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5 storylines to follow as the Giants kick off training camp

The Giants' first full training camp practice will takes place Thursday in front of excited fans at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Here's what fans should keep an eye on:

1.     The Rookie Class

The Giants are counting on their rookie class to contribute significantly this season, especially on defense. While Daniel Jones will have to wait his turn behind starting quarterback Eli Manning, fellow first round picks Dexter Lawrence and DeAndre Baker both worked with the first team in the spring and will have the chance to compete for a starting spot.

Third round selection Oshane Ximines will be given an opportunity to earn snaps at one of the edge pass rusher spots against Lorenzo Carter, Kareem Martin and Markus Golden. Fourth round pick Julian Love in the spring saw time at cornerback, primarily in the slot, but he might be given the opportunity to play some safety.

Fifth round wide receiver Darius Slayton showed great progress in the spring and should compete for a spot in the receiver rotation. Sixth rounder Corey Ballentine, seventh round choice George Asafo-Adjei and seventh round pick Chris Slayton will compete for spots on the active roster.

2.     The New Veteran Arrivals

Aside from the rookies, the Giants added some important veterans this offseason. It starts on the offensive line, where they added a true Pro Bowl caliber right guard in Kevin Zeitler. When the pads come on, it will be fun to watch his power, feet and technique in the trenches against some good young defensive linemen. Next to him will be fellow veteran Mike Remmers, who the Giants hope will stabilize the right tackle position.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Golden Tate will slide in next to Sterling Shepard as one of the starting wide receivers. He is built similarly to Shepard and the two are virtually interchangeable on the field.

On defense, the Giants bolstered their pass rush by adding Golden. Now two years removed from a torn ACL, he hopes to rekindle the success of 2016 when he had 12.5 sacks playing under James Bettcher in Arizona. The Giants need a dominant edge rusher, and Golden is the only player with a track record with those types of numbers.

The biggest addition appear to be at the safety position, where the Giants have two new starters, Jabrill Peppers and 14-year veteran Antoine Bethea, who had five interceptions as Bettcher's free safety in Arizona in 2017. The Giants hope he can be a steadying presence playing deep centerfield and helping to get everyone lined up. A player like Bethea can be critical in preventing opposing offenses from making big plays.

Peppers, on the other hand, has high hopes of breaking out as a standout playmaking safety in the NFL. Entering his third season, Peppers has played single high safety, the short zone robber position, slot cornerback, dime linebacker and has been used as a blitzer. His versatility should be a weapon for the Giants. Fans should listen for how vocal he is during practice. He has the potential to be one of the team's leaders this season.

3.     The Big-Play Playmakers

I had no choice but to list the best athlete on the field: Saquon Barkley. While running backs can't show their whole bag of tricks in practice because there is no live tackling, Barkley's quickness, speed and explosiveness are easy to spot. He is becoming more of a vocal leader on the offensive side of the ball.

Barkley caught 91 passes last year, most of which were dump-offs as a safety valve. It will be fun to watch during camp how he is used in the passing game down the field to create mismatches that can turn into big plays.

The other big-play offensive player is Evan Engram. He is another dynamic mismatch threat, and it will be important to see how often he makes catches downfield in camp, and whether or not he can stay healthy.

4.     The Question Marks

Heading into training camp, here are some key questions:

  • Who will provide consistent pass rush on the perimeter and in the interior? Someone needs to step up.
  • How quickly will a young secondary develop and become high-quality NFL players?
  • Who will be able to consistently stretch the field? Who's the deep threat for Eli Manning?
  • Who will be the third down linebacker next to Alec Ogletree?
  • Who will win the third wide receiver spot?

Training camp is all about competition, and the Giants will have plenty of it.   

5.     The Future Franchise Quarterback

I saved Daniel Jones for last because while his play might not have any impact on the team's record this season, his progress will have a huge impact on the future of the franchise. It remains to be seen when he will take over for Eli Manning, but when a player is selected sixth overall in the draft, it is a matter of when, not if.

There are certain things Giant fans can watch for that Jones showed in the spring. He is a good athlete who can create extra time and make plays with his feet. He has the arm strength to make all the throws and cut through the Meadowlands wind. In the spring, he displayed a pretty deep ball.

His decision making, mental processing speed, and ability to throw accurately with anticipation are the aspects of Jones' game that will progress. Some of that is hard to evaluate in a training camp practice, but it is fun to watch and imagine what he will look like when going against live defenses in game situations.

Welcome back! The Giants have arrived at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the start of training camp

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) after a catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)

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