Cover 3: What to expect as OTAs get underway

Cover3-Sterling-Shepard

The New York Giants begin spring practices today at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activities (OTAs). No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are allowed. The Giants will hold OTAs on May 20-21, May 23, May 28-29, May 31 and June 10-13. In between, there is a mandatory minicamp on June 4-6. Here, the Giants.com crew previews what to watch this spring.

JOHN SCHMEELK: OTAs are going to be all about the passing game for me. I am fully confident the Giants offense is going to be fine this year and should average at least 24 points per game, which would put them in the 60th percentile in the league. If they finish above 26 points per game, which is possible, they would vault into the top 10. Twenty-seven points will likely get the Giants into the top five. The defense’s challenge is going to be to incorporate many young players.

With no contact allowed at OTAs, we aren’t going to be able to see much from the defensive line and the pass rush. We are going to be able to see how the Giants young cornerbacks room handles a talented set of wide receivers. DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine and Grant Haley will be competing for prominent roles in the secondary at outside cornerback, the slot, and perhaps even free safety in Love’s case. All of those players are in their first or second season with limited of no NFL snaps. Janoris Jenkins and Antoine Bethea are the only true veterans of the group. Even Jabrill Peppers is just a third-year player.

If the Giants defense is going to be good enough to win games this year, the young secondary needs to grow up quickly and play at a high level. It is a passing league, and if James Bettcher wants to create pressure with blitz packages up front, he has to be able to trust this young group to handle their business and cover on the back end. This is a chance for them to start to prove that. Coincidentally, this will also allow me to watch Daniel Jones very closely, who is the most important single player for the Giants long-term future. Funny how that works.

View the top images from Monday as the Giants take the field for OTAs

DAN SALOMONE: This time of year is always a good chance to get a feel for what the coaches initially think about the depth chart, from longtime veterans down to the rookies. For example, does Jon Halapio or Spencer Pulley line up with the first team at center? Who is the top nickel corner? What does the linebacker corps look like, inside and out? What about return specialists? Of course, what you read and see on this site and elsewhere about first, second and third teams is by no means final or official. But there is some merit to it because teams want to build continuity and get the most reps possible for the players they know will see significant time. It’s also not just about the starters. Spring is the time for players lower in the pecking order to start to make a name for themselves and set the stage for training camp. Maybe there is a Victor Cruz out there. A Chase Blackburn. A Shaun O’Hara. A Rich Seubert. All right, maybe not another Seubert. He is one of a kind. But that’s the crazy part of building a roster in the NFL. No one knew who those guys were when they opened their first OTA practice. They just went to work and slowly but surely made the coaches and front office say, “He needs to be on the roster.” Right now, there are a few overlooked players on the roster who will make the team.

LANCE MEDOW: The biggest thing to watch during OTAs is where players are lined up and how they are utilized within the scheme. With no contact allowed during this period, there’s only so much you can learn about individual players, especially those who are situated in the trenches, but it will be interesting to see where offensive linemen are slotted, specifically players who have the versatility to be moved around or rookies who were just added to the roster. A few names that come to mind are: Evan Brown, Nick Gates, Brian Mihalik and George Asafo-Adjei. The same can be said for defensive linemen highlighted by B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson.

In the secondary, I’ll be keeping close tabs on Julian Love given he’ll likely get reps at corner and safety. How much will Sam Beal be asked to do during OTAs? How does he look as he returns to the field after missing all of last season due to a shoulder injury? Both very fair questions as the Giants look to get him back in the mix as part of a young nucleus at corner.

Lastly, who will emerge as the third receiver? Yes, we’ll learn a lot more during training camp when they put on the pads, but there’s no reason why someone can’t separate himself from the rest of the pack by consistently making plays. Keep in mind, although Corey Coleman showed some flashes last season, he wasn’t with the team during this time period last year. That could help him immensely as he looks to become and more comfortable in the offense. This essentially relates to every returning player. At this time last year, they were learning a completely new system. Now, with much more knowledge and experience, within the scheme, it’s a much different feel for both the players and coaches.

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