EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Every day at practice, when the New York Giants break off into team drills, Kyle Lauletta huddles with some practice squad and bottom-of-the-roster players. The rookie out of Richmond spends a majority of practice as quarterback of the scout team, almost never taking snaps with the starting offense.
Even if Lauletta doesn’t view it that way, pretending to be Cam Newton or Blake Bortles or whoever the opposing quarterback might be and running other teams’ plays, can be a thankless job. He looks at it as if he’s competing on a daily basis against the Giants’ starting defense, trying to show the coaches they selected a promising young quarterback with a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft.
“It’s kind of like you get this little competitive edge in you. ‘Let’s complete a couple [passes],'” Lauletta said of his mindset. “Once you get a couple completions, guys are like, ‘Let’s keep going.’”
Those are considered the successful practices these days. It’s not an easy job when the defense sometimes knows the play you’re going to run, and Lauletta’s target has been predetermined. But this is his current job, and he’s trying to make the best of it.
Lauletta often stays on the field afterward to work on the throws he didn’t get to make with the Giants' offense. This might more appropriately prepare him for what is next.
Lauletta is likely next in line should the Giants change starting quarterbacks. The team likes his ability to lead and raves about his instincts, while teammates think he has “it.” They have been impressed by the way the rookie operates and handles himself in the huddle and outside the pocket.
The first six weeks of the season, Lauletta has stood on the sideline on game days in street clothes, while Alex Tanney has served as the backup. But Tanney is a 30-year-old journeyman with one game of NFL experience. If the Giants start looking at the future, it would be logical for them to begin with Lauletta rather than Tanney. This front office thought highly of Lauletta entering the draft. That was only reinforced by what they saw this summer, when they essentially chose Lauletta over last year’s third-round pick, Davis Webb.
For now, the Giants maintain they are sticking with Eli Manning.
“We believe in Eli,” coach Pat Shurmur said the day after a 34-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
He later added: "Listen, we're not talking about a quarterback change yet.”
The key word might be “yet.” The Giants play Monday night in Atlanta before hosting the Washington Redskins before their bye week. If they continue with their offensive incompetence (27th in the NFL at 19.5 points per game), it will be hard for Shurmur to maintain the locker room. Playing a quarterback who can at least extend plays and maneuver around the pocket behind a leaky offensive line might be the only way to go.
“[Lauletta] makes some good throws. He’s a good energy guy, too,” tight end Evan Engram said. “He’s always out there smiling and jumping around. Just seeing him out there and taking pride and doing scout-team reps and trying to help our defense as much as possible, it’s good to see in a young guy, especially a young quarterback.”
Players insist that they can tell what a player is all about, even if he's running with the scout team. On multiple occasions, wide receiver Sterling Shepard has told the story of how a quarterback at Oklahoma named Baker Mayfield once caught his eye. Mayfield had just arrived in Norman and was running the scout team along with talented but troubled wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. That combination was lighting up the Sooners’ first-team defense.
It hasn’t been quite to that degree with the Giants, but Lauletta has flashed at times.
“He’s not afraid to throw the ball, and he’s good,” said cornerback B.W. Webb, who faces the rookie most days at practice.
Lauletta thought Tuesday was one of his better days at practice. He completed a bunch of passes while pretending to be Atlanta’s Matt Ryan to prepare the defense for Monday night.
That isn't quite the same as proving it in a game. That will be the true test for Lauletta this season -- if it happens.
“You have to get them in live reps in the game. He had some good moments in the preseason. So you’re definitely able to see a little bit there, but you can’t really ... you can tell how a guy plays and his skill set in practice. He has a lot of good tools,” Engram said. “But definitely being out live, game time, that is really when you can see what a player is about with their production.”
Until the opportunity arises, Lauletta remains a promising projection.