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Cover 3: Second-year players key to 2024 success


The crew discusses which second-year players are the most critical to the Giants' success this season.

John Schmeelk: Salomone and Citak beat me to the punch on this one, but I want to compliment Dan on the question. Fans get very excited about draft picks each year, and sometimes a rookie class can have a huge impact on a team in its first season on the field. But more often than not, it is unwise to rely heavily on rookies to lift a team up on its shoulders. They are young, inexperienced, and have to learn a lot before they can be high-level contributors. It is always the second-, third- and even fourth-year players still on rookie contracts who comprise the core group that can help a team get better through their own individual improvement. It is the Giants' draft classes from 2021-2023 that need to continue to improve and potentially emerge as Pro Bowl players in the hopes of elevating the Giants to greater heights.

I'll go with wide receiver Jalin Hyatt here. He came from a collegiate-style offense where he didn't line up outside much or face press very often. It was always going to take him time to adjust to the NFL and begin to thrive. With the addition of Malik Nabers, who will likely garner a lot of attention once he starts making plays, Hyatt should face single coverage more often. If he can consistently win in those situations, especially over the top, he could be the key to the Giants becoming a more vertical and explosive offense. If the Giants want to improve, they need to score more points. You score points with explosive plays. Hyatt's speed gives them that ability, and if he can make a big jump in his second year, he could play a big role in getting this offense where it needs to be to get into the playoffs.

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Dan Salomone: My ears always perk up when a general manager brings up something unprompted, especially during a season-ending press conference after a tough year. In his evaluation of the rookie class, Joe Schoen said he would be "surprised" if center John Michael Schmitz isn't a captain down the road. "The intangibles for John Michael are off the charts," Schoen said. "He's got leadership potential."

Let's jump to another memorable offseason quote, this one from team president John Mara. At the NFL Annual Meeting in late March, a reporter brought up that some people say it's "ridiculous" that the offensive line has been a question for the Giants for a decade.

"You're right it's ridiculous, and it's a continuing source of frustration for me," Mara responded. "It's time to get it fixed. We've invested in a couple of No. 1 draft picks on offensive tackles. We have a No. 2 draft pick playing at center, and now we have spent some money in free agency. We have a new offensive line coach. I expect us to be a hell of a lot better this year."

Flanked by Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor, two guards with 161 games of NFL experience under their belts (including postseason), Schmitz is at the center of the attention and will look to take the next step in Year 2.

"I think the biggest thing for me when times are tough, you really know who a true leader is when you hit adversity, you hit a tough time," Schmitz said. "All the guys look to someone, and I want to be that for our room and take charge."

View photos of the New York Giants' 2024 active roster as it currently stands.

Matt Citak: Deonte Banks was asked to do more than most rookie cornerbacks. He started 15 games in his first season and spent most of his time covering the opposing team's No. 1 receiver. From A.J. Brown to Terry McLaurin to CeeDee Lamb and several others, Banks was thrown right into the fire against some of the league's best weapons. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound cornerback finished with two interceptions and 11 passes defensed to go with his 64 tackles (53 solo) and two tackles for loss. He also earned a passer rating against of 84.7, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked 24th out of 74 qualified cornerbacks, in addition to allowing a 57.6 completion rate (53 receptions allowed on 92 targets).

Heading into his second season, Banks' development could be the key to the defense. With the addition of Brian Burns to go with Kayvon Thibodeaux and Dexter Lawrence, the Giants could have one of the league's top pass-rushing defensive lines, as the trio combined for 148 total quarterback pressures last season. This talented defensive front should help put Banks in more favorable positions, even against another tough slate of opposing No. 1 receivers. Banks flashed his athleticism at times throughout last season and again this spring, but in case anyone forgot, he scored an impressive 9.99 RAS at last year's NFL Combine (out of a possible 10.00). This ranked as the third-best score out of 2,212 cornerbacks from 1987 to 2023, showing that Banks has the ideal size and speed you want from an outside corner. The Giants have a young secondary, which includes Cor'Dale Flott, Dru Phillips, Nick McCloud, Jason Pinnock, Dane Belton, and Tyler Nubin, just to name a few. If Banks can take a big step this season, not only would it provide the defensive backfield with a significant boost, but it could also help transform the entire defense.

"It's always a big difference between year one and year two," coach Brian Daboll said about Banks during the first week of OTAs. "Obviously he's done it for a whole year in terms of how we do things here, learning some new things of what we're putting in defensively, but he has the right mindset, he's working extremely hard and trying to do as good as he can do."

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2024 cycle.


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