On the first day of his first training camp, Ben McAdoo didn't shy away from his own high expectations. Despite taking over a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2011, he insisted "Our goal is still to put the fifth trophy in the case."
He wasn't talking about sometime in the future, either. The Giants entered camp believing they have a roster to make a run now.
Maybe those expectations are crazy high. Then again, they've proven that all it takes is to get hot late in the season and get into the playoffs and then anything can happen. And with a Top 10 offense and what they believe is a vastly improved (and expensive) defense … well, hey, why not?
Of course, it's easy to be optimistic and dreamy in early August when everybody seems healthy and they're still undefeated. But one week into training camp isn't nearly enough time to learn whether they're truly capable of some magic this season.
It is enough time to learn some things about the Giants, though. And as they get ready to begin their second week of camp, and as they head towards their preseason opener on Friday, here are five things we've learned so far:
1.) Victor Cruz's comeback is going great … you know, for now
I know you've heard this before, but Cruz has looked healthy in camp and fantastic, really, for a player who hasn't been in a game in nearly two years. He doesn't look like he's running full speed at all times, but he still appears to have a burst when he wants to use it and he seems as quick as ever in and out of his breaks.
But when it comes to the 29-year-old Cruz, you have to remember two things. One is that it's really early and he's not going against live defenses yet. And the other is that he looked outstanding at this time last year, too. In fact, one year ago everyone thought he was about to make a miraculous comeback from a devastating knee injury. Then he suffered a season-ending injury to his calf.
So who knows what lurks ahead in the next five weeks for Cruz? The Giants are optimistic -- maybe even more so than they were last summer -- but nobody will breathe a full sigh of relief until he actually appears in a game. Until then, the only thing that can truly be said about Cruz's comeback is this: So far, so good.
2.) As improved as the Giants' roster looks on paper, it's also paper thin
When training camp opened, Greg Milhouse, an undrafted free agent out of tiny Campbell, was a first-team defensive tackle. That's because both Damon Harrison (knee) and Jay Bromley (ankle) began camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. When Odell Beckham, Jr. hurt his lower leg, Cruz became a first-team fixture. And when he wasn't in there, rookie Sterling Shepard was flanked by the likes of Myles White.
Those replacements might be fine. They also might end up not being anywhere near the field come Sept. 11. But it was a reminder that at nearly every position, the Giants lack experienced, proven depth. One injury at safety, linebacker, or along the defensive or offensive lines could be problematic. There are some young, promising players there, but not many who've actually shown they can be trusted yet.
3.) The defensive line is big, strong and fast
OK, there's the possibility that's an overreaction because they've only worn pads a couple of times and really only did some serious live hitting once. But my goodness the Giants' front four can get a lot of penetration and quickly (I realize some of this could have something to do with the Giants' offensive line, but let's try and look on the bright side for now).
Jason Pierre-Paul hasn't really tested his hand yet, but he looks as quick and athletic as ever, and Olivier Vernon looks just as fast on the other side. Add in Owa Odighizuwa -- a third-rounder from last year whom defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo absolutely loves -- and they've got a good rotation of guys that can get to the quarterback in a hurry.
And in the middle … Johnathan Hankins, now healthy, is 6-2, 320, and Harrison is 6-foot-4, 350 pounds, and if it's possible they look even bigger than that when standing next to each other. It's hard to believe many teams are going to have an easy time running up the middle on the Giants. And those two have been getting a consistent push up the middle, too.
4.) The Giants are ready to ride Rashad … mostly
Running backs coach Craig Johnson revealed that earlier this week as he glowed about how productive Rashad Jennings was in the final four games of last season when he was, more or less, the Giants' workhorse. Johnson made it pretty clear he didn't like the much-maligned four running back rotation they used last year, which he said was done mostly out of necessity (never mind that when it obviously didn't work they could've changed that up at any time).
But this won't be the old days of handing the ball to one guy 30 times a game -- especially since Jennings is 31 years old and has never carried the ball 200 times in a season. Jennings will be the starter and a pseudo-workhorse, but it sounds like they want to work in Andre Williams for a couple of series a game (or rookie Paul Perkins if he surpasses Williams on the depth chart at some point). And of course Shane Vereen remains the third-down and hurry-up-offense back.
Still, that's an improvement over last year, where one bad series from a running back could've resulted in him sitting around for a couple of quarters, getting cold. Until late in the season none of them ever really had a chance to establish a rhythm. Sounds like Jennings will get every chance to do that this year.
5.) The rookies will play -- maybe even Eli Apple. Maybe
It was always a bit of a myth that Tom Coughlin didn't like playing rookies. He played plenty of them in his tenure, at key positions, though he didn't always show a lot of patience with some of them.
Right off the bat, it looks like two draft picks - receiver Sterling Shepard and safety Darian Thompson -- might be in the Giants' starting lineup. And though he's a long shot, rookie B.J. Goodson is in the mix in what linebackers coach Bill McGovern called "an open competition" in the middle.
Oddly, it's Apple, the 10th overall pick, who might have the most trouble seeing the field among the Giants' first four picks. The Giants have invested significant money in two starting corners -- Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- and they just added veteran Leon Hall, who they intend to play in the slot in nickel defenses.
Where does that leave Apple? Good question. Spagnuolo swears he'll find playing time for him somewhere. And there's always a chance someone ahead of him on the depth chart gets hurt. But at the moment, the 10th overall pick in the draft doesn't have an obvious place in the Giants' lineup. That should never happen to a pick that high.