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Giants training camp: 6 position battles to watch

These could be some of the most interesting battles of training camp

NFL: Player Headshots 2021
Can Shane Lemieux lock down the starting left guard job?
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most fascinating part of training camp and the preseason is the competition between players for available jobs. As the New York Giants get set to open camp on Wednesday, there are a number of competitions to watch. Let’s go through some of them.

Backup wide receivers

We know that Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson will open the season on the 53-man roster, provided that they are healthy. Sterling Shepard, too, if he heals quickly enough from his torn Achilles.

We don’t know who will join them.

Richie James had a good spring and seems to fit the offense. Darius Slayton has speed and a good rapport with quarterback Daniel Jones, but his play has declined since an excellent rookie year.

Collin Johnson, Robert Foster and David Sills are among the other players who could be in the discussion.

Tight end

How this position shakes out is anybody’s guess.

Daniel Bellinger spent most of the spring functioning as the starting tight end, but the rookie fourth-round pick will open camp on the PUP list. If that costs him more than just a few days, it complicates things.

The Giants signed veterans Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins to one-year deals in free agency. Seals-Jones spent much of the spring with the third team, and Akins had little impact in practices open to media. I have said before that it would not surprise me if only one of those two makes the 53-man roster.

There are three intriguing undrafted free agents — Austin Allen, Jeremiah Hall, Andre Miller. At 6-foot-8, Allen is an intriguing target. Miller is a converted wide receiver probably more likely to find his way to the practice squad than the 53-man roster. Hall, though, is the one who might have the best chance of being on the roster Week 1 vs. the Tennessee Titans. He has a hybrid tight end/fullback skill set that might suit a versatile offense where there is no true fullback on the roster.

Offensive line backups

Entering camp, I think there are seven players locked into spots — Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Evan Neal, Joshua Ezeudu, Matt Gono.

Beyond that, who knows? How many linemen will the Giants keep? As few as eight? As many as 10? Who will they be?

Veterans Max Garcia and Jamil Douglas were brought in via free agency. Ben Bredeson was brought in via trade a year ago. Marcus McKethan was drafted in Round 5. They can’t all make the roster.

This might come down to who the Giants most comfortable with as a backup center, and whether or not they believe they can get McKethan through to the practice squad.

Starting left guard

Let’s stick with the offensive line for a minute. Honestly, I’m not sure there is a competition here. Lemieux spent the entire spring as the starting left guard, and both head coach Brian Daboll and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said they both liked him while with the Bills during the 2020 draft process.

If there is going to be a competition, it is probably with Ezeudu. The third-round pick, though, spent much of the spring filling in for the rehabbing Andrew Thomas at left tackle. I don’t recall seeing him take any first-team guard reps. With Thomas expected to be ready for camp, it will be interesting to see if a competition develops at that spot.

Secondary depth spots

Xavier McKinney and Julian Love are your starting safeties. Rookie fourth-round pick Dane Belton is one of the backups. Who else? Jarren Williams? Henry Black? One of the two undrafted free agents — Yusuf Corker or Trenton Thompson?

At cornerback, Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Cor’Dale Flott and probably Darnay Holmes are in. Who joins them? Will the Giants seek cornerback help via free agency or once roster cuts are made?

Starting inside linebacker

Blake Martinez, of course, will anchor the middle of the defense. Provided, of course, everything goes well with his return from a torn ACL.

The second spot? Tae Crowder, the 2020 Mr. Irrelevant, is a terrific story. He seems like a good guy. He has played a far bigger role in his two seasons than could have been anticipated. That, though, doesn’t mean he played well. Or, that his spot next to Martinez is locked down.

The Giants drafted Micah McFadden in the fifth round and Darrian Beavers in the sixth round for a reason. McFadden in particular seems like a player who could threaten to take some of Crowder’s snaps.

It is also worth noting that Cam Brown, an inside linebacker at Penn State who was moved outside by the previous coaching staff, spent some time working inside in the spring. Will that continue in training camp?