Between organized team activities (OTAs) and last week’s mandatory minicamp, the New York Giants have more than a dozen full practices under their belt heading into training camp. To recap, our Giants.com staffers discuss which players and position groups opened their eyes this spring:
My eyes are open at all times, Dan Salomone! This is a tough question. I think the group that opened my eyes a bit were the wide receivers. Expectations were lowered automatically during the spring because of the absence of Odell Beckham Jr. due to his rehab from injury, but that’s not how that unit performed. There was a lot of separation generated by the group to give Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta and Alex Tanney opportunities and plenty of space to make plays.
It happened with all three groups, too. Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer and Hunter Sharp all created room with the first group. Roger Lewis Jr. made some big plays on throws from Davis Webb with the second group. Then we saw guys like Amba Etta-Tawo, Russell Shepard, Alonzo Russell, Kalif Raymond and Marquis Bundy have their moments as well.
The matchups between the wide receivers and defensive backs will be something to watch throughout training camp. There is great competiton to fill out the depth at both spots with young and veteran players having opportunities to earn big roles on the team. Of course, the true test will come in the preseason when both units will be going against players from other teams. It won’t be until then that we truly know how talented the groups are. I’ll be watching intently when the players arrive in the summer.
Forget quarterbacks, wide receivers and even running backs. At their core, Giants fans love their linebackers. And based on what we saw this spring, I think James Bettcher’s scheme will rekindle some of those warm feelings for the position group. Linebackers made a ton of plays throughout OTAs and minicamp. Contact was not allowed in those phases, but they showed up in a big way in coverage, which was a sight for sore eyes. Alec Ogletree, Olivier Vernon, B.J. Goodson and Thurston Armbrister all had interceptions and broke up passes over the past few months. It also felt like Mark Herzlich had a pass defensed at every practice.
Once the pads come on, you hope that the physicality matches what they did in coverage, but you have to like what they have done to this point. It is no surprise the group thrived this spring. Their defensive coordinator came up through the ranks coaching linebackers, and his scheme is built to speed up the clock in the quarterback’s head while simultaneously giving him more to think about with all of the different looks. That is a dangerous combination if executed properly. So as we get into training camp and the preseason, be on the lookout for linebackers making more plays in coverage. It could have just been the nature of non-contact drills, or there could be something there. My bet is on the latter.
With Odell Beckham Jr. continuing to rehab from last year’s ankle surgery, several other wide receivers received additional snaps during offseason workouts and that gave the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate the depth chart. Players such as Cody Latimer, Hunter Sharp, Travis Rudolph and Marquis Bundy all took advantage of their reps as they consistently made plays during team drills. Sharp, Rudolph and Bundy were all on the 53-man roster late last season, and Rudolph and Bundy started the year on the practice squad. Those three receivers certainly caught my eye, as did Latimer, and they took advantage of the chance to work with Eli Manning and the first team.
While Beckham and Sterling Shepard are penciled in as the top two wide receivers on the team, the rest of the depth chart is wide open. Contributing on special teams will be a key factor, but step one is standing out during the spring, and each receiver has shown some flashes. I’m most intrigued by Latimer because he was a second round pick in 2014 but never really had a great opportunity to consistently showcase his receiving skills in Denver. Latimer played just three percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2014 and peaked at 34% in 2017. I think Latimer has the potential to take on a larger role on offense while also showcasing his strong special teams’ skills. Think Dwayne Harris in 2015, when he first joined the Giants. While the Cowboys rarely used him as a wide receiver, the Giants expanded his role and he wound up setting career-highs in receptions (36), receiving yards (396) and receiving touchdowns (4).