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7 questions about Giants’ rookies as they begin to report for training camp

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Yes, these are actually football questions

Alabama v Mississippi
Xavier McKinney
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

As Newsday NFL columnist Bob Glauber explained on the Thursday edition of the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, it is likely going to be mid- to late August before we see the New York Giants conduct something akin to a real NFL football practice.

That’s because, having missed all of the spring workouts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be an as-yet undetermined “ramp up” period where players do conditioning before starting full football activities.

Regardless of that, though, rookies have begun to report to the Giants for the first of two rounds of COVID-19 testing they will have to undergo before they can enter the Giants’ facility to take physicals.

With the fact that rookies — along with quarterbacks and rehabbing players — have begun reporting, let’s go through some honest to goodness football questions about the Giants’ 2020 rookie class.

Which side will Andrew Thomas play?

We don’t know for certain as the Giants have not publicly committed to having him at right or left tackle. I believe, however, that as long as Nate Solder is on the roster and in the starting lineup Thomas will be pegged as the team’s right tackle.

With Solder and Thomas as the tackle combo, it is what makes sense. Solder hasn’t been on the right side since he was a rookie in 2011. Thomas played 15 games there as a collegian. From video clips of workouts by Thomas to some of the offseason comments he has made, it has seemed like Thomas has been preparing to play on the right side.

Former Giant Shaun O’Hara told me he believes Thomas should begin his career on the right side. Long-time NFL offensive line coach Paul Alexander echoed that sentiment.

Can Xavier McKinney handle centerfield?

Most reports both before and after the draft have lauded the versatility of the safety the Giants selected 36th overall, but questioned how well he would do if asked to play a heavy dose of single-high safety. Dane Brugler of The Athletic called him an “interchangeable safety” and a player with “functional speed and diagnose skills.”

McKinney ran a 4.63 40-yard dash (27th percentile for safeties) that didn’t help, though he explained it away by saying he ran while cramping.

Of course, what we don’t know yet is how much single-high safety defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will use, and how often McKinney will be aligned in that role when it is called.

Will Matt Peart get his redshirt year?

Everyone you talk to about the third-round pick out of UConn believes he can be a really good NFL right tackle. In time. Just not right now.

Peart’s college coach, Randy Edsall, told me there is “no doubt in my mind” Peart will become a good player if he remains healthy.

“When I was looking at the situation and seeing what the expectations are for the Giants I think this is the perfect situation for Matt. He goes in there, he learns and he ends up whether it’s the second year or the third year he can become a starter. Shoot, I just think he’s going to be ready to go and he continually will get better,” Edsall said.

“I really think that this is an ideal situation. It’s a great situation for him in terms of the progression of where he is in his career.”

Alexander agreed with Edsall:

“You give him a year to get his feet wet, and learn, because he needs some developmental time, but I like Matt Peart,” Alexander said. “The second year you move Thomas over, you move Solder out, you put Peart in there at right tackle and you’ve got a good situation. ...

“He’ll need that year of development and then I think he’ll be ready to go in there and be a good solid right tackle.”

Will the Giants be able to afford Peart that year of learning without playing? On paper, they should be. Solder and Thomas are the likely starters. Veteran swing tackle Cameron Fleming is now a Giant. Nick Gates has shown the ability to function at right tackle. The NFL, though, is a game of attrition and COVID-19 adds an entirely unknown layer to that.

Ideally, Peart gets his redshirt year and competes for a starting job in 2021.

Which Day 3 draft pick is most likely to contribute beyond special teams?

(NOTE: This answers one of several ‘Big Blue View Mailbag questions sent in by Glenn Mausolf)

That’s an easy one for me. Fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes appears to have the best path to early playing time. Holmes could end up as the starting nickel cornerback depending on how the Giants decide to use second-year man Julian Love.

I don’t see a clear path to extensive playing time for any of the other Day 3 draft choices, though injuries and COVID-19 might have other ideas.

Which undrafted free agents will make the roster?

We have discussed this a number of times, and it is a difficult question to answer because we haven’t see any of these guys on the field yet. We won’t see them on the practice field for a few weeks, either, and we know we won’t see them play in any preseason games.

That said, here are my favorites:

  • RB Javon Leake — There is an opening for a backup running back, and the former Maryland Terrapin also has the advantage of having been a dynamic kickoff returner in college. Neither Wayne Gallman nor Jonathan Hilliman offer that skill.
  • WR Austin Mack — The Giants also have undrafted receivers Derrick Dillon and Binjimen Victor competing for spots. My guess is that Mack’s size (6-foot-2, 215), polish and hands give him a leg up.

Will Shane Lemieux make the transition to center?

Eventually, maybe. Probably not, however, in 2020. Former NFL center Brett Romberg and former NFL offensive line coach Paul Alexander both recently detailed the difficulty of trying to move from guard to center as a rookie who has never played it, especially without the benefit of spring practices. [Romberg | Alexander]

Alexander questioned whether or not Lemieux has the physical tools to be an NFL center.

“Lemieux in my mind, who I think was an unbelievably great pick in the fifth round, is a guard. He’s not a center. He’s kind of cumbersome, mauler, not quick and agile like you would expect a center to be,” Alexander said.

Will all four seventh-round draft picks make the initial 53-man roster?

Probably not. Yes, the Giants are a young team with a first-year head coach. It is, however, difficult to foresee all 10 of the team’s 2020 draft picks making the season opening 53-man roster.

Add sixth-round pick Cam Brown and the Giants drafted four linebackers among five selections in the sixth and seventh rounds. Yes, nominally Brown and Carter Coughlin could be considered outside linebackers or edge defenders while T.J. Brunson and Tae Crowder would be inside linebackers. It’s pretty difficult, however, to see the Giants opening the season without at least a couple of those players relegated to the practice squad.

As for defensive back Chris Williamson, with or without DeAndre Baker on the roster, there is a crowd at both cornerback and safety. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the former Minnesota Gopher lands on the practice squad.