The New York Giants wrap up OTAs today with one last practice session at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Let's look at five questions that remain prior to next week's mandatory mini-camp.
Is this the offensive line configuration?
Head coach Tom Coughlin said at the beginning of OTAs that the Giants would "probably try some different combinations" after left tackle Will Beatty suffered a pectoral tear that will keep him out for roughly half the season. So, far, that has not been the case. The Giants opened OTAs with rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle, Justin Pugh at left guard, Weston Richburg at center, Geoff Schwartz at right guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
Throwing the rookie Flowers into the fire at left tackle immediately is, of course, a risk. With the current roster, though, this appears to be the combination the Giants are committed to as their optimal alignment. Could that change? Sure, but the guess here is it won't. Unless there is another injury, or the Giants decide to bring in a veteran player to plug in along the line somewhere.
We know the Giants had veteran offensive tackle Jake Long in for a visit. We know that the 30-year-old Long was at one time a premier left tackle, having gone to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. His last Pro Bowl was 2011, though, and he has suffered torn ACLs in back-to-back years. We don't know what kind of player Long is capable of being, or even if he will be healthy enough to play. We don't know if he has real interest in the Giants, or if they have real interest in him.
We know the Philadelphia Eagles cut 33-year-old guard Evan Mathis on Thursday, and it would seem like a total no-brainer for the Giants to reach out to Mathis and see if he has interest in playing for them. Mathis has spent the last six seasons playing left guard. We don't know if the Giants would be willing to move Justin Pugh back to right tackle, or if Mathis might be willing to play right guard with Geoff Schwartz kicking outside.
Coughlin has said he wanted to see how the Giants got through the spring before making decisions on whether additions were needed along the offensive line. Now that we are almost there, we will see he thinks.
Is safety situation coming into focus?
It has been obvious since Day 1 of OTAs that rookie Landon Collins would be part of the starting combination at safety. With Nat Berhe missing all of OTAs with a calf injury, third-year man Cooper Taylor has leapt well ahead in the competition for the second starting spot.
Taylor has had an injury-riddled first two seasons, so health and depth at safety is a concern.
The other concern remains whether or not the Giants have a real center fielder to protect the back end of the defense. Collins, Berhe and Taylor can all play the deep safety role, but it is not ideal for any of them. All three seem more like attacking, downhill safeties rather than rangy, deep safeties. Mykkele Thompson has the speed, but the rookie fifth-round pick seems destined to play mostly special teams in 2015 as he learns the NFL game.
Enough talent on defense?
It has been fun to watch defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during OTAs the media has had access to, getting on the front line and doing a lot of hands-on teaching. It's been fun to see the Giants try different packages and to begin to develop the scheme Spagnuolo wants to implement.
The question remains, though. Does Spagnuolo have enough talent to work with?
He certainly does not have nearly as much proven talent as he had back in 2007 and 2008 when the Giants had a plethora of pass rushers playing in front of what was largely a group of smart, experienced linebackers and defensive backs.
The 2015 defense? It could have enough talent. It could be really good. It could also be woefully short on quality players, especially if the Giants suffer injuries at linebacker or in the secondary.
Everywhere you look there are questions. Do they have enough pass rushers beyond Jason Pierre-Paul? For that matter, which Pierre-Paul will show up -- if and when he shows up -- this season? Do they have enough at linebacker? What happens if the fragile Jon Beason goes down again? How do they fill in if Prince Amukamara or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie goes down? Will they be OK at safety?
It's an uncertain situation, to say the least.
Hamstrung by Odell's hammy?
How big of a problem is the current hamstring injury Odell Beckham Jr. is dealing with going to be? We know this is the "other" hamstring, not the one that cost the star wide receiver four games last season. We don't know how sever, or how insignificant, the current injury is. We just know that Beckham isn't practicing, that the statements coming from the Giants sound an awful lot like the "it's no big deal, we're just being cautious" kind of statements they were making about Beckham at this point a year ago, and that the team's best player having an injury is worth worrying about.
If all the pieces fall into place the Giants should field a high-powered, high-scoring offense that should be among the best in the league. It might be capable of getting them to the playoffs with just the tiniest bit of help from the defense and special teams.
If Beckham isn't playing, or he isn't really BECKHAM when he is playing, things are different. The Giants have a lot of other nice pieces, especially if Victor Cruz can be productive. Beckham, though, is the game-changer. He's the guy who changes how defenses have to play, and can still change games no matter what they do. This offense can still be good without Beckham. Almost certainly, though, it can't be great.
Are these guys the real deal?
It's impossible to make definitive judgments about players when guys are practicing in shorts and t-shirts with no real contact allowed. Still, we try to figure out which players are standing out and which aren't during these workouts. Three players who stood out during OTAs are wide receiver Corey Washington, tight end Jerome Cunningham and defensive end Kerry Wynn.
We have seen this from Washington before. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound second-year man from Division II Newberry College is rapidly turning into "Mr. Preseason" with the Giants. He had made a number of quality catches during the OTAs, including some matched up with Prince Amukamara, and has gotten a decent number of first-team reps. We saw this from Washington last year, though, when he impressed in training camp and starred in the preseason. If everyone is healthy, though, Washington could end up anywhere from the fourth wide receiver to a guy who doesn't even make the team. As much as many don't want to hear it, because he isn't going to be a starter Washington must prove he can do things other than catch the ball. So far, he is at least saying the right things.
Cunningham is a player we have talked about quite a bit, and talked to during the most recent 'Big Blue Chat' podcast. He made a solid impression a year ago despite a late start and is doing the same this year. Let's see if that continues when the preseason games come along. If it does, perhaps he can find his way onto the roster.
Wynn is probably the most unheralded defensive end on the roster. He forced the Giants to keep him a year ago despite being an undrafted free agent, then excelled at the end of the year when he finally got his chance. He's a two-way player in that he can hold up vs. the run as well as impact the pass rush. Wynn has taken full advantage of Robert Ayers, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Damontre Moore not practing during OTAs. If the season opened this weekend, Wynn would be one of the starting defensive ends.