The Giants.com "Cover 3" question of the week is: Which role player will be a key to success for the Giants this season?
JOHN SCHMEELK: I am going to go with kicker Aldrick Rosas. The Giants play in a very competitive division and have an extremely tough schedule. They are going to play a ton of close games and are going to need every single point they can possibly get. They need Rosas to be better than he was last year.
Rosas was simply too inconsistent as a rookie. He made only 18 of 25 kicks (72 percent). He missed two kicks from under 40 yards and went four of nine from 40-49 yards. The Giants are not going to be able to leave any points on the board this year if they want to challenge for a playoff spot. If they drive the ball down the field and have to kick a field goal, the team needs to know they come away with points. They also need to be confident he can make big kicks at the end of games.
We know Rosas has a big leg, but his control and directional kicking on kickoffs might be important, too. With only three players allowed deep for the return team, there might be opportunities for directional mortar or squib kicks to try to force turnovers. Rosas has competition in camp right now with Marshall Koehn, and he will have to earn the job before the season starts.
DAN SALOMONE: The role player I have in mind is also a breakout candidate – rookie outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter. If the Giants hit on their third-round draft choice, it would expedite the defense's transition to James Bettcher's scheme. Depth has been an issue for the Giants, and they need someone for quality reps to take the load off Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin. Carter did a little bit of everything in Georgia's 3-4 scheme as a long and rangy SAM linebacker. A common theme in his scouting reports was his tenacity in always clawing and trying to rip the ball out of the opponent's hands, so file that away for later.
Saquon Barkley and Will Hernandez rightfully get all the attention in this draft class, but the Giants need their later picks to contribute and possibly become starters down the road. That begins with Carter, who is playing for a defensive coordinator known for his work with outside linebackers. Before being promoted to defensive coordinator in Arizona, Bettcher spent two years coaching the Cardinals' outside linebackers, a position he also held with the Colts. Carter should benefit greatly from that tutelage.
LANCE MEDOW: It goes without saying the Giants' offensive and defensive production will be key this season, but I would argue special teams will be the difference maker. Field position is so important in the NFL and the last thing you can afford to do is provide gifts to the opposition. Last season, on the coverage units, the Giants surrendered 20.5 yards per kickoff return (14th in the NFL) and 10.4 yards per punt return (T-26th), including an 88-yard touchdown by Jamal Agnew in Week 2 against the Lions. That's where Michael Thomas comes in. The Giants signed the veteran safety due to his versatility, especially his special teams play where he has stood out across the NFL over the last few seasons. Thomas has been among the league leaders in special teams tackles, each of the last four campaigns, including 19 in 2016.
I think Thomas' arrival will aid the Giants' coverage units, given his consistent production and aggressiveness. His presence will be especially important in defending kickoffs, considering it appears the new rules favor the return team. Thomas' experience on defense should not be overlooked. He has started 23 games combined in the last three seasons and his ability to play near the line of scrimmage and deep down the field will provide James Bettcher with another weapon to move around. In free agency, it's not always the household names that make the biggest difference. Many times, it is instead the under-the-radar signings who contribute to facets of the team that aren't always viewed as priority one.