*Three Giants writers debate Big Blue topics with the preseason opener just hours away: *
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants take on the Steelers Friday night
The defense has been ahead of the offense so far at training camp.
PAUL DOTTINO: Fact -Did you really expect it to be any other way, considering almost all of the starting defensive players have returned after the unit allowed the fewest points in the NFC last season? The Giants only tweaked three starting positions on defense -- and it doesn't appear as if they have taken any steps backwards with either second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson or veteran Robert Thomas at defensive tackle, Darian Thompson at free safety or B.J. Goodson at middle linebacker. Besides, as most offensive players will tell you, the majority of training camp drills favors the defense because they are overly familiar with the plays and the snap count.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -It's been a great back-and-forth, especially between the corners and receivers. But coach Ben McAdoo was actually just asked this in camp. His response: "I think it just depends on which play it is. It depends on the starting point of the play. Offense could have a good starting point and have a chance, because we're just rolling calls in on both sides of the ball right now, we're just trying to get some work, trying to get the schemes in on both sides. I think we have a good competition going on both sides, but I think it just depends on the play. I don't think any side of the ball is ahead of each other at this point." There you have it.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -The offense has certainly had its days and its flashes, but I think, overall, the defense has been a bit more consistent. Despite an impressive 2016 campaign for Steve Spagnuolo's group, the unit seems to have a chip on its shoulder. The players aren't banking on just carrying over last season's performance. Listening to them talk after practice and watching their intensity on the field, it's clear the players believe they still have very much to prove and are hungry to make a statement. For example, the day the team focused on red zone and goal line work, the defense was extremely effective in keeping the offense out of the end zone. From Olivier Vernon to B.J. Goodson to Janoris Jenkins, every layer of the defense has been aggressive and opportunistic.
Defensive tackle Jay Bromley will start the majority of games this season.
PAUL DOTTINO: Fiction -We will assume Damon Harrison is going to receive the bulk of the reps as one of the starting defensive tackles, leaving most of the available snaps for the three-technique (or the penetrating) defensive tackle next to him. Although Bromley is better-suited to play the latter position, his odds of grabbing the most starts are diminished by the presence of Tomlinson (having a good camp) and Thomas (drawn positive reviews from the coaching staff despite limited action).
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The team has sent a message to Jay Bromley: this is a big year for you. With Johnathan Hankins and then All-Pro Damon Harrison coming onboard, Bromley's role has fluctuated since being drafted in 2014. But now that Hankins is gone, there is an opening that is, well, still kind of open. The real answer to this is "I don't know for sure" but for the sake of this argument, I'll roll with Bromley. While the unofficial depth chart doesn't mean everything, it doesn't mean nothing. And the first one has Bromley next to Harrison on the top line.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -While Jay Bromley is very much in the mix for the starting defensive tackle job next to Snacks, I still think Robert Thomas has a legitimate chance to carve out a significant role, and as the season progresses, I wouldn't be surprised if rookie Dalvin Tomlinson begins to emerge. When you take all of that into consideration, it may be difficult for one player to start the majority of games this season, given Steve Spagnuolo could mix and match a bit depending on the opponent. This is a critical year for Bromley as he's entering his fourth season in the league and he's stood out at times during training camp, due to his ability to penetrate the holes. But with other competition at that position, I think we could see several other players make appearances next to Snacks.
Rookie tight end Evan Engram will lead the team in receiving yards Friday night.
PAUL DOTTINO: Fiction -This answer has more to do with the way preseason snaps are distributed than it does with Engram, the Giants' first-round pick. Those who are deepest on the depth chart could enter the game as early as midway through the second half and that should mean plenty of chances for either team to make big plays as the game wears on. Engram likely will be long out of the game by then, meaning one of the receivers locked in a battle on the Giants' depth chart will be in better position to put up more yardage.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -Projecting numbers in the preseason is a crapshoot, but I like to live dangerously. At the behest of his head coach, Engram isn't thinking as much, which is allowing him to play faster. Giants fans should be excited to see him go full speed against a real opponent for the first time, and then he can go back to the film and clean up the details.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -I think one of the wide receivers lower on the depth chart will end up leading the team in receiving yards against the Steelers, somebody like Darius Powe or Travis Rudolph. When Geno Smith spoke with the media Wednesday, he mentioned he's been building chemistry with several players, especially Rudolph, who he described as a guy "you can count on to be in the right spot." Smith also mentioned tight ends Will Tye and Jerell Adams. Given Smith will likely see plenty of snaps and is competing for the backup quarterback job, it wouldn't surprise me if he relies on weapons he's grown comfortable playing with throughout camp.
The most important competition to watch in the preseason is kicker.
PAUL DOTTINO: Fiction -Despite having yet to kick in a regular-season game, Aldrick Rosas has done nothing but draw rave reviews since he joined the Giants in January. It would be an upset for him to lose the job to camp newcomer Mike Nugent, who's entering his 14th NFL season. But that's the point -- the Giants have a fallback plan and it's a proven veteran. The team cannot say the same if veteran Valentino Blake fails to win the undervalued fourth cornerback position, given that the inexperienced but skillful Donte Deayon and Michael Hunter are currently battling for the spot.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The Giants' lineup is pretty much set, but kicker is a question mark. The team obviously has faith in the untested Aldrick Rosas, evidenced by the fact that he had no competition in the offseason. Then veteran Mike Nugent, who said he wants to play 20 years in this league, came along. I'm very interested to see how this turns out. There aren't many runaway games in the NFL these days. The Giants had five games decided by a field goal or less last season. You need someone reliable at that spot.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact -When you look at the roster, while there's plenty of competition for spots on the depth chart, there aren't many starting jobs up for grabs given the nucleus of last season's roster essentially returned intact. The starting kicker job is one of those unique opportunities, and although how Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent perform in practice is important, it will come down to what the two players accomplish in the preseason. Kicking in practice is much different than a game atmosphere.