Back to football. Glorious. Training camp is in full swing and we're underway with the preseason. Hope is in the air and preseason heroes and villains are already taking shape. Sterling Shepard is the belle of the ball and Andre Williams is this year's Markus Kuhn. Before we get into the matchup against Miami, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on how training camp has gone so far.
I haven't had a chance to visit training camp this year. It's usually an annual occurrence for me, so that's sad. My information comes from the myriad of reporters there, whether it be Jordan Raanan at ESPN, the fellas over at NJ.com, and of course, our very own Ed Valentine and Chris Pflum over at BBV (which I still read EVERY article, by the way). One quick shoutout as well to Emory Hunt, who has been covering the Giants at Football Gameplan. His videos have a TON of highlights/practice plays from every practice, so you can take a good look for yourself at how some of our players are doing. Given this information, here's 20 or so odd thoughts that have been running through my head:
1) I expect Eli Manning to record franchise shattering numbers this year. Typically, these things come in threes, and it's the third year for Manning in Ben McAdoo's system. Combine that with his performances in practice and he looks totally locked in. A goofy exterior that hides a cold-blooded assassin, Eli is coming.
2) The rookie that I'm most impressed by is not Sterling Shepard or Darian Thompson. It's Eli Apple. Is he a starter? No. Who would be when your top two corners are Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? All Apple has done is come in and held his own at the toughest non-QB position in the league for rookies. Sure, we see highlights of Odell Beckham torching Apple, but c'mon.... who doesn't Odell torch? Eli, in every clip I've seen has shown good technique, good strength, and good athleticism. His grabbiness has decreased and he's looking like a more nuanced player than in college.
3) The rookie that I'm most disappointed in is Jerell Adams. Let me say that it's way too early (duh), but this is a position that was wide open coming in and he was one that I had personally been looking for as early as the fifth round. He has all the makings of a very good two-way tight end, but perhaps he needs a year or two on the practice squad to try and fulfill that.
4) Much like Rueben Randle (who is killing it apparently in Philly's training camp), Larry Donnell always puts on a show in August. I want to see how he does when the lights come on. Too many mistakes during the regular season, but if he comes in and fixes those mental mistakes, a combo of Donnell-Tye is another explosive weapon for Manning.
5) My vote for biggest surprise/biggest impact is Owamagbe Odighizuwa. He's simply too explosive and too powerful not to make a splash if he stays healthy. A year under his belt and without any health restrictions and he can perhaps show us exactly what made him such a hyped up prospect. If not as a defensive end, he can certainly make waves as a DT in that "Four Aces" package that Spags likes.
6) Odell Beckham is the best player in the NFC East.
7) Every time I hear Andre Willliams' name mentioned, it is how he gets stopped in the backfield. He's the tenuous No. 2 right now, but in year 3 there's going to be more than a critical eye towards him. Pat Traina's article a few days back had Jonathan Casillas mention that the most surprising player in training camp was Paul Perkins. Watch out, Andre.
8) Iron sharpens iron. Nothing has gotten me more excited than looking at some of these matchups: Odell Beckham vs. Janoris Jenkins. Damon Harrison vs. Weston Richburg. Eli Apple vs. Sterling Shepard. This is fun.
9) Olivier Vernon is the worst type of defensive end for Ereck Flowers. and that's a good thing. Vernon is a pure leverage player. He's shorter than your average defensive end at 6-foot-2, and he's got tremendous burst. If you have technique lapses, you're going to get whipped. This should hopefully serve as some kind of motivation/teaching tool.
10) Speaking of Flowers, I will be watching him a lot. Everybody speaks to his athleticism, but it's completely wasted if you don't use it right. Markus Kuhn is a 300-pounder who has a 35-inch vertical, clearly showed that athleticism while he was here (/sarcasm). What good is Flowers' 80 bazillion bench press reps if he can't time or land his punch consistently? What good is his wide body and lower body power if he negates that by lunging at speed rushers? What good is his foot speed if his base is too wide or too narrow for him to move properly? The grace period he's had as a rookie is over. It's time to show something.
