Key positions to follow at OTAs

Posted May 22, 2016

Here are the positions to follow when the Giants report for OTAs on Monday:

The New York Giants open up organized team activities (OTAs) on Monday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

It will be the first of 10 practices before mandatory minicamp and a summer break until players report for training camp at the end of July. No live contact is permitted in OTAs, but there will be 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.


Here are the positions to follow in the coming weeks:


After spending his first two years at right tackle, Justin Pugh appears to have found a home at left guard, where he played all last season. That gives the Giants two former first-round draft picks on the left side with Pugh and left tackle Ereck Flowers and a second-rounder at center with Weston Richburg.

Meanwhile, “the story is yet to be written on the right side,” in the words of coach Ben McAdoo after the Giants didn’t draft an offensive lineman for the first time since 2008. Right guard John Jerry and right tackle Marshall Newhouse returned to the roster, but veterans Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz did not. The Giants also signed offensive linemen Byron Stingily, Dillon Farrell and Ryan Seymour in free agency.


Landon Collins, the first pick in the second round of last year’s draft, became the first rookie safety in Giants’ history to start an entire 16-game season. Now he needs a 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. They all return to a room that now includes Darian Thompson, this year’s third-round choice out of Boise State who holds the Mountain West’s career interceptions record


The Giants expended a lot of their resources on this position, signing Janoris Jenkins in free agency and using their first-round choice on Eli Apple of Ohio State. Jenkins was regarded as one of the best defenders on the market this year and came in as part of a major defensive haul for the Giants. Apple was an All-Big 10 selection in 2015 and a freshman All-American in 2014, the year the Buckeyes won the national championship.


Meanwhile, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returns for a third season with the Giants after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. In today’s NFL, teams need three starting-caliber cornerbacks. The Giants checked that box.


Much like safety, the plan at linebacker last season was thrown out of whack due to injuries, most notably in the middle with defensive co-captain Jon Beason. The three-time Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro selection announced his retirement in February, leaving a vacancy at the position. The Giants re-signed Jasper Brinkley and added Kennan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard, all players with middle linebacker experience. They also waived/injured Uani ‘Unga, last year’s Week 1 starting middle linebacker.

On the outside, Devon Kennard and J.T. Thomas III look to bring stability to the unit that welcomed B.J. Goodson, a fourth-round choice out of Clemson. After playing behind a first-round draft pick in Stephone Anthony for three years, Goodson took over in 2015 and led the team in tackles as the Tigers went undefeated in the regular season.


The Giants know better than anybody that successful teams have successful defensive lines. How does Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on the outside and Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins on the inside sound?  After bringing back JPP, the Giants made the biggest splash of free agency with signing Vernon from the Dolphins and Harrison from the Jets. Vernon recorded 36 quarterback hits last season, while Harrison built his reputation as one of the best run-stuffers in the league. Owa Odighizuwa, last year’s third-round draft choice, also hopes to add a boost to the line after spending most of his rookie season on the injury report.