee issue was a new one or a lingering problem from last season. In fact, he said he doesn’t plan to share much info on that front at all.

“I’ll probably be pretty vague most of the time,” he said.

Minicamp runs through Thursday. Then the team breaks until training camp’s start in late July.