By the time T.J. Brunson lowered the boom, the Giants defense already had sent a message worthy of an exclamation point.
Widely perceived as the inferior side of the ball for the Giants, the defense held Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and a dangerous receiving corps in check for most of Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage. It is rare to see tackling-to-the-ground on any NFL practice field nowadays, and Brunson knocking receiver C.J. Board off his feet only added to the shock value.
“Defensively, our guys have done their homework, they stayed ahead a little bit,” coach Joe Judge said. “Obviously they studied and they knew what to expect in certain situations.”
Similar to how pitchers often are ahead of hitters early in spring training, NFL camps favor defense in the first week of contact drills.
“It’s gone back and forth every day,” Judge said. “When you play a common opponent, which is intrasquad right now, you get a tendency on your own teammates. Our offense ran plays that they installed throughout the week. Our defense saw a lot of these. They weren’t carbon copies, but different versions.”
Jones started off slowly but came on strong, finishing 16-for-27 with touchdowns to Kaden Smith to finish a long no-huddle drive and to David Sills over the top, behind James Bradberry.
Darnay Holmes made an acrobatic interception of Jones’ “poor decision” on a double-move by Golden Tate, and other incompletions were batted down, sailed high or were slightly behind the target.
“There were some things we need to work on, but that’s part of the reason we’re out there,” Jones said. “As we got into some of the more play-it-out situations, I thought we got into a rhythm and made some plays. Overall, I was encouraged by what we were able to do — move the ball down the field and execute.”
The Giants could feature eight or nine returning starters from a defense that ranked No. 25 in yardage and No. 30 in scoring last season, so improvement will be based on development. Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence controlled the line of scrimmage.
“I thought our energy was pretty spot on,” safety Julian Love said. “We kind of set the tone [Thursday] night even. They are not giving us preseason game reps, so we tried to really take it seriously and play with high focus. We wanted to fly around.”
Judge stood behind the offensive huddle during the scrimmage to fill in the gaps that can’t be gleaned off film.
“I was very pleased with the tone [Jones] set in the huddle,” Judge said. “He has good command situationally. He knows how to use some of the variety of calls and checks within our offense.”
Here are some other scrimmage observations:
• Holmes tried to return his interception and was stripped-tackled by Andrew Thomas. “I was very pleased to see our offensive line hustle in that situation,” Judge said. “It’s good to have things you preach in the classroom show up on the field.”
• With Corey Coleman sidelined, Sills and Alex Bachman took advantage of an opportunity at receiver.
Sills was the first Giant placed on the restricted/COVID-19 list and returned after one week: “This guy busts his butt every day,” Judge said. “He’s shown up a lot for us on offense. He’s shown up for us in the kicking game.”
Submit questions on your favorite New York teams to be answered in an upcoming mailbag
Bachman caught a touchdown pass from Colt McCoy. “He’s productive in drills, he’s productive in team periods,” Judge said. “It’s no surprise to see him making plays.”
• The Giants won’t make the same mistake as last year when they were caught short-handed behind Saquon Barkley. Wayne Gallman broke off a couple long runs as he tries to hold off veteran Dion Lewis for No. 2. And undrafted rookie Javon Leake, who averaged 9.1 yards per touch at Maryland, showed why he is a big-play threat when he sidestepped a sideline tackle.
“He’s a guy who is really coming on right now,” Judge said. “Very in-tune in meetings. He has improved on a daily basis. Today he had an opportunity to just play, and that’s always how you want to see it.”
• Jones and Nick Gates — a guard or tackle playing center for the first time in his career — did not have any mishandled snaps. “He’s done a good job,” Jones said.