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Competitions to watch at Training Camp

Posted Jul 28, 2016

Giants.com previews the key camp competitions to keep an eye on as Training Camp nears: 

Ninety players. Fifty-three spots.

We got a sneak peak of it in the spring, but the competition becomes real on Friday.

That’s when the Giants hold their first practice of training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, kicking off a six-week grind to the season opener on Sept. 11 at Dallas. In between now and then, 90 players will be evaluated on and off the field as the roster is trimmed to 75 on Aug. 30 and 53 on Sept. 3.  

“I think it’s important that by situation we have our best 11 on the field. Period,” said coach Ben McAdoo, who will experience the toughest part of the job for the first time this summer. “So it doesn’t necessarily matter if it’s the same guy at all 11 spots. It’s a situational league now, so you have to be smart on who you use and how you train them. And again, it’s up to us to put the best 11 players on the field to win the situation.”

Here are the competitions to watch at training camp:

SAFETY

Roster: Landon Collins, Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe, Darian Thompson, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson, Justin Currie, Andre Adams

>> PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE BACKS

Last year, Landon Collins became the first rookie safety in Giants’ history to start an entire 16-game season, and now the competition is back on to find his partner. The Giants entered last spring in a similar position, looking for another one of the young safeties to step up. But Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson and Mykkele Thompson suffered season-ending injuries before the team kicked off Week 1. This year, rookie Darian Thompson has already thrown his hat in the ring with an impressive spring. The third-round draft choice ran with the first team for most of OTAs and minicamp.

RUNNING BACK
Roster: Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa, Bobby Rainey, Paul Perkins, Marshaun Coprich, Will Johnson (FB), Nikita Whitlock (FB)

>> PREVIEW: RUNNING BACKS

While the passing game hummed along in 2015, the Giants’ rushing attack struggled to find consistency. The team finished eighth in total yards (372.0 per game), seventh in passing (271.4) and just 18th in rushing (100.6). But with the four-man running back committee returning for another year, the Giants will try to find more balance in the offense this season. They also brought in a veteran (Bobby Rainey) and two rookies (Paul Perkins, Marshaun Coprich) to further the competition. Perkins, the fifth-round draft choice, missed most of spring while fulfilling academic obligations at UCLA. But while he played catch-up, coaches raved about his potential as a three-down back.

Meanwhile, the Giants will also have an interesting competition at fullback between two versatile players. Will Johnson, a former Steeler, can also play H-back and tight end. Nikita Whitlock, last year’s starter, can be used a weapon on the defensive line in certain situations.

LINEBACKER

Roster: Jasper Brinkley, Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, J.T. Thomas, Mark Herzlich, Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, B.J. Goodson, Uani ‘Unga (reserve/injured)

>> PREVIEW: LINEBACKERS

After the signing of Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants added a pair of linebackers behind them in free agency with Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard. They further bolstered the front seven by drafting B.J. Goodson, Clemson’s leading tackler last season, in the fourth round. Aside from the rookie, the Giants’ linebackers -- Jasper Brinkley (eight), Jonathan Casillas (eight), Sheppard (six), Mark Herzlich (six), J.T. Thomas (six), Robinson (five) and Devon Kennard (three) -- have 42 years of experience combined heading into 2016.

TIGHT END
Roster: Larry Donnell, Will Tye, Matt LaCosse, Jerell Adams, Ryan Malleck, Will Johnson (FB/TE)

>> PREVIEW: TIGHT ENDS

Out of the three tight ends who made the initial 53-man roster last September, only Donnell returns in 2016. The fourth-year pro re-signed with the team in mid-April after receiving clearance from the team’s medical staff to resume his career. His season was cut in half due to a neck injury that he suffered in the 52-49 loss at New Orleans in Week 8. The season-ending injury came after a breakout 2014 campaign in which the former undrafted Grambling State product had 63 catches for 623 yards and six touchdowns.

In his place, Tye, who started last year on the practice squad, went on to lead all rookie tight ends in receptions (42) and receiving yards (464) while picking up All-Rookie honors by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA). Jerell Adams, this year’s sixth-round draft choice, will be competing for a spot along with Matt LaCosse and Ryan Malleck. The hybrid Will Johnson will also see a number of touches at the position.

WIDE RECEIVER
Roster: Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Dwayne Harris, Myles White, Geremy Davis, Tavarres King, Sterling Shepard, Kadron Boone, Anthony Dablé, Donte Foster, Roger Lewis, K.J. Maye, Darius Powe, Ben Edwards (reserve/injured)

>> PREVIEW: WIDE RECEIVER

Eli Manning is coming off two of his best statistical seasons, and he’s not doing it alone. While Odell Beckham Jr. recorded the most yards receiving through a player’s first two seasons in NFL history, Dwayne Harris proved last year that he’s more than a return specialist. Meanwhile, Victor Cruz is aiming to be full-go at training camp, and rookie Sterling Shepard could make an impact as a second-round draft choice. That could all add up to the deepest unit on the team in 2016. Now they have to figure out the pecking order as players like Myles White and Geremy Davis aim for breakout years.