The New York Giants report to training camp Thursday morning, with practice commencing Friday. From the start there will be battles for roster or starting spots at every position group.
The Giants have built a roster that has them in the conversation as a contender in the NFC, but they are still largely young and have a number of openings for players that can prove themselves.
Competition is supposed to bring out the best in players, so let’s take a look at what promise to be some of the best competitions in camp this year.
At least on paper the top of the Giants’ receiving corps is set and stacked with talent. Between Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall, many outlets are already predicting that the Giants’ could have the best group of receivers in the league.
But the intrigue starts just after the Big 3. Dwayne Harris’ special teams acumen, incredible toughness, and ability to be a solid (if not spectacular) receiver make him a likely lock for the fourth roster spot.
However, there are four players vying for the final two roster spots — or perhaps even a single spot.
Former UDFA Roger Lewis flashed in his rookie season, and showed promise on special teams (an area he told me he is concentrating on improving). Likewise, journeyman
Tavarres King showed an understated reliability off the bench and deep speed that the Giants don’t have elsewhere.
Darius Powe, who spent last year on the Giants’ practice squad, has impressive measurables that combine 4.4 speed with a big (6’3”, 230-pound) frame will have had a year to hone his craft and potentially put his physical ability to work.
Joining them in the battle is Travis Rudolph, UDFA rookie from Florida State. Rudolph doesn’t have elite measurables, but he is a crisp route runner who can make thing happen after the catch.
While the Giants’ top receiving options are sure to make highlight reel worthy catches, the dog fight at the back end of the depth chart should be fun to watch.
Like receiver, the top of the tight end depth chart is basically set with rookie Evan Engram and veteran free agent Rhett Ellison.
Behind them, however are three players battling for one (or two) roster spots.
Will Tye was the starter last year but couldn’t build on a strong 2015 campaign. He will get another chance to prove that he belongs. There has been some speculation that Tye could be traded at some point.
Matt LaCosse, a third-year player out of Illinois, missed most of the first two seasons of his career with injuries, but the Giants like him enough to give him another chance, and he has been one of the stars of the 2017 off-season. LaCosse will not only need to beat out the other tight ends, but also prove that he can stay healthy so he can contribute when called upon.
Finally Jerell Adams is entering his sophomore season and could make a big jump. Former Giants’ linebacker Carl Banks projects Adams to be the “sleeper” of camp who could surprise and take a larger role for himself after a rookie season in which he was rarely on the field. Adams came out of South Carolina as blocking tight end, special teams contributor, and generally a raw project on offense. However, he has impressive physical upside and was Alabama tight end (and draft crush of many) O.J. Howard’s closest physical comparison via Mock Draftable.
Nobody is going to be unseating Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon at the top of the depth chart, but behind them the Giants have nothing but uncertainty.
Romeo Okwara has terrific size and athleticism and seems like a veritable lock to make the roster. However, his best (and by far most memorable) game was against the now-retired Doug Free. Against other tackles he did not produce much (six tackles, one sack in four games) and will need to prove himself once again this summer.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa should be the Giants’ third defensive end and a major contributor, but he has yet to play up to his prodigious potential. He has also been absent from most of the off-season program as he dealt with personal issues. Obviously his personal well being, and that of his family is of paramount importance, but this will also be fighting for a roster spot.
Kerry Wynn has been a steady and unspectacular contributor to the Giants’ defense for years, but he might need to show more than hustle and motor in run defense to stay on the roster. Wynn has little in the way of pass rush upside, and always seemed like an awkward fit in the Giants’ 4-3 defense.
Free agent acquisition Devin Taylor is a recent and intriguing addition to the defensive end depth chart. At 6’7” (36-inch arms), 270 pounds and dripping with athletic upside, but has yet to fully realize it on the field. He will get his chance to show that he belongs, and if he can get his athletic ability to translate to the field, he will be difficult to beat out for a roster spot.
The Giants reportedly like rookie Avery Moss. With long arms and obvious power he fits their archetype for defensive ends and he managed to produce despite consistently facing double teams at Youngstown State.
Top Defensive Camp Battle To Watch - Safety
The safety position looks to be the one to watch on the defensive side of the ball. With only one starting position locked up (Landon Collins) there is both a battle for the second starting spot, but also down the depth chart.
Andrew Adams, the undrafted rookie who emerged from the practice squad to stabilize the back end of the Giants defense after injuries claimed Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe. Thompson, however, will be fighting to reclaim the starting job he won out of training camp last year. It will be fascinating to see if Adams’ experience will help him hold off Thompson, who has fans among the coaches for his football IQ, communications skill, leadership, and ceiling. Either way, whoever doesn’t win will still be playing plenty of snaps as the Number Three safety.
Nat Berhe will be in a dog fight of his own to hang on to a roster spot. He is facing free agent additions Duke Ihenacho who has starting experience, and Eric Pinkins who brings a rare blend of size and athleticism that has seen him practice as everything from corner to linebacker this spring.
The Giants also brought in UDFA safety Jadar Johnson from Clemson, who was a play-maker on the back end for Clemson’s championship defense. Only a one year starter in college, he might yet be a player to watch over the next month.
Top Offensive Camp Battle To Watch - Right Guard
This is probably the top battle on the entire roster. The general feeling is that the Giants will go as far as their offensive line will allow — though that sentiment is usually reserved for their young offensive tackles.
The battle, however, is at the right guard position between incumbent starter John Jerry and free agent addition D.J. Fluker.
This off-season the Giants signed Jerry to a relatively sizable 3-year, $10-million contract. That investment, though not in line with the big money being tossed around to other free agents, suggest that they view him as a valuable piece going forward. But at the same time they signed Fluker to a 1-year, $3-million contract to compete for the right guard job. Both players have worked hard this off-season to better themselves and bring their best to the competition.
John Jerry returned to LeCharles Bentley’s offensive line training center, which helped him improve the second step in his run blocking in 2016. Fluker, meanwhile, has been working with Duke Manyweather and has talked about a change of mindset and renewed work ethic since leaving the Chargers for the Giants.
Fluker (26) has a definite age advantage over Jerry (31), and the Giants are likely hoping that he can seize the starting job and become a reliable piece of their line for years to come. However, they will pick whichever player wins the competition and gives the team the best chance to succeed this year.