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Six (potential) sleepers to watch in Giants training camp

Which players could make the most of their opportunities this summer?

New York Giants Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The New York Giants offseason is almost over, and the full start of training camp is fast approaching.

While hopes are rising regarding the Giants, nobody is quite sure what to make of the team for 2022. Part of that is due to the fact that we don’t yet know what the new coaching staff’s vision for the team is, nor how the current roster will fit into their schemes. The other part is due to the fact that the Giants have a relatively young roster with relatively few settled positions.

Together, that creates a bunch of opportunities for under-the-radar players to step up and force their way onto the final roster or seize bigger roles for themselves. There are sure to be a lot of camp battles at just about every position this year, so which players are “sleepers” who could surprise over the next few weeks?

Carter Coughlin

Coughlin has slipped off the radar for many Giants fans. An undersized (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) EDGE out of Minnesota, Coughlin slipped all the way to the seventh round in the 2020 NFL draft. He was productive in college and is much more athletic than he’s given credit for.

Yet the regime that drafted him never quite seemed sure what to do with him. Coughlin played in 14 games (starting two) as a rookie, but a position switch from EDGE to off-ball linebacker and a mid-season ankle injury limited him to just seven games and all of 38 snaps on defense.

The Giants are the deepest they’ve been on the EDGE since 2017 with Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Quincy Roche as their top three. However, the switch from Patrick Graham to Wink Martindale presents an opportunity for Coughlin. Martindale is known for scheming exotic and aggressive pressure packages and putting unheralded rushers in position to be productive. The NFL is also in a moment where traditionally “undersized” pass rushers are producing as well as the prototypical edge defenders. Micah Parsons, Haason Reddick, Harold Landry, Shaquil Barrett, and Yannick Ngakoue all produced double-digit sacks despite being 6-foot-3 (or less), and 250 pounds (or less).

Coughlin’s experience as an EDGE and cross-training as an off-ball linebacker could give him some advantage in blitz schemes that ask defenders to drop into coverage as well as rush the passer. It would certainly be a pleasant surprise to find the Giants have more pass rushing depth than they previously thought.

Jeremiah Hall

Outliers always interest me, and I think we should always note when teams bring in players that don’t fit established trends. And while the Giants have doubled down on certain skillsets, Hall is unlike any other player on the roster. At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, he certainly looks like a fullback — yet he’s listed as a tight end.

The Giants made a point of getting Hall in undrafted free agency, so why is he on the roster?

It could have something to do with how he was used in Oklahoma’s offense over the last three years. He caught a total of 66 passes for 721 yards (10.9 per catch) and 12 touchdowns. 32 of those receptions (and 4 touchdowns) came last year as a senior. By contrast, he only carried the ball 13 times in his entire college career. Oklahoma would frequently ask Hall to run routes out of the backfield and he was surprisingly effective in space. While he lacks the athleticism to be a dynamic threat, his size, power, and natural leverage make him a tough player to bring down in the open field.

His versatility to line up in multiple positions as an “H-Back” and produce as a receiver could make him a weapon that catches defenses by surprise.

Jarren Williams

Ed has told me multiple times that he goes back and forth on whether Williams will make the roster. Personally, I think he could surprise this summer and force his way onto the roster, even if Jerome Henderson isn’t already pounding the table for him.

Williams is a cornerback who has transitioned to safety, which could make him a direct back-up to Julian Love. Love followed a similar career path, playing cornerback in college before transitioning to safety in the NFL. Love’s versatility and diverse background has made him a valuable depth piece, backing up multiple positions around the secondary. Williams could do a similar job, backing up both safety positions as well as the cornerback position and slot.

If he’s able to earn coaches’ trust, Williams could be a valuable piece for sub-packages, where his versatility could help disguise coverages and blitz packages.

It’s probably a bit much to expect Williams to light camp up and become a Stevie Brown-like sensation at the safety position. However, if he can become a reliable depth piece and a consistent contributor whenever he’s on the field, that’s a definite win for an undrafted free agent.

Austin Allen

It was a nasty surprise to see rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger land on the PUP list to start training camp. He impressed over the course of the offseason program and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start on opening day. Bellinger is the Giants’ most well-rounded tight end, with upside as both a receiver and blocker. His injury, however, creates an opportunity for other tight ends to shine in practice.

Undrafted tight end Austin Allen certainly brings uncommon size at 6-foot-8, 255 pounds. Like Bellinger, the Indiana product is able to block well enough, and his size gives him a definite advantage as a receiver.

Right now it seems as though Bellinger and Ricky Seals-Jones are the Giants’ only “sure things” at the tight end position, and Seals-Jones is much more of a TE/WR hybrid than a traditional tight end. The Giants have a bunch of journeymen veterans and undrafted free agents in their tight end room, and the door could be open for any of them. Allen’s size and skill set at least make him an intriguing option.

Christopher Hinton

We know who the Giants’ top four defensive linemen will be. Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence II, Justin Ellis, and rookie D.J. Davidson will almost certainly be on the roster in September. But what about the rest of the depth chart?

Martindale spends very little time in “base” defensive packages and used a relatively amount of alignments with two or even just one down linemen while in Baltimore. That suggest that the Giants might carry fewer than expected defensive linemen. And if the Giants aren’t carrying many defensive linemen, their depth pieces will need to be versatile enough to back up multiple positions. Ryder Anderson is undersized but quick lineman with the potential to be disruptive. While he can play the 3 or 5-techniques, doesn’t have the bulk to hold up on the inside in short-yardage situations if necessary.

Hinton has a more versatile frame that should allow him to back up multiple positions along the defensive line, potentially improving his chances to surprise and make the roster.

Collin Johnson

The Giants have a lot of wide receivers on their 90-man roster — 14 as of this writing — yet they’ll carry less than half of them on their final roster.

We can pretty safely assume that the Giants are planning on Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay and Wan’Dale Robinson all making the final roster. They can each play a similar role in the offense, but what about the role occupied by Golladay? Darius Slayton’s spot on the roster isn’t secure, and the $2.5 million in cap space gained by releasing him might be more valuable than his play on the field.

The Giants’ offense might not run through their big X receiver this year, but his size will be useful even when he isn’t getting the ball. Golladay is enough of a threat that offenses need to respect him, while his sheer size is useful for creating separation for other receivers.

The Giants have other long receivers on their roster, but Johnson’s 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame stands out. He flashed in limited reps down the stretch last year and could serve as a direct back-up for Golladay. Not only does Johnson offer similar size and contested catch ability, but he can allow the Giants’ coaching staff to keep their play designs intact even if Golladay misses time with an injury.

The Giants have a remarkably crowded receiving room, and there are probably two open spots on the roster for receivers. One of the storylines to follow over the course of camp is whether the coaching staff favors size, speed, quickness, or special teams acumen for those spots.