*In this edition of “Cover 3” on Giants.com, the crew breaks down the first week of OTAs and previews what to look for the rest of the way. *
John Schmeelk: It is important not to take too much out of OTAs, but a few things have jumped out over the course of the first week that are somewhat significant. The first is very generic, but the team appears to be practicing with a great energy, pace, enthusiasm and general joy. Everyone seems so genuinely happy to be out on the field and having fun. Practice has a really nice tenor to it.
The young cornerbacks have all flashed their coverage skills. If they are able to clean up a lot of the technical things you have to when jumping to the NFL level, they will be good players. The question is how long it will take for them to get there. It can be a steep learning curve for rookie defensive backs. Wisconsin linebacker Ryan Connelly has also impressed in coverage.
Daniel Jones has the arm strength to excel in this league. His ball cuts through the wind nicely, and he can make all the throws. Aside from a couple of late/underthrown balls in the third OTA, his play has been very encouraging. The trickiest thing for a rookie quarterback is not to get lost swimming in a new playbook, and it will be fun to watch how he reacts to having the offense expand throughout OTAs. It is hard to judge the pass rush with the contact limitations, but both Oshane Ximines and Marcus Golden have shown why the Giants believe they can be factors getting after the quarterback. Lorenzo Carter and Kareem Martin have been frequent visitors to the backfield, too.
Dan Salomone: Something dawned on me while standing on the field at the first OTA: the offensive line is shaping up to be the strongest position on the team. You can make a case for other groups, but you can’t disagree that it even being up for debate is pretty remarkable and a harbinger of future success if all goes according to plan. A quote from Pat Shurmur, who coached against the Giants for many years with the Eagles, has stuck out to me since he said it during a sit-down with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine: “In the years when the Giants were really good, you could point to the offensive line being really good. Oh, by the way, you have a quarterback named Eli Manning. So I don’t know why that’s any different. … I believe you have a chance to win it all when you can say the strength of your team is the offensive line.”
That was in late February. It’s now late May. In between, the Giants added right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Mike Remmers. In left combination with tackle Nate Solder, left guard Will Hernandez and center Spencer Pulley, you’re talking 319 regular-season starts and 27 postseason. At other positions, that might be considered old. On the offensive line, that’s called being tested.
So what have OTAs told us about the group? Solder and Remmers are rehabbing, but both are expected to make full returns in the near future. In the meantime, Brian Mihalik and Chad Wheeler have played at their respective positions. Those are valuable reps for them as the Giants cultivate depth. At guard, the Giants have a strongman competition in Zeitler and Hernandez. That brings us to center. Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley re-signed over the offseason to compete for the starting job that both held at points last season. Halapio opened with the first team, but Pulley took over at the end of the week. I’d expect this rotation to continue possibly until the summer, when the pads come on and final decisions have to be made. Either way, Giants fans should feel comfortable with those options and where the entire line is heading. Saquon Barkley certainly is.
View the top images from Giants practice on Thursday as 2019 OTAs continue
Lance Medow: My biggest takeaway from the first week of OTAs was watching some of the injured players from 2018 get back on the field. It was encouraging to see Sam Beal running around and being an active participant and making numerous plays in the secondary after missing all of last season due to shoulder surgery. In addition to Beal, running back Paul Perkins, who also missed 2018 because of a torn pectoral muscle, is back in the mix as he competes for a role out of the backfield. Those two players have great opportunities this spring and step one was returning to the field and shedding the role of spectator.
The other major takeaway from the first week of OTAs was to see some of the new faces on the roster in action, including qua rterback Daniel Jones, wide receiver Golden Tate and safety Jabrill Peppers, who was extremely productive in the secondary thanks to a handful of opportunistic plays. As OTAs continue in the weeks ahead, watching the development of the young corners and the battle for the third receiver job will be two storylines to monitor.