Giants OTA observations: Darren Waller adds fuel to idea he can transform offense

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — The 2023 Giants were on the court together in front of reporters for the first time Thursday. Draft picks and veteran additions finally joined the core that led the Giants to the playoffs last season in OTA practice.

Here are Thursday’s observations and notes:


As always, it should be noted that OTAs are voluntary. Moreover, it is not because a player was absent Thursday that he skipped the entire program of the offseason. And it is possible that absent players were inside the establishment to treat an injury.

That said, these players weren’t spotted on Thursday: RB Saquon Barkley, CB Nick McCloud, DL A’Shawn Robinson, DL Vernon Butler, DL Dexter Lawrence, DL DJ Davidson and DL Leonard Williams.

Barkley is not currently under contract, so he cannot participate in team activities until he signs his tender or agrees to an extension. Lawrence said he likely won’t participate fully in the offseason program after signing his four-year, $90 million extension on May 4. Davidson tore his ACL last October, so he is still recovering from that injury.


Saquon Barkley, Giants extension negotiated with former NFL general manager and agent

injury report

Wide receiver David Sills landed hard while catching a deep pass along the sideline from quarterback Tyrod Taylor late in practice. It was obvious that the apparent rib injury was causing Sills severe pain.

The coaches immediately took care of Sills, while Taylor, quarterback Daniel Jones, wide receiver Darius Slayton and tight end Lawrence Cager crossed the field to check on their teammate. Sills eventually left the field cautiously with coaches.

WR Wan’Dale Robinson, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Makai Polk, OL Tire Phillips, OL Marcus McKethan, OLB Elerson Smith, ILB Darrian Beavers, CB Aaron Robinson, S Jason Pinnock, S Dane Belton and S Trenton Thompson worked on the side with coaches during practice.

Robinson (ACL), Shepard (ACL), McKethan (ACL), Smith (Achille), Beavers (ACL) and Robinson (ACL) suffered serious injuries last season, so they are likely still in rehabilitation. Coach Brian Daboll didn’t share any details about players working on the side, but the Giants were extra cautious with injured players last offseason, so that approach is likely to continue.

WR Collin Johnson (Achilles), OL Shane Lemieux (toe) and OL Josh Ezeudu (neck) took part in training after finishing last season on injured reserve.


• Competition periods were exclusively seven vs. seven, as players are not in full pads and contact is prohibited during OTAs. These basic offensive-friendly rules should be kept in mind when evaluating an exceptionally sharp day for quarterbacks.

Jones completed 19 of 20 passes, with his only miss on a route to tight end Daniel Bellinger. Taylor completed 15 of 17 passes, with one of his incompletes coming on Sills’ injury – the receiver landed out of bounds. Third-string quarterback Tommy DeVito completed 11 of 13 passes.

What stands out about Jones’ performance is that he wasn’t just racking up full passes with short passes. He aired it, highlighted by a bombshell at tight end Darren Waller in the first snap of the day. Waller found himself behind slot cornerback Darnay Holmes, who slid into coverage, for a big win.

Waller made a good first impression with four catches from Jones. He added another long hold on Holmes, although it should be noted that defensive backs were instructed not to aggressively contest deep balls in an effort to avoid collisions like the one that injured Sills.

Unsurprisingly, Jones’ favorite target was Slayton, who had six catches. Slayton beat new cornerback Amani Oruwariye for a deep finish, then made three straight catches in the lone period when the offense drove the ball down the field in playing conditions. Slayton capped that drive with a touchdown catch in the back of the end zone, with Oruwariye and safety Bobby McCain the defenders closest to coverage.

Free agent wide receiver Parris Campbell worked underneath to catch three passes from Jones.

Tight end Lawrence Cager beat slot cornerback Cor’Dale Flott from deep, but had to slow down to carry in a underhand pass from Taylor. As was the case last summer before ripping his Achilles, Johnson was a volume receiver. He had two pass catches from Jones and three more from Taylor, mostly on curling runs that allowed the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder to use his size to keep defenders away.

• Second-round pick John Michael Schmitz was the center for the first team. Jones gave Schmitz the OK to continue with the “brutal breaking technique he used in college.

“He’s accurate,” Jones said. “I’m good with it.”


‘A perfect fit’: Why John Michael Schmitz’s Giants selection was ‘meant to be’

• Flott, who was the second team cornerback, made a nice pass breakup on a short pass from Taylor to receiver Jamison Crowder. Rookie safety Gervarrius Owens nearly intercepted DeVito on a dangerous pass to tight end Ryan Jones.

• It was interesting to note that first-round pick Deonte Banks was part of the second-team defence. It’s not like Daboll has a policy of pushing the top draft picks up the depth chart.

Schmitz was the first-team center, while last year’s first-round picks Kayvon Thibdoeaux and Evan Neal started on Day 1 of the OTAs. It shouldn’t take long for Banks to outplay Amani Oruwariye, but it was a surprise to see the first round with the second strings.

