* Three Giants writers discuss thier first impressions of the team following opening weekend of camp: *
After reporting for training camp last Thursday, the New York Giants have their first day off today.
Players return to the fields at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Tuesday and will practice straight through the week until their next break on Sunday. In that time, they will put the pads on, and that’s when coach Ben McAdoo and his staff can start to make real evaluations.
In this week’s Cover 3, our writers give their first impressions of training camp:
I could not be happier that this is the last time I have to put this caveat in front of a Cover 3 or Fact or Fiction question: The pads haven’t come on yet so everything we have seen has to be taken with a grain of salt. However, with that being said, my main takeaway would have to be this: We are going to see a phenomenal battle between the Giants defensive backs and wide receivers throughout camp. At the first full-speed practice on Saturday, the wide receivers put on a show. Janoris Jenkins did grab a pick but for the most part the Giants passing game was making plays all over the field, especially Odell Beckham Jr. It was particularly surprising considering the defense is usually ahead of the offense early in camp.
On Sunday, the script flipped. Other than one deep pass down the sideline to Roger Lewis Jr., the secondary clamped down on the Giants wide receivers. Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard were all relatively quiet. Landon Collin and Eli Apple both made a couple plays on the ball, while a Michael Hunter Jr. deflection led to a Nat Berhe interception. Apple has been matched up outside with Beckham more than anyone so far in camp. That type of work can only make him a better player when the Giants take on the Cowboys in Week 1.
Usually at this time of year, I’m frantically trying to jot down the day’s combinations at certain positions like safety or offensive line. But for the first time in a while, there’s not much of a need this summer. That struck me a few times at practice this past weekend because everywhere you look, there’s a returning starter. Sure, there are always position battles. For example, will Robert Thomas hold off Dalvin Tomlinson at defensive tackle? Or who is going to win the right to be Eli Manning’s primary backup? Or will Nat Berhe make it a three-man competition to start next to All-Pro safety Landon Collins? Or will D.J. Fluker overtake anyone on the right side of the offensive line?
By and large, though, we know the starting lineup for Week 1, barring any unforeseen circumstances. With that continuity comes a trust factor, especially on the defense. I thought linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who was the defensive captain last year, had a very interesting comment after Sunday’s practice. He talked about how defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has let his guard down a little bit and is letting the players “kind of dictate to him” with what they like to do and what they’re comfortable with. The same goes for his assistant coaches, which is something Spagnuolo actually referenced at the end of last season as well. The delegating paid off down the stretch as the Giants finished with the No. 2 scoring defense, but you have to remember they didn’t really fire on all cylinders until the game in London and certainly after the bye week. That was because everyone -- players and coaches – were still feeling each other out, something that is not the case this year. Maybe that will lead to a faster start.
This offseason, the Giants added depth to the tight end group through free agency and the draft, and based on OTAs and minicamp, it appeared to be more than just a bunch of names on paper. Based on those observations, I’ve felt that’s the position group to watch closely during training camp. Sunday, Ben McAdoo essentially confirmed that by telling the media, “Our tight end group has vastly improved, it’s a very competitive group and I can’t wait to see them play in the preseason.” Over the weekend, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Will Tye and Matt LaCosse all made notable plays with a few of them having a knack for finding the end zone. The competition is already evident, and based on Engram’s comments to the press, he understands the importance of becoming a well-rounded player in terms of receiving, blocking and special teams work. Engram referred to the tight end position as a “Swiss army knife” and based on the early returns, the Giants have a number of tools at their disposal.