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Fact or Fiction: Forecasting 2019 stat leaders

1. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins will lead the team in interceptions.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – It is very hard for cornerbacks to grab a lot of interceptions, especially if they are playing mostly man-to-man, which the Giants will likely do this year. My bet is Antoine Bethea will lead in interceptions. He will be patrolling centerfield, and his experience and instincts should allow him to anticipate opposing quarterbacks and make plays on the football. He had five interceptions playing for James Bettcher in Arizona in 2017. Jabrill Peppers could be in the mix here, too, but Bethea is the safer pick.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Just because we’re all going “fiction” here doesn’t mean we think Jenkins won’t have an outstanding season. He is going to lead the team in pass break-ups – you can book that with confidence – but some of those deflections go into the hands of a safety, like a Jabrill Peppers or veteran Antoine Bethea. I’d look to those two to lead the team in interceptions. They cover more ground and see the big picture as the last line of defense.

Lance Medow: Fiction – In his first three seasons with the Giants, Janoris Jenkins has led the team in interceptions once when he finished tied for first with Ross Cockrell, with three, in 2017. In James Bettcher’s first season as defensive coordinator, linebacker Alec Ogletree led the team in that category with five and Jenkins had two. Given Jenkins is essentially the lone veteran corner on the roster and the rest of the group is composed of youth and inexperience, I think most opponents will look to test the rookie corners, which may not present Jenkins with as many opportunities as his teammates. It’s also important to note in Bettcher’s three seasons as Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, the number one corner never led Arizona in interceptions. In 2015, safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson finished tied for first with five, in 2016 it was corner Marcus Cooper Sr. who led the group with four, and in 2017, Antoine Bethea topped the list with five.

2. Cornerback DeAndre Baker will play the most snaps this season among the Giants’ rookies.

Schmeelk: Fact -- Unlike defensive linemen and pass rushers (Dexter Lawrence/Oshane Ximines), cornerbacks rarely come off the field, so if Baker starts (which I expect), he should blow away the other rookies on defense in terms of snaps. With Daniel Jones expected to learn behind Eli Manning, I can’t imagine anyone will have more snaps than DeAndre Baker. 

Salomone: Fact – You don’t take what you believe to be the best cover corner in the draft off the field, no matter the down and distance. Baker and Jenkins figure to be the top two on the outside, with players like Sam Beal and Julian Love getting a significant number of snaps. You need four quality corners in today’s game.

Medow: Fact – The Giants selected 10 players in this year’s draft, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say DeAndre Baker is in the best position to see the most snaps, especially since he’s the frontrunner to win the starting job opposite Janoris Jenkins. Of the 10 rookies, Baker is most likely to stay on the field on all downs and consistently make his presence felt. I can’t say that for the rest of the group. Dexter Lawrence, Oshane Ximines and Chris Slayton’s playing time will depend on the defensive line/pass rusher rotations. Julian Love and Corey Ballentine need to carve out their respective roles in the secondary. How will Darius Slayton fit within the receiving corps. Ryan Connelly will likely make his biggest impact on special teams, and Daniel Jones and George Asafo-Adjei will both provide depth at their respective positions.

3. The Giants will carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster to start the season.

Schmeelk: Fact – I think there is a chance that Daniel Jones is the primary backup and the Giants choose not to carry any other quarterback on