• Several defensive players wear green dots on their helmets, signifying who receives play calls from coordinator Wink Martindale. Safety Xavier McKinney, who had that responsibility until his hand injury last week, was one of the players wearing the green dot.

Martindale preferred to use safeties as a defensive caller, but free agent linebacker Bobby Okereke also wore a green dot on Thursday. The Giants will likely wait until the season approaches to decide who will wear the green dot.

Linebacker Micah McFadden and safety Alex Cook also wore green dots on Thursday.

• Slayton, Crowder, Holmes, WR Jalin Hyatt, WR Jaydon Mickens, WR Kalil Pimpleton and CB Adoree’ Jackson were the punt returners during practice. It will surely alarm some that Jackson is still returning punts despite suffering a knee injury in that role last season.


Giants rookie scouting reports: Why Jalin Hyatt may struggle to adapt to the NFL

The Giants must find a new comeback after the departure of Richie James in free agency. Mickens, who has extensive experience as a returner, was on the front line during Thursday’s drills. The problem is that Mickens faces a tough climb to a spot on the roster unless his comeback ability is highly valued. Crowder also has a wealth of experience as a returner, and he offers more as a receiver.

• Matt Breida was the personal protector of the punt team. It’s an important role that was filled by Julian Love last season. McCain and Sills also got reps as a personal protector.

• Kicker Graham Gano was 9 for 9 on field goal attempts. Veteran Casey Kreiter was the long snapper on all nine attempts. The Giants added competition to Kreiter this offseason by signing undrafted rookie Cam Lyons.


Meet the UDFA Giants: Why a WR chose NY despite pleas from Pete Carroll, Nick Sirianni

Depth Chart

Before you take a look, keep in mind that players rotate frequently in certain positions and I don’t list the personnel every game, so you may not see all the names listed.

First team attack: QB Daniel Jones, RB Matt Breida, WR Darius Slayton, WR Parris Campbell, WR Isaiah Hodgins, TE Darren Waller, LT Andrew Thomas, LG Ben Bredeson, C John Michael Schmitz, RG Mark Glowinski, RT Evan Neal.

RB Gary Brightwell, RB Jashaun Corbin, WR Collin Johnson, WR Jamison Crowder and TE Daniel Bellinger also got reps with the starters.

When the Giants completed setup spells, Marcus McKethan (LT), Josh Ezeudu (LG) and Bredeson (RG) got first-team reps. I didn’t see Bredeson take any reps at center Thursday.

Second team attack: QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Eric Gray, WR Collin Johnson, WR David Sills, WR Kalil Pimpleton, TE Lawrence Cager, LT Matt Peart, LG Shane Lemieux, C JC Hassenauer, RG Jack Anderson, RT Korey Cunningham.

WR Jalin Hyatt, WR Jeff Smith, WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton and TE Dre Miller worked with the second unit.

Third team attack: QB Tommy DeVito, RB Eric Gray, WR Jalin Hyatt, WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR Jaydon Mickens, TE Dre Miller, LT Tire Phillips, LG Devery Hamilton, C Shane Lemieux, RG Wyatt Davis, RT Korey Cunningham.

TE Ryan Jones also got reps with the third team offense.

First team defence: DL Ryder Anderson, DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches, OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, OLB Azeez Ojulari, ILB Bobby Okereke, ILB Jarrad Davis, CB Adoree’ Jackson, CB Amani Oruwariye, CB Darnay Holmes (location), S Xavier McKinney, S Bobby McCain.

ILB Micah McFadden took over for Okereke with the starters late in practice.

Second team defense: DL Ryder Anderson, DL Jordon Riley, OLB Jihad Ward, OLB Oshane Ximines, ILB Micah McFadden, ILB Carter Coughlin, CB Deonte Banks, CB Rodarius Williams, CB Cor’Dale Flott (location), S Gervarrius Owens, S Alex Cook.

Third team defense: DL Ryder Anderson, DL Jordon Riley, OLB Tomon Fox, OLB Habakkuk Baldonado, ILB Cam Brown, ILB Dyontae Johnson, CB Tre Hawkins, CB Leonard Johnson, CB Zyon Gilbert (location), S Alex Cook, S Gemon Green.

ILB Troy Brown rotated with the third team defense. Green played cornerback in college, so he may have just been moved to safety on Thursday due to the lack of body in that position.

game of the day

Waller’s deep grip to open practice was the type of highlight that will fuel excitement for how he could transform the offense. Having a tight end that can burn slot corners adds a dimension that was missing from a Giants offense that ranked last in explosive passing last season.

quote of the day

“It seems like you hear most guys or see them on the program and they’re listed at 6-6, and they’re really like 6-4 or 6-5. That’s a real 6 -6. He’s a real 250, 260, and he can fly, run, run all the courses. He’s just an awesome athlete. – QB Daniel Jones on TE Darren Waller


Players will enjoy a break for the holiday weekend. They’ll be back on the court for their next OTA practice on Tuesday.

(Darren Waller top photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Leave a Comment