Giants assistant gets involved in brawl, QB Tyrod Taylor takes first-team rep

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It was obvious that a fight was brewing during the Giants’ practice Monday. For the second consecutive day, players were in full pads and grinding through a physical session in steamy conditions.

That combination is always a recipe for a training camp fight, and things boiled over during an increasingly chippy sequence late in practice. Tensions started to rise after running back Saquon Barkley lowered his shoulder and ran over cornerback Aaron Robinson downfield. Defensive players took exception to Barkley’s level of force during a “thud” tempo period.

Running back Antonio Williams replaced Barkley and had a run toward Robinson that finished with a tackle and a minor scrum as a defensive player swiped the ball away from Williams after the play. Then running back Gary Brightwell was taken down on a carry by linebacker Tae Crowder, who did some jawing after the play.

The next play was a handoff to Brightwell, but that just gave center Jon Feliciano an opportunity to charge directly at Crowder. The players quickly locked up and it looked like Feliciano tried to knee Crowder before the players fell to the ground in a heap.

That’s typically where most camp fights end. But this one was just getting started.

The sidelines completely emptied, with backup linebacker Cam Brown sprinting onto the field with particular zest. Somehow, the 233-pound Brown wound up dragging the 325-pound Feliciano, who was on the ground, out of the scrum by his collar.

That clearly didn’t sit well with offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, who pushed Brown in the chest. Meanwhile, Feliciano got to his feet and threw a punch at Brown’s head. Brown then returned fire with his own punch at Feliciano.

Though throwing punches at helmeted players is always a poor decision, it’s not uncommon in practice fights. But Johnson being the aggressor with a player seemed to cross the line. Inside linebackers coach John Egorugwu, who spent two years with Johnson on the Bills’ staff, had to be restrained from going after his colleague.

This was the first real fight of coach Brian Daboll’s first training camp. He stopped practice and addressed the entire team.

“He says that, ‘losing teams do that.’ So at the end of the day, we’ve got to come out there and be physical, but we’ve got to be smart as well,” rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger said of Daboll’s message.

The final 15 minutes of practice were completed without incident, but it was an action-packed day. Here are more notes and observations from the practice:

Attendance

Tight end Andre Miller, tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, offensive lineman Matt Gono and defensive lineman Nick Williams weren’t spotted at practice.

Miller, who had been getting first-team reps, reportedly suffered a broken forearm during Sunday’s practice, so he’s likely headed to injured reserve. Seals-Jones has missed eight straight practices with no explanation from the team. There’s no word yet on Williams’ absence.

Gono, who left the team last week for further evaluation on the neck injury that sidelined him last season, was cut after practice. The Giants signed offensive tackle Eric Smith to fill Gono’s roster spot. Smith, who appeared in two games for the Giants in 2019, was the third-team right tackle during Monday’s practice.

Injury report

Wide receiver C.J. Board was shaken up on one of the final plays of practice when he landed hard after a leaping attempt to catch a deep pass from No. 2 quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Wide receiver Austin Proehl appeared to injure his right ankle when he got landed on after making a catch.

Rookie offensive lineman Josh Ezeudu watched practice from the sideline due to an undisclosed injury. Cornerback Rodarius Williams (sixth straight practice), wide receiver David Sills (third straight practice) and linebacker Carter Coughlin (second straight practice) remained sidelined with undisclosed ailments.

Running back Matt Breida didn’t participate in team periods on what was likely a maintenance day for the veteran. Wide receiver Robert Foster was a full participant after wearing a red non-contact jersey during Sunday’s practice.

Observations

• The fight overshadowed the more meaningful story of the day: Quarterback Daniel Jones and the passing attack again looked out of sync. Jones had two crisp days last week, but he hasn’t been able to develop any consistency. Monday’s practice was his worst performance of the summer.

It was jarring to see Jones removed for one snap during the first team period of the day. Taylor got his first rep of camp with the starting offense, completing a short pass to wide receiver Kadarius Toney, before Jones returned.

It’s impossible to know why Jones got the hook, but the previous play was a mess, as the quarterback was forced to scramble after outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was in the backfield for a clear sack. Daboll and Jones seemed to have a testy exchange after the play and then Taylor was inserted.

Jones ran two plays with the first-team offense when he returned before it was the second-stringers’ turn. Jones typically stands with the quarterbacks and coaches behind the play when the backups are on the field, but he instead went to the sideline and spoke to his receivers. It looked like he was trying to get on the same page with Toney, who also had a rough practice.

Jones threw a pair of interceptions later in practice. The first came on a play-action leak play with wide receiver Collin Johnson streaking up the left sideline after Jones rolled right. The play was designed to get the defense flowing to the right, but safety Xavier McKinney, who was playing the deep middle, wasn’t fooled. Johnson appeared wide open when Jones released the pass, but the ball floated in the air and McKinney jumped in front of Johnson for an easy interception.

Later, the Giants ran another play-fake, with Jones rolling right and looking for Johnson crossing the field toward the left sideline. Jones wouldn’t have attempted a pass in a game because defensive tackle Leonard Williams easily split right tackle Evan Neal and tight end Chris Myarick for a would-be sack. But Jones stepped up and threw a pass that sailed over Johnson’s head into the arms of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson.

It’s important not to overreact to a single practice, but it’s concerning how uncomfortable Jones has looked in this new offense for most of camp. It’s not just that he’s throwing incompletions and interceptions, it’s that he continues to struggle to build chemistry with his receivers.

The receivers deserve their share of the blame, too. Every pass to Kenny Golladay is tightly contested because he’s incapable of creating separation. Cornerbacks show no respect for Golladay’s deep speed, so they’re squatting on his curl and comeback routes.

Toney remains an enigma. His talent is undeniable, but he had multiple drops on routine passes during Monday’s practice. He was back participating after sitting out team drills Sunday as the Giants continue to monitor his reps as he returns from offseason knee surgery. Toney’s talent won’t be realized until he develops into a consistent, reliable target.

• There isn’t going to be a quarterback controversy after one first-team rep for Taylor. But the ice has at least been cracked.

It would be hard to make a case that Jones has looked better than Taylor through the first 10 practices of camp. Taylor threw a pretty back-shoulder fade that was caught by Darius Slayton on Monday, and he threw a touchdown pass to Board on a slant in the red zone late in practice. Taylor also nearly threw an interception when rookie linebacker Darrian Beavers stepped in front of a slant.

It’s important to note that Taylor is facing the second-team defense with a secondary full of journeymen and rookies. But he’s also working behind a second-team offensive line that is being held together with safety pins and masking tape. The 33-year-old Taylor has maintained his quickness in the pocket, which has helped him navigate pressure throughout camp.

It still makes the most sense to give Jones a legitimate shot since the entire offseason was geared around that plan. He is learning a new offense and there figured to be hiccups in the early stages. But time — and Jones’ performance — will tell if Taylor’s first-team rep on Monday was an aberration or a sign of things to come.

Play of the day

Collin Johnson made a diving, full-extension catch of a pass from Taylor down the left sideline late in practice.

Quote of the day

“Everything got a little hectic with the wild hugs and stuff like that. I was looking at greatness. I was crying and shit. I was just like, ‘Damn, look at that — the brotherhood that we have.’ It’s a good feeling.” — Linebacker Jihad Ward’s spin on the fight

Next up

The Giants will hold their 11th practice of training camp Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. The session is open to fans.

(Photo: Jessica Alcheh / USA Today)



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