With players enjoying their first day off, we took a breath and asked our staffers what stood out to them from the first week of Giants training camp. Here is what they had to say:
JOHN SCHMEELK: In my opinion, there have been two clear top performers so far: wide receiver Sterling Shepard and edge rusher Olivier Vernon. The soon to be proud papa Dan Salomone has Vernon covered below, so I'll focus on Shepard. Last year, Shepard was having a great offseason, and heading into his second year all signs pointed to a breakout season. An ankle injury and a flood of subsequent injuries all over the offense washed away those aspirations.
The breakout looks like it was only delayed. Shepard has been unstoppable in camp. In one-on-one situations, defensive backs have been unable to stay with him. His route running is right there with Odell Beckham Jr. as the most advanced on the team. Combined with his quickness coming out of breaks at the top of the route, he is very difficult to stay with for any defensive back. Even more encouraging for the coaching staff is he has been just as effective as both an inside and outside receiver.
If the offensive line holds up and Eli Manning plays at a high level, I'm not sure what defenses are going to do against the Giants' set of weapons. Odell Beckham Jr. requires a double team. Saquon Barkley is a nightmare in the passing game for linebackers and safeties. Evan Engram can't be covered by linebackers and most safeties, either. Then there is Shepard's potential breakout season. All four guys have been lining up all over the offensive formation. There are mismatches everywhere, all with potential for big plays. You can't double-team everyone.
It's one thing to talk in May about the weapons, but to see them all on the field together in padded practices is another. I can't wait to see them operate in game situations. I have no idea what opposing defensive coordinators are going to do. It's going to be a lot of fun.
DAN SALOMONE: Olivier Vernon has come to play. Just ask Jonathan Stewart, and certainly ask Wayne Gallman. The two running backs were on the receiving end of big hits from the 6-foot-2, 262-pound outside linebacker. Vernon comports himself with a quiet demeanor, but there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. After an injury-plagued season that didn't go well for anyone on the team, Vernon is primed for a bounce-back campaign. That likelihood only increases with new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. He rose through the ranks as a linebackers coach, and already we've seen quality reps from Vernon, rookie Lorenzo Carter, and even new addition Connor Barwin. Additionally, the matchup with two-time Super Bowl champion left tackle Nate Solder is only going to help Vernon, and vice versa.
LANCE MEDOW: After a lengthy offseason program where the emphasis is more on technique and digesting the playbook, it's always refreshing to see the players finally put on the pads and elevate the level of physicality. One player who has immediately taken advantage of this period is rookie Lorenzo Carter. The former Georgia standout was known for his versatility with the Bulldogs and now with the Giants, it's already clear his primary focus will be getting after the quarterback and with just a few practices under his belt, he's already shown a knack for putting pressure on the offensive line. Connor Barwin has a much more decorated resume than Carter and if there's any concern that in his 10th year he's slowing down or that missing the entire offseason program would pose too difficult a challenge to overcome, the veteran pass rusher has quickly quieted the skeptics.
In the secondary, Donte Deayon means business. After spending parts of the last two seasons on the Giants' practice squad, the undrafted corner is determined as ever to start the season on the 53-man roster. Deayon has been opportunistic with a few interceptions and very aggressive in his pursuit of the ball. The depth chart at corner is wide open and if Deayon keeps up this type of play during practice and in preseason games, he'll make it very difficult for the coaching staff to not include him on the final roster. On offense, while a few players have flashed, if there's one thing that has jumped out to me in the first week of practices, it's the return of Odell Beckham. He's looked real sharp during team drills and seems to have put his ankle injury behind him.