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Cover 4: Who's turning heads at offseason practices


With OTAs in the rearview mirror and minicamp coming up this week, the crew discusses which players have turned heads this spring:

John Schmeelk: Darren Waller. We have seen him a lot and knew his athletic measurements and physical profile. But seeing him in person, you can't help but be impressed about what he looks like on the field. Waller is a HUGE human being. He is also a very fast and agile – this combination of skills makes it extremely difficult for anyone to cover him.

He is too big for cornerbacks. He is too fast for safeties and linebackers to stay attached to him in the secondary. He is smooth in and out of breaks, and looks like an oversized wide receiver. He can play anywhere in the formation, and should be a walking mismatch generator for the Giants' offensive staff to plan around.

Dan Salomone: On offense, you can't miss wide receiver Parris Campbell, who jumped on the new jersey rule and snagged No. 0. The Ohio State product ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Combine and was drafted in the second round by Indianapolis, where he spent four seasons. The first three of those seasons were riddled with "freak accidents" that "weren't avoidable." But he played a full slate in 2022 and unsurprisingly posted career numbers. Now the Giants' brain trust can scheme up how to best use him.

On defense, linebacker Bobby Okereke is another veteran addition who turned heads in his first spring practices with the Giants. It's tough for an inside linebacker to let loose in non-contact OTAs, but he certainly showed his skills in the passing game and broke up some passes. Both newcomers will be key pieces in the Giants' 2023 plans.

View all the action from the Quest Diagnostics Training Center as OTAs come to a close.

Lance Medow: It's hard to walk away from OTAs and not be impressed with Darren Waller, even when he's not running routes and catching passes. At 6-6, the former Pro Bowler presents quite the target for Daniel Jones and their chemistry is already evident even before the start of training camp. Waller is an established veteran, who has produced an impressive resume but seeing him in person provides a different perspective. Last week, when Darius Slayton met with the media, he even joked, he makes sure not to stand too close to Waller during drills so that his new teammate doesn't make Darius seem smaller. If that's the biggest concern, then it's a good problem to have.

Waller has the potential to lead the Giants in receiving yards this season as the team's offense could be similar to the Chiefs where the tight end does the heavy lifting. Let's not overlook Mike Kafka was with Travis Kelce in Kansas City for several seasons and helped orchestrate an offense built around that position. What makes Waller appealing is his versatility. He can line up inside and outside and thanks to his impressive frame, his catch radius creates issues for opposing defenders. You have to be very cautious around this time of the year of jumping to conclusions and reading too much into practice sessions where there's no contact. That's why you can only take so much away from spring workouts but it's not a stretch to say Waller has stood out from a pure optics standout in terms of his build and size. That's an attractive asset for New York's offense and now it's a matter of that translating to the field once they put on the pads and go to work.

Matt Citak: Darren Waller is the easy answer here, but since he's already been covered, let's go with some of the rookies. The team's first three selections from this year's draft, Deonte Banks, John Michael Schmitz and Jalin Hyatt, garnered plenty of praise from the media immediately following the draft. Through the first few weeks of spring practices, it's easy to see why.

Banks has made several strong plays in 7-on-7 drills during OTAs, including some pass breakups and interceptions. While speaking to the media last week, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale praised the rookie corner and even quoted the famous Ted Lasso when discussing Banks' ability to quickly move onto the next play. It's tough to gather too much from OTAs when it comes to offensive linemen as contact is not permitted, but Daniel Jones has already commended Schmitz's football intelligence and work ethic. As for Hyatt, the rookie receiver has flashed the speed and strong hands that helped him take home last year's Biletnikoff Award. The speedster has made several nice catches during team drills, both from short and long range, and has looked crisp with his route-running.

Banks, Schmitz and Hyatt will still need to earn their playing time during training camp, but it's easy to see all three receiving plenty of action during their first NFL season.



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