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Mini-camp preview: What to watch for during Giants’ practices this week

Team set to hold three mandatory practices

NFL: New York Giants-OTA
Safety Michael Thomas catches a ball during OTAs.
Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants hold their mandatory mini-camp this week, June 12-14. That will be the final time they are together as a team until training camp. The storylines to follow are pretty similar to what we have been tracking during the voluntary offseason program, but let’s go through them.

Odell Beckham Jr.

You know the drill. The primary question is will Beckham, who wants a new contract and probably won’t be cleared to much on the field anyway, be in attendance? The answer appears to be yes.

Beckham has, to this point, done everything he can to show GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur that he wants to work with them. Showing up for much of the voluntary offseason program was a show of good faith. Likewise, Shurmur appears to be doing as much as he can to keep a line of communication open with Beckham. Shurmur told Bruce Beck on NBC’s ‘Sports Final’ that the Giants have “been keeping track (of) his workouts and his rehab” when Beckham has been away from the team.

Does all of that mean the organization is ready to hand Beckham a massive contract, most likely the richest ever for a wide receiver? Maybe not.

The missing piece of the puzzle is seeing what a healthy Beckham can do on the field. Is he the same explosive, game-changing player he was before fracturing his ankle last season? Shurmur said last week that Beckham was “pretty close” to being fully cleared by doctors.

The popular belief right now is that if Beckham gets a new deal in 2018 it won’t come until the Giants have seen him in game action. That — probably — means until at some point during the regular season. That theory does have merit. It would make sense to be sure Beckham is the same player he was pre-injury before giving him a massive contract.

The Giants could, of course, wait until 2019. Beckham is under contract to play 2018 on his $8.459 million fifth-year option.

For this week, though, the important part of the story is that it looks like Beckham will be in attendance at the mini-camp.

Injury updates

At the risk of being a jinx, the Giants got through the voluntary portion of the offseason without any major injuries. Other NFL teams weren’t so fortunate. The Giants, though, do have some injuries to check in on.

Beckham’s is one. When he did attend OTAs, Beckham did individual drills and some running but did not participate in team drills. Landon Collins participated in the final few OTAs in a limited fashion just a few weeks after his second forearm surgery. Both star players should be limited participants in the mini-camp. It simply makes no sense to push them now, whether they are fully cleared or not.

Two players did not participate in OTAs. Rookie defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh was held out of practices with an unknown medical condition. Second-year man Avery Moss also did not participate in any practices that were open to media. The reason is unknown.

Position battles to watch

Players can’t necessarily win or lose a spot during the spring, but they can go a long way toward determining the eventual outcome.

“Even though this (OTAs) is non-contact, there’s blocking and guys fitting up blocks so you try to minimize any kind of contact that you have but really once the season gets going there’s many, many practices where we don’t have pads on and so you practice the same way,” Shurmur said last week. “You gotta be really fast, you gotta talk about body position, you gotta talk about moving their feet. We can still see all that. ...

“You hold the final analysis really on all football players until you’re playing true football. The competitive situations in pads can give us the last piece of the puzzle.”

A few position battles of note:

  • Offensive lineEreck Flowers took all the first-team reps at right tackle during OTAs that were open to media. The interesting competition is at center between Brett Jones and Jon Halapio. Will Hernandez, Patrick Omameh and John Greco have been rotating first-team guard reps. Hernandez (LG) and Omameh (RG) are the likely starters.
  • Tight end — Beyond Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison, the Giants have several players in a fight for eventual roster spots. Jerell Adams, Kyle Cater, Ryan O’Malley, newly-signed Garrett Dickerson and even fullback Shane Smith.
  • Wide receiver — The Giants appear intent on using a lot of two-tight end sets with only two wide receivers on the field. Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer are roster locks. Beyond them, wide receiver/kick returner Hunter Sharp has had a good spring.
  • Cornerback — Beyond Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and William Gay who ultimately makes the roster is anyone’s guess.
  • Safety — Who plays next to Landon Collins? Will it be Darian Thompson? Andrew Adams? Michael Thomas? Someone else? This one may take a while to sort out.
  • Punter — The Giants have set up a competition between Riley Dixon and Taylor Symmark. We get our first look at the newly-acquired Symmark this week.