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Five things I think I think: Why New York Giants fans should have a good summer

There are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic while you work on your tan and wait for training camp

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are on their “prep-cation,” and yes, we are going to keep using that Ben McAdoo-coined word until you are sick of it. Or, until the “prep-cation” ends. Anyway, with the Giants scattered for the summer and fans anxiously awaiting training camp let’s use a “Five things I think I think” approach to give you reasons to have a happy summer waiting for Giants football to return.

An exciting rookie class

GM Jerry Reese always says he hopes to see the team’s top three draft picks quickly become significant contributors. Whether because of injuries, picking the wrong players or the coaching staff at times preferring an established player, Reese has rarely gotten his wish. This time, though, he might just have given rookie coach Ben McAdoo a trio of players who could make that wish come true.

  • First-round pick Eli Apple worked consistently as one of the top three corners all spring. Whether it is in the slot or on the outside, Apple appears ticketed for a lot of playing time. I can hear the screaming when Apple gets called for holding penalties, because there will be flags. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said he is constantly reminding Apple that he won’t get away with “the grabbing and tugging and some of that stuff.” Apple, though, is a 21-year-old who should continue to get better.
  • Second-round pick Sterling Shepard has had pretty much everyone frothing at the mouth all spring. There were four wide receivers taken in the first round, with Shepard being the first receiver off the board in Round 2. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said Shepard “a young man that has demonstrated a suddenness, an explosiveness, an ability to make contested catches, to separate from defenders.” Whether Victor Cruz makes it back or not, Shepard is likely going to be a big part of the Gianst’ offense.
  • Third-round pick Darian Thompson has impressed since rookie camp with his willingness to communicate and make calls from the free safety spot. He has also shown a nose for the ball. Thompson is competing with Nat Berhe and, whether he starts or not, figures to see extensive playing time.

We don’t know yet what the Giants might get from fourth-round pick B.J. Goodson, fifth-round pick Paul Perkins, sixth-rounder Jerell Adams or any of a handful of undrafted free agents in competition for roster spots. So far, so good, however, with the top three picks.

No major offseason injuries

For the first time since the 2011 season, the Giants got through offseason workouts without a major season-ending or season-altering injury. In case you have forgotten, with an assist from Pat Traina during our most recent “Big Blue Chat” podcast, here is the list.

  • 2012: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks breaks his foot. He has never been the same player since.
  • 2013: Fullback Henry Hynoski misses the entire spring, training camp and the preseason after injuring a knee at the beginning of OTAs. He plays in only three games before a shoulder injury lands him on IR.
  • 2014: Jon Beason suffers a foot injury in OTAs. Beason is never able to get completely healthy and plays only four games before going on IR.
  • 2015: Will Beatty suffers a torn pectoral while lifting weights at the team facility. He missed the entire season.

There have been players nicked up. J.T. Thomas, Montori Hughes, Cooper Taylor, Ryan Seymour, Orleans Darkwa and Nat Berhe all sat out OTAs. None, though, appears to have a major injury.

Of course, the Giants also dealt last season with Jason Pierre-Paul and his Fourth of July fireworks fiasco. They will hope nothing like that happens this offseason, or ever again. The team, though, has no control over what players do between now and the beginning of training camp.

All in all, though, a much better start health-wise for the Giants in 2016 than they have experienced in several years.

The defense has to be better

By itself, that statement says absolutely nothing. The Giants had the worst defense in football last year. After spending $114 million in guaranteed money in free agency, then using three of their first four draft picks on defense, how can it not be better?

Will the defense be championship caliber? Probably not, but there is better talent at every position except linebacker. Even there, at least there are an increased number of options. For me, the big question will still be pass rush. Can Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon provide it? More importantly, who will help them?

As things stand, though, Giants fans should feel much better about the defense than they did a year ago.

The head-coaching shoe fits Ben McAdoo

When the Giants chose the 38-year-old McAdoo to succeed Tom Coughlin it was fair to wonder if, after only two seasons as an offensive coordinator, he was ready for the top job. At his introductory press conference, McAdoo said he had “been groomed for this opportunity by Super Bowl winning coaches, players and organizations.”

McAdoo has been unafraid to be himself, following through on his promise to be “comfortable in my own skin.” He has changed the schedule, changed the practice routine, changed the coaching staff and made countless other small changes, some you can see walking around the Giants’ practice facility and some we may never really know.

There was an exciting, fresh vibe around the Giants during the spring. Will it lead to more victories? That, we don’t know. What we do know, though, is that McAdoo is certainly comfortable running his own show.

Training camp and preseason should be fun

“Jerry (Reese) and his staff have put together a group of guys that can compete against each other. I think that any time guys know that there is competition and are being pushed, I think that everyone gets better, so that is a good thing.”

That is Spagnuolo talking about the defense. He could, however, be talking about the entire roster.

On defense, there are young players vying for reserve roles on the line and in the secondary. There is a nice competition between Berhe and Thompson at safety. There is an intriguing young undrafted corner in Donte Deayon pressing for a roster spot. There are more veteran linebackers than the Giants can use competing for a place on the team.

On offense, there is intrigue and talent at running back, tight end and wide receiver. There is still the conundrum of how to align the offensive line, and to figure out who the backups will be. There might even be a third quarterback in the roster mix.

All of that should make for a fun few weeks seeing how the Giants decide to shape the roster.