The Giants and the Jets have struggled with the injuries, internal dissent and, to put it plainly, winning in recent seasons.
As the Giants, who were 4-12 last year, face their first true post-Eli Manning season, the team’s identity under General Manager Dave Gettleman will be clear. For the Jets, a nine-year postseason drought and off-season shots at Coach Adam Gase’s leadership obscure the competence the team showed while going 6-2 in the second half of a 7-9 season.
The teams were the first in the N.F.L. to declare they would play without fans at home games this season. And with a heightened cry against social injustice sounded across the country, members of the Jets and Giants organizations have contemplated their part in the movement.
The Jets were one of the teams that canceled practice after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., in solidarity with the walkout across North American sports leagues last month; the Giants also delayed practice. Leaguewide statements and individual displays are planned, and players from the two New York metropolitan area teams said they hoped to use their platform to bolster awareness.
Players have not ruled out sitting out games in protest, but they think discussions over the next week will solidify what actions will be most impactful. “How far can we take it, what’s another level we can take it to?” Giants running back Saquon Barkley said in a news media call recently.
Without a preseason game pulse check, both teams will rapidly show whether their new courses will hold in a season unlike any other in their players’ lifetimes.
Joe Judge brings a spark to Giants’ new era.
Though Gettleman is the architect of the Giants’ current team, he promised on a call with reporters recently that they would be the Fighting Joe Judges this year.
He is hoping the team adopts the spirit of its first-time head coach, Joe Judge, who was an assistant in New England since 2012 and a staff member at Alabama before his hire in January. In his few weeks of training camp, Judge’s energetic team-building has made people take note.
“He definitely used a couple of profanities every other sentence,” said the Giants’ new defensive back, Logan Ryan, who helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls, adding that the coach was a significant reason for him signing.
Some of Judge’s intensity, preparedness and tactics — like removing players’ names from practice jerseys during training camp — were adopted from Bill Belichick. His most popular antic, though, could not have been less like his mentor. In early September, a video of Judge being hyped by the team to take a mud dive during a fumble drill went viral.
“He’s energetic on the field,” Daniel Jones, the team’s starting quarterback, said. “Guys respond to that.”
It’s a far cry from the team’s temperature in two seasons under Pat Shurmur, who was 9-23, and a positive sign for a guy who was the team’s second choice for head coach after Matt Rhule took the Carolina Panthers job. Judge compensated for his inexperience by adding the former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator. The 2016 Coach of the Year Award winner, Garrett should help Jones, who is in his second season, own the position now that Manning’s 16-year tenure and two Super Bowl wins are officially in the past.
The Giants open their season at MetLife Stadium on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’m looking forward to getting into any stadium we can where there’s people cheering, booing — whatever they’re doing,” Judge said. “It brings a lot of energy and excitement to what we do on Sunday.”
The Jets’ Adam Gase is looking for consistency.
Where Judge’s job is to provide a revitalization, Gase has taken shot after shot for a weak 2019 season from fans and players alike, with the departed safety Jamal Adams questioning whether he was the leader the team needed.
The question was a residual one. After Gase took over the team to start the 2019 season, the Jets had their worst start in 12 years, going 1-7.
But they finished 6-2 the rest of the way, although they averaged 273 yards per game on offense, the league’s worst, leaving everyone to wonder what the team was actually capable of and what they needed to achieve it.
As Gase has said, his lesson from last year has been that no one can control injures. This year begins on the same note: Two receivers who were expected to start in 2020 — Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman — were among those who spent much of training camp in recovery.
“Couple more roster gymnastics, I would say,” Joe Douglas, the team’s general manager, said on Monday.
Injury and sickness are not new to the Jets. Last year, the team’s starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, came down with mononucleosis, which kept him out of three games. Over the remote off-season and the in-person training camp that followed, Gase focused on team meetings, watching tape and, in some cases, shortening practices to prepare for their Week 1 game on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
“We just haven’t been able to really get to do it on the field because we haven’t been healthy yet,” Gase said.
In his second season, Gase has emphasized consistency and routine in the Jets’ dormitory-style training camp, where he said he tried to get players into a rhythm of virus test, practice, repeat. That, and a mostly stable offensive lineup, should be the greatest gift Gase can provide Darnold (despite cutting center Jonotthan Harrison last weekend), who aims to boost his completion percentage from 61.9 percent last year.
“Whatever happens, happens, and obviously we’ll look at the tape, we’ll learn from it just like any other game,” Darnold said. “But for me, we’re just looking forward to going out there and trying to win a football game.”