Former Cleveland Browns coach Freddie Kitchens handled the role against the Eagles after Jason Garrett was fired last week, and he's going to have the headset Sunday when the Giants (4-7) visit the Dolphins (5-7) to kick off a two-game road trip.
While the Giants were limited to 264 yards in a 13-7 win over Philadelphia, Kitchens felt the play calling went smoothly.
One distinct change was seeing quarterback Daniel Jones wearing a wristband for the first time in his three NFL seasons. It allows Kitchens to say a number over his headset and Jones just looks at a corresponding play on the wristband. The quarterback calls the play, gets the team out of the huddle quickly, then he has more time to look at the defense and change the call, if necessary.
“I think he saw the benefits of it,” Kitchens said Thursday in handling the offensive coordinator's responsibility with the media. “Everywhere I’ve always been, I think they do it around the league a lot, you see quarterbacks with wristbands. It helps the communication process, but it’s just like any other thing, you’ve got to practice that as well.”
Other than that, Kitchens said not much has changed. The staff got together and collaborated on the game plan. He talked to the players and got their opinions on what they liked.
“To me, why would you call something, and this is the way our staff believes, why would you call something if a player’s not comfortable running it?” Kitchens said. “It’s your job to get them comfortable running it. If you think it’s a good scheme or a good play or whatever the case may be, it’s your job to get them comfortable doing it. But if you can’t get them to that point, it’s kind of diminishing returns.”
One noticeable change involved receiver Kenny Golladay, who signed a $72 million as a free agent in the offseason, and got seven targets last weekend. He had two against the Buccaneers, the game that was Garrett's last as coordinator.
“I still only had three catches,” said Golladay, who has not scored a touchdown this season. “I wish I would’ve brought a couple more of those down.”
Running back Saquon Barkley downplayed targets and carries and said the focus should be on winning.
“As the season goes on and all the offensive guys get together, probably a little more wrinkles are going to come in,” Barkley said. “We’ve just got to come out in practice, run the plays, execute the plays in practice, and then when they’re called in the game, make it work.”
Kitchens started this week with concerns about Jones, who strained his neck against the Eagles when he was hit at the end of a running play early. He practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday, and it appears he is feeling better.
Judge said Thursday that Jones has not been cleared to play by the team's medical personnel, but he would be willing to wait until the day of the game before making a final decision.
“I expect Daniel to come out ... and practice and I fully expect it to be just like regular old times,” Kitchens said.
If Jones can't play, veteran Mike Glennon would get his first start of the season. Jones is a better runner than Glennon, but both men are experienced.
“I don’t see anything changing,” Kitchens said. “We’re going to prepare like we prepare every week and whoever’s there on Sunday, that’s who we’re playing with."
Kitchens might have a few more players available this weekend. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (quad) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) returned to practice Thursday. Shepard has missed the last six games. Rudolph missed the Eagles game. Receiver Kadarius Toney (quad) has not practiced this week and the first-round pick is likely to miss his second straight game.
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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press