30 Questions in 30 Days: Sleeper picks for 2019

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The Giants.com crew is counting down the start of training camp with 30 questions in 30 days. The full squad reports on Wednesday, July 24 for meetings and the conditioning evaluation. The first open practice session will take place the following day, July 25, at 2:45 p.m. ET at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

29. Who is a sleeper player to watch this season?

Dan Salomone: Well, it was wide receiver Darius Slayton until Pat Shurmur heaped all that praise on the fifth-round draft pick, calling him the most improved player from spring football. He might not fully be a sleeper any longer, so I’ll go with Eric Dungey. If you look on our roster, you’ll see him listed as a QB/TE. That’s not a glitch. The Giants signed him as a rookie free agent after no one drafted the fifth ACC quarterback ever to record 11,000+ yards of total offense and 90+ touchdowns in his career at Syracuse. The others were Philip Rivers (N.C. State), Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), and Deshaun Watson (Clemson). Pretty good company.

So what gives with the ‘QB/TE’ label? Maybe because ‘QB/TE/FB/RB/ST’ didn’t fit? Honestly, I don’t know the full plan for him, and I have an inkling the coaches want it that way for the public. For starters, think Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints. Against the Giants last season, he returned a kickoff, threw two passes (completed one), caught a pass, and rushed four times. It’s a copycat league, and the Giants want to see if they can replicate one for themselves.

“He is a very accomplished quarterback and made a lot of plays with his feet,” Shurmur said of Dungey. “He made some good throws out there as well. He is one of those guys we had our eyes on at the draft. We will see. I think he is a good football player. Usually there is a place on the field for good football players. We will see what happens.”

As for special teams, Thomas McGaughey said they will “find a home for him.” A versatile player like Dungey can open the playbook in every phase of the game.

“Absolutely,” the special teams coordinator said. “Anytime you can get a big athlete that’s tough, that’s smart, that’s played the quarterback position, anytime you can get a style of athlete like that, and he’s coachable and is willing, a lot of good things can happen.”

30. What is the No. 1 storyline heading into training camp?

John Schmeelk: Can the Giants find a pass rush? This question was an easy one for me, and the answer is that simple. Once the Giants decided to trade Olivier Vernon, and even before that, improving the pass was a priority this offseason. The Giants used free agency to add Markus Golden, a player who had 12.5 sacks in 2016 in Arizona under James Bettcher. He tore his ACL the following season and had only 2.5 sacks in 11 games in 2018. He is healthy and the Giants are counting on him to have a bounce-back season.

The Giants are also counting on their young pass rushers to give them more production. Lorenzo Carter transitioned from an off-ball linebacker at Georgia to more of an edge rusher in his first year in the NFL. He had some of the best results in the physical testing at the combine of any player in the history of the event, so there is hope he can improve on his four sacks from a year ago. He came back this spring looking a lot stronger in his upper body.

Oshane Ximines, the Giants’ third-round pick out of Old Dominion, is someone else the team hopes can add some edge pressure. He had 11.5 sacks in his senior season and looked dominant in Conference USA play. He also flashed against tougher competition, like Virginia Tech, a game where he had 2.5 sacks. It will be a big jump to the NFL and it will be interesting to see how quickly he adjusts.

The Giants also hope to get better pass rush up the middle from their interior defensive linemen. B.J. Hill had 5.5 sacks, but it may be difficult for him to match those numbers in his second season. The Giants have high hopes that Dexter Lawrence, their second of their three first-round picks, can provide an inside push at 340 pounds with his impressive athleticism. Dalvin Tomlinson is also someone the team hopes can make a jump in his third season. RJ McIntosh, the Giants’ fifth-round pick in 2018 who missed most of his rookie year, could also surprise people.

Whether the defense can take a step forward will depend heavily on whether it can find a pass rush. We will start to get a sense in training camp when the pads go on. The answer to this question could determine the success of the 2019 season. One-on-ones between the offensive and defensive lines will be a focus for me when the team hits the practice field at the end of July.

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