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7 under-the-radar Giants to watch in training camp

These players could still have some impact on the Giants in 2023

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New York Giants Offseason Workout
Ryan Jones
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

As New York Giants training camp approaches, we’ll finally be looking at real competitions rather than endless speculation. With the Saquon Barkley drama having ended, there will nevertheless be other storylines to discuss.

Each training camp, all 90 men have the chance to showcase their abilities. While some seem like long-shots to make the roster, even a practice squad spot could be important in the war of attrition that is the NFL season. Therefore, seemingly insignificant camp battles can still matter in the long run. Additionally, there are usually at least one or two surprise players who win roster spots with a strong training camp.

With that, let’s discuss seven under-the-radar Giants players to keep an eye on during training camp. Not all these players have much of a chance of making the roster, and some may not even have a chance of being elevated from the practice squad due to another injury. Still, for various reasons, they’re players who shouldn’t just be written off without a second glance.

RB Jashaun Corbin

Although the Giants signed James Robinson recently, the former Jaguars and Jets running back looked like a shell of his former self in 2022, posting the worst DVOA among 42 starting running backs. He wasn’t close to the player he was before his 2021 torn Achilles tendon.

That gives Corbin an opportunity this offseason. The 2022 undrafted free agent spent all of the regular season on the practice squad before being elevated to the active roster for the playoff game against Minnesota. This year, he may have a chance to work his way onto the active roster.

Corbin’s biggest asset as a college back was his ability to gain yards after contact. He averaged 4.01 yards after contact per attempt in his college career, including 4.57 in his senior year at Florida State, which ranked third out of 158 FBS backs. With an offensive line that still has its suspect spots, creating yards after contact could be important.

In the 2022 preseason, Corbin had just 21 rushes for 73 yards (3.5 per attempt) and two touchdowns. He had just 2.19 yards after contact per attempt. He added 14 catches for 76 yards out of the backfield.

The biggest reason that Corbin flies under the radar is the assumption that Barkley, Matt Breida, and Eric Gray are roster locks. Since Gary Brightwell has been the resident kick returner, it’s hard to imagine where Corbin would fit in.

However, with a season of practicing with the team under his belt, keep an eye on Corbin’s progress during camp. In particular, check how he’s doing as a blocker and receiver; those were previous areas of weakness that could keep him from the roster.

OG Markus McKethan

A fifth-round pick in 2022, Marcus McKethan missed his entire rookie season after tearing his ACL in training camp. Heading into his de facto first year in the league, McKethan faces steep competition at the guard position, as he is competing with Wyatt Davis, Jack Anderson, and Shane Lemieux for possibly one available spot.

Still, there was a reason the Giants went back to the well to draft McKethan out of North Carolina after taking Joshua Ezeudu in the third round. They liked his raw power and nimble feet for his size (6-foot-7, 335 pounds). McKethan earned strong Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grades in all three of his seasons as a college starter, culminating in 87.1 in 2021.

Additionally, the Giants tried McKethan out at third-string tackle last training camp. If McKethan continues that in training camp this season, that may be a sign that he is headed for the active roster as a versatile offensive lineman rather than just a guard.

The biggest issue for McKethan is having missed a year of working on his technique as a pro. Spending the whole season working his way back from injury likely held him back from building his skills as a blocker. Considering that he was trying to learn a new position last offseason, the lost time could have him behind the eight-ball.

Still, McKethan has the most upside among the competitors for the final guard spot. I think that the Giants want him to win that battle. Many may have written him off, but look to see if he’s separating himself a bit during the camp battles.

CB Zyon Gilbert

Zyon Gilbert was another undrafted free agent in 2022. After spending the first 12 weeks on the practice squad, Gilbert was elevated to the active roster and started against Washington at slot cornerback. He allowed 6 of 7 targets for 71 yards, one touchdown, and a 148.5 targeted passer rating in that game, adding one quarterback hurry. He was then elevated from the practice squad each week for the rest of the regular season and postseason but saw just 15 snaps at cornerback, recording one sack.

Despite all the traffic at cornerback, there aren’t too many true roster locks. The fact that Gilbert started a game after being elevated from the practice squad could signal that the Giants like him.

Still, Gilbert did not have a great preseason in 2022. He allowed 9 of 14 targets (64.3%) for 125 yards, one touchdown, and a 116.7 targeted quarterback rating on 97 coverage snaps. He also had two missed tackles against seven combined tackles for a 22.2% miss rate.

With Nick McCloud moving over to safety on a seemingly permanent basis, that opens an extra opportunity for Gilbert to nab a roster spot. With only Adoree’ Jackson and Deonte Banks profiling as true roster locks at cornerback, Gilbert has a chance to battle the oft-injured Aaron Robinson, second-year man Cor’Dale Flott, possible cap casualty Darnay Holmes, late-round pick Tre Hawkins III, and veteran roster question mark Amani Oruwariye for a role. The chances are not as low as the talk surrounding the team may appear.

DL Ryder Anderson

The Giants brought in some defensive line help this offseason, signing both Rakeem Nuñez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson. With Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams already cemented as the starters, it’s questionable if the Giants will even carry a fifth defensive lineman. If they do, though, Ryder Anderson is in better shape to compete for the spot than he was in 2022, as defensive line coach Andre Patterson said Anderson is up from 276 to 305 pounds.

Playing in the B-gap on 53.9% of his snaps in 2022, Anderson was overmatched in the run game. He posted a 36.3 PFF run defense grade on 84 snaps, a limited sample size that nonetheless did not paint a flattering picture.