11) I want to see teams try and rush against the New York Giants this year. A lineup of Johnathan Hankins and Snacks Harrison inside with Jason Pierre-Paul and Vernon outside should make it easy for the linebacking corps to come up and handle the run game. I am not scared of that Cowboys OL after seeing Hankins and Snacks together in practice.
12) Speaking of the linebacking corps, you hope and pray that Devon Kennard and Keenan Robinson, both oft-injured, stay healthy. They are the lynchpins of that group, with Kennard providing the pass rush and Robinson with the coverage. Jasper Brinkley and Kelvin Sheppard are capable of banging inside against the run in the middle spot. I don't see any room for Mark Herzlich on this team as of right now.
13) I think at some point this season, if not to start the season, Geremy Davis will start opposite Odell Beckham. He's got size and he's shown that he's got the ability to create separation at the catch point, if not anywhere else on the route. And that's okay. The common thread between Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Davis? They don't have drops. Davis especially has shown the ability to be a big target down the field.
14) Donte Deayon has to make this team. He doesn't look as dimunitive as his measurements suggest and he's just got a knack for the ball like his teammate at Boise State and current Giant starting free safety Darian Thompson. He's quick and he's aggressive. The Giants need more of that.
15) Deayon should be joined by two other undrafted free agents, one of them being Greg Milhouse. The Giants need a penetrator on that defensive front. They've got their two hogs and Jay Bromley has been middling in his attempts to single gap rush. Milhouse can be that stressor along the defensive front, especially if Big Hank or Snacks take up two blockers.
16) The third UDFA should be either Roger Lewis or Darius Powe. I'm honestly not sure who. If the Giants prefer size, Powe would be the answer. Lewis has apparently been slightly more impressive in practice. The preseason games will determine this and it's one of the fiercest battles on this roster.
17) Victor Cruz. Is this the end? After seeing what happened to Hakeem Nicks, I don't think my heart could take it.
18) I don't know if it's Ben McAdoo or if it's this new strength and conditioning coach or if it's just the Football Gods having some form of mercy, but that issue that we will not mention that has crushed this team over the past few years hasn't reared it's ugly head...yet. Let's hope and pray.
19) Speaking of Ben McAdoo, all reports are that the players have bought in. That's all you can hope for at this point. It remains to be seen if he'll FUBAR this thing during the regular season, but the stage doesn't look too big for him and that's reassuring.
20) Lastly, when the Giants go up against Miami, give me one solid opening touchdown drive by the offense and a three-and-out on defense and get the starters the hell out of there.
Invictus XI's 53 Man Roster (Starters in italics)
This is who I'd pick as my top 53 players. Not necessarily a prediction.
QB (2): Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib
RB (4): Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins, Orleans Darkwa
TE (3): Will Tye, Larry Donnell, Will Johnson
X-WR (2): Odell Beckham Jr., Roger Lewis
Y-WR (2): Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz
Z-WR (2): Geremy Davis, Dwayne Harris
LT (2): Ereck Flowers, Byron Stingily
LG (2): Justin Pugh, Adam Gettis
C (2): Weston Richburg, Shane McDermott
RG (1): John Jerry
RT (2): Marshall Newhouse, Bobby Hart
RDE (2): Olivier Vernon, Owamagbe Odighizuwa
RDT (2): Johnathan Hankins, Greg Milhouse
LDT (2): Damon Harrison, Jay Bromley
LDE (2): Jason Pierre-Paul, Kerry Wynn
SLB (1): Devon Kennard
MLB (3): Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard, B.J. Goodson
WLB (3): Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Casillas, J.T. Thomas
RCB (2): Janoris Jenkins, Trevin Wade
SCB (2): Leon Hall, Donte Deayon
LCB (2): Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple
SS (2): Landon Collins, Nat Berhe
FS (3): Darian Thompson, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson
Special Teams (3)
K (1): Josh Brown
P (1): Brad Wing
LS (1): Zak DeOssie