The Giants’ offseason workout program comes to a close this week.
Since reporting on April 15, the team has had nine weeks together, starting with strength and conditioning and progressing to OTAs and minicamp. That means the new faces on the roster, of which there were many added this offseason, aren’t so new anymore. Here, the Giants.com crew discusses which of the newcomers has impressed the most this spring.
John Schmeelk: My list is three players long: Daniel Jones, DeAndre Baker and Darius Slayton. Kevin Zeitler and Oshane Ximines could be on the list but without pads, I hesitate to put players on the line of scrimmage into the group. Slayton has made the biggest leap from the start of OTAs to now, eliminating his drop issues and getting fairly consistent separation. He is working primarily against the second and third groups, however, so I will eliminate him.
Daniel Jones has flashed better arm strength than I expected, and simply from a physical perspective, he has exceeded my expectations. He has been consistently accurate, especially on deep balls. I haven’t seen a rookie quarterback look as good as Jones has this spring.
With that said, I’m going to go with DeAndre Baker. Whenever a rookie is elevated to the first team, it is hard not to take notice. Most impressive is that due to the no-contact rules of the offseason, he has not been able to play press man coverage, which was his strength in college. But Baker has played well in off-coverage during the spring. And he is learning how and what to play with his hands down the field. I will be shocked if he is not starting Week 1.
Dan Salomone: It doesn’t matter what I think. Pat Shurmur was asked this question in regard to the 2019 draft class specifically, and the first guy that came to mind for the head coach was not the quarterback (Daniel Jones) taken sixth overall, or the cornerback (DeAndre Baker) the team traded up to pick near the end of the first round, or the hog-molliest of hog mollies (Dexter Lawrence) taken in between them. It was Darius Slayton, a wide receiver who had 35 catches in his final season at Auburn. That’s not a slight to the other two. Rather, Shurmur was recognizing how far Slayton came this spring.
Not a lot is expected from a fifth-round draft pick right away, especially when that player has a case of the “yips” – Shurmur’s word – in his very first practice at rookie minicamp. To his credit, Slayton rebounded by the end of that day and kept improving even when the veterans were thrown into the equation. His sub-4.4 speed is evident, but Slayton also showed his route-running literacy, an area that offensive coordinator Mike Shula wanted to see from him. Of course, this should come with a disclaimer. The pads have not been on at all, and there is no contact this time of year. In other words, it’s perfect conditions for receivers.
Also note that Shurmur mentioned Slayton when asked about the rookies. As we all know, the Giants did a lot more this offseason than just draft 10 players. One of the veteran newcomers I don’t think is getting enough attention is Antoine Bethea. He’s a proven champion and Pro Bowl-caliber player, and he just had a career-high three sacks last season, his 13th in the NFL. He also had 121 tackles, his most since 2011 with the Colts. He also has experience playing with defensive coordinator James Bettcher from their Arizona days. Bethea certainly fills a mentorship role in a young secondary, but he’s still going to make plays.
Lance Medow: Of all the new faces that joined the Giants this offseason, Jabrill Peppers has made a strong impression this spring. Despite the fact that there’s no contact allowed during this phase of the offseason program, which makes it difficult for defensive players to stand out, Peppers has been extremely active, lining up all across the field, intercepting passes and fielding punts and kickoffs. Peppers was known for his versatility in Cleveland, but it’s fair to say he’ll have an even bigger role with the Giants, especially since James Bettcher loves hybrid players.
In addition to his playmaking ability, Peppers has brought some attitude to the secondary. He doesn’t shy away from some trash talking during practice and that’s created a friendly competitive environment, specifically with some offensive players, including Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley. It’s not unusual for a team to take on the persona of one of its key players, and Peppers isn’t wasting any time putting his stamp on his new franchise.