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Five things I think I think: What we can learn about the Giants this week

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First full week of training camp should help answer some questions

NFL: New York Giants-Training Camp
Kerry Wynn, left, and Olivier Vernon watch practice.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants turn a corner in their 2016 training camp this week. They are expected to work in full pads Tuesday for the first time, and will practice for five consecutive days at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. We should begin to see some real trends emerge this week in various position battles and, with physical play ramped up, get some clarity on the readiness of both lines.

Let’s use our Tuesday “Five things I think I think” format to look at five things I’m really looking forward to learning this week. That, of course, in addition to looking forward to as many trips to New Jersey as my aching back will allow.

I think we’ll learn a lot about the revised defense

When players are in shorts and t-shirts with no contact, or as little contact as possible, allowed it is virtually impossible to get a read on defensive play. Maybe you can judge corners and safeties a bit in coverage. But, the front seven? You can’t really learn a whole lot.

That changes when pads come on. Damon Harrison and J.T. Thomas are on PUP, but other than that we will get a glimpse the next few days of the Giants’ revamped defensive front. After all the money the Giants spent in free agency, not to mention using three of their first four draft picks on defense, it’s a group that should be much better than last season. We should see an indication of that over the next few days.

I think the edges of both lines bear watching

I’m fascinated by the thought of watching Olivier Vernon work all out for the first time. I’m even more fascinated to see second-year left tackle Ereck Flowers try to contain him. Vernon, I am absolutely certain, will take Flowers to school on occasion. Working against one of the best defensive ends in the game every day has to be a good thing for Flowers, though, and a few intense days of padded work should give us an idea how much progress Flowers has made.

On the other side, GM Jerry Reese was all kinds of fired up Sunday about what the Giants have seen from Jason Pierre-Paul. If JPP is as much of a beast as Reese believes he is, right tackle Marshall Newhouse could be in for a rough time. The Giants won’t be tackling, so we won’t learn for sure if Pierre-Paul can make stops with his damaged right hand, but we’ll get an idea what he’s got in the tank.

There are also the second-year guys, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and offensive lineman Bobby Hart. Padded practices will give a glimpse of their progress, as well.

I think the middle linebacker muddle might clarify

The Giants have veterans Jasper Brinkley, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard, along with rookie fourth-round pick B.J. Goodson competing for the middle linebacker job. Most indications have been that Brinkley, based mostly on having been in Steve Spagnuolo’s system last season, has the early lead.

“Jasper has a little bit of an advantage. It’s his second year in the system,” McAdoo said at the end of mandatory minicamp. “Again, we’re running around — communication is a big part of things at that position, leadership is a big part of things at that position — but at the end of the day, it’s tough to make a decision on middle linebacker without pads on. That’s a big part of it.”

The last time defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spoke to the media was also during minicamp, and he also expressed interest in seeing what happened with pads on.

“There is a lot of competition there, so I think they are all getting better. All of the defensive spots, you find out most when you put the pads on and that one especially.,” Spagnuolo said. “The guys that are going to play down hill, the guys that are going to play physical, the guys that are going to be playing with their pads and punching, pressing, so there is a little bit further to go there and that hasn’t really ironed itself out as far as who is playing where, who is starting, who is one and who is two and that is going to be an interesting battle in training camp.”

I think tight end is a position to watch

The competition for roster spots at tight end, and by extension the effort by fullback Nikita Whitlock to keep his job, is perhaps the best of camp. Ramped-up physicality, where tight ends have to throw real blocks and work their way off the line of scrimmage in pass routes, will give us some hints on who has an advantage here.

I think I want to see Greg Milhouse

MIlhouse, the first player from Campbell to sign an NFL contract, has been generating buzz as he works with the first team defense in the absences of Harrison and Jay Bromley .

I know Chris loves the kid. So, too, does Dave-Te’ Thomas of The NFL Draft Report. The Giants have been impressed, too.

“He’s doing a nice job. He’s flashing,” McAdoo said after Sunday’s practice. “He works at it mentally in the classroom and technically he’s trying to do things the right way and do what we’re asking him to do. It’s important to him.”

Truthfully, the Giants’ options beyond Harrison and Johnathan Hankins are pretty underwhelming. Let’s see if this kid can take advantage of the opening that has presented itself.