Mike Kafka might be wise to add some whipped cream and sprinkles to the typically vanilla preseason game plan.
Like most teams, the Giants won’t want to reveal too much to eagle-eyed future opponents on Thursday when they face the New England Patriots. But Kafka, a first-time offensive coordinator, is simultaneously trying to impress head coach Brian Daboll and keep play calling duties in his possession after the regular season begins.
There lies a double-edged sword.
“I look at it as an opportunity,” Kafka said. “Everybody out there is working hard to make the team and show they can carve a role for themselves. So, I’m looking to do my job to the best of my ability and put the kids in the best position to be successful. It’s a balance.”
The look of offense created in a combination of Daboll – the former offensive coordinator of Buffalo Bill – and Kafka – the former Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach — is the main plot point 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 quarterback Robert Foster, who played under Daboll at Alabama and with the Bills. “They are different people, but they both come from aggressive teams, so it marinates well.”
Daniel Jones does a “phenomenal job” of leading and pushing the tempo, Kafka said. No sooner were the words spoken than Jones misfired on 10 of 15 passes and threw two interceptions in Monday’s practice.
“As a quarterback, you play the game through the eyes of a coordinator,” said Kafka, a former NFL journeyman third-stringer who moved into coaching in 2016. “You get 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 maybe a little too loud with my volume,” Kafka said of his rush to bring the play to Jones. “I think that was probably the biggest thing right now. I’m probably just shouting it too fast, and then all of a sudden it comes out a little too confusing.”
The Giants spent a lot of practice time drilling red zone, short-yardage, two-minute and other situations, hoping that open cooperation gets them on the same brain wavelength. Kafka should not think “What do I want to call?” vs. second guessing “What would Brian call?”
“This game is about parties,” 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’ll expose it all day long. The best thing about this offense is that it’s so explosive and you’re going to score a lot.”
The Giants released their first unofficial depth chart on 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, CJ Board and Collin Johnson, who all seem higher in the practice rep 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.