Still, Anderson was actually an effective run defender in college from the edge. In 2021, he posted the 14th-best PFF run defense grade among 149 FBS edge defenders, primarily from a five or six-technique.

It should be interesting to monitor how a beefed-up Anderson can perform. Jordon Riley and D.J. Davidson are far bigger, but both of them are supremely unathletic for the position, posting an RAS of 2.80 and 4.26, respectively. Anderson, although he ran only four of the drills (vertical jump, broad jump, short shuttle, three-cone drill), had a 9.34 RAS when compared to interior defensive linemen. Perhaps he can separate himself from the bigger bodies, but he will need to be able to two-gap more effectively than he did in 2022.

TE Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones earned praise for his route-running from Emory Hunt of Football Gameplan. Despite transitioning to the tight end/fullback position two years into his college career, Jones was quite involved in the East Carolina passing game, totaling 78 receptions for 855 yards and nine touchdowns across 21 games.

Jones is an interesting player for a number of reasons. He profiles as more of an H-back/fullback type than a traditional inline tight end or a hybrid player like Darren Waller or Lawrence Cager. Since the Giants don’t have a real fullback on the roster, it’s possible that they could incorporate Jones as an added weapon from that position. Still, he posted just 46.4 and 42.0 PFF run-blocking grades in 2021 and 2022, encompassing 358 reps. Therefore, Jones might be too one-dimensional to roster from that spot, too.

However, if the Giants simply want to add as many receiving threats to their roster as possible, perhaps they will find a spot for Jones. Some of that may be dependent on what the rookie shows in training camp, which is one reason to keep an eye on him. Furthermore, if Jones does wind up on the roster, that could be a further indication that the Giants are all-in on making Daniel Jones the focal point of the offense.

I would also be interested to see how Jones is lining up. Is he primarily lining up at fullback, H-back, in the slot, or as a traditional inline tight end? What is he working on in camp? How much do the Giants care about his blocking vs. his route-running? Keep an eye on this as the summer progresses.

S Alex Cook

Normally, undrafted free agent Alex Cook would have just been another camp body among the many players at the safety position. That applies even more so when considering that he only transitioned there in 2019 after starting his college career as a receiver.

Between Xavier McKinney, Bobby McCain, Nick McCloud, Dane Belton, Jason Pinnock, and Gervarrius Owens, the chances that Cook can find a niche are very slim. He’s most likely fighting for a practice squad spot.

So why are we including him in the under-the-radar section? Well, the aforementioned Emory Hunt pounded the table for the player when he was on Ed Valentine’s podcast (in the same segment as his Jones praise above). Considering Emory’s knowledge of little-recognized undrafted free agents, it’s worth monitoring if Cook can make some noise in camp.

In 2022, Cook had a 0% forced incompletion rate as a safety at Washington, one of only two safeties out of 135 with zero forced incompletions. He gave up a 143.0 targeted passer rating, the second-worst among those safeties, and two touchdowns. However, as a run defender, he posted a 6.8% stop rate, which tied for sixth-best, and his 73.3 PFF run defense grade ranked in the 67th percentile.

Still, the year prior, Cook had just a 40.9 run defense grade. Did he improve in 2022 due to another year at the position, and is that improvement sustainable? Or did the fact that he moved down in the box more in 2022 than the year prior play a role? Cook played 71.4% of his defensive snaps at deep safety in 2021, but that decreased to 41% in 2022.

WR/PR Kalil Pimpleton

Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio felt Kalil Pimpleton was underrated prior to the 2022 NFL Draft. In fact, Waldman ranked Pimpleton ahead of Wan’Dale Robinson among small slot receivers. That and Pimpleton’s potential as a returner are why he’s on this list, as his chances of actually making the Giants’ roster are slim.

From 2019-21, Pimpleton recorded 159 receptions for 2,010 yards and 12 touchdowns as a receiver for Central Michigan. At 5-foot-8 and 172 pounds, he operated primarily out of the slot, recording 83% of his snaps there. He averaged 6.5 YAC per reception and recorded 2.12 yards per route run, which is pretty efficient—albeit at a lower collegiate level.

Drops were a bit of a problem for Pimpleton, as he had a 9.7% drop rate over those three years (the NFL average for receivers usually hovers around 5.3%). Still, for a small player, he did a pretty nice job on contested catches, catching 17 of 36 contested targets (47.2%).

Pimpleton recorded a 6.55 relative athletic score (although he had strong 20-yard and 10-yard splits) and went undrafted in 2022. He was initially signed by the Lions and became a Hard Knocks sensation. However, after Detroit cut bait, the Giants signed Pimpleton to their practice squad and elevated him to the active roster for the Vikings playoff game.

The Giants recently signed Cole Beasley, which would seem to indicate that both Robinson and Sterling Shepard are likely to begin the season on the PUP list. If so, perhaps Pimpleton could get a look in a Robinson-like role. After all, Pimpleton had 31 rushes for 274 yards (8.8 yards per carry) from 2019-21, just as Robinson took carries out of the backfield. Additionally, Pimpleton averaged 18.7 yards per punt return and scored two return touchdowns on 13 attempts in 2021, although he did also have two muffed punts.

Overall, as Anthony Del Genio put it recently, the Giants seem intent on rolling out a five-slot-receiver formation quite often. Although said tongue-in-cheek, perhaps Pimpleton can sneak his way onto a roster that places emphasis on speed, quickness, and an ability to get open.

At the very least, Pimpleton could be entertaining to watch in training camp just as he was on Hard Knocks a year ago.

Giants fans, which lesser-known players are you rooting for and/or keeping an eye on as a possible surprise addition to the 53-man roster?