Mike Kafka might be wise to add some whipped cream and sprinkles to the typically vanilla preseason game plan.
Like most teams, the Giants will not want to reveal too much to eagle-eyed future opponents Thursday when facing the New England Patriots. But Kafka, a first-time offensive coordinator, simultaneously is trying to impress head coach Brian Daboll and keep play-calling duties in his possession once the regular season begins.
Therein lies a double-edged sword.
“I look at it as an opportunity,” Kafka said. “Everyone out there is working hard to make the team and show that they can build themselves a role. So, I’m looking to do my job to the best of my ability and put the guys in the best position to be successful. There’s a balance.”
The look of an offense crafted in combination by Daboll — the former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator — and Kafka — the former Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach — is the main point of intrigue in the preseason opener. The Bills (28.4) and Chiefs (28.2) ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, in points per game last season, while the Giants ranked No. 31 (15.2).
“Some of it is Dabes, some of it is Kafka,” said receiver Robert Foster, who played under Daboll at Alabama and with the Bills. “They’re different people, but they both come from aggressive teams, so it marinates well.”
Daniel Jones is doing a “phenomenal job” leading and pushing the tempo, Kafka said. No sooner were the words spoken then Jones misfired on 10 of 15 passes and threw two interceptions in Monday’s practice.
“As a quarterback, you’re playing the game through the eyes of a coordinator,” said Kafka, a former NFL journeyman third-stringer who moved into coaching in 2016. “You grow to understand what his intent is as a play-caller and why he’s calling a certain play. Once they get on the same page, I think that’s where you really see things that are special.”
One kink that needs to be worked out is communication. Not just between Jones and the rest of the offense, but also on the headset.
“Sometimes I get excited and amped up and might be a little too high with my volume,” Kafka said of his hurry to get the play to Jones. “I think that’s probably been the biggest thing right now. I’m probably just screaming it too fast, and then all of a sudden it kind of comes out a little too muddled.”
The Giants have spent a lot of practice time drilling red-zone, short-yardage, two-minute and other situations, hoping open collaboration leads them to the same brain wavelength. Kafka should not be thinking “What do I want to call?” versus second-guessing “What would Brian call?”
“This game is all about matchups,” said running back Matt Breida, who played with the Bills. “If we feel like we have a 1-on-1 matchup that’s better with our guy, we’re going to expose it all day. The best thing about this offense is it’s so explosive and you’re going to score a lot.”
The Giants released their first unofficial depth chart Monday and it included four rookie starters (TE Daniel Bellinger, WR Wan’Dale Robinson, RT Evan Neal and OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux).
Other notable placements: TE Ricky Seals-Jones, who has missed eight straight practices, is a fifth-teamer; WR Darius Slayton is a second-teamer ahead of David Sills, C.J. Board and Collin Johnson, all of whom seem higher up in the practice reps rotation; CB Rodarius Williams (ACL recovery) and S Dane Belton (broken collarbone) are second-teamers and OLB Azeez Ojulari (hamstring) is a first-teamer despite not practicing.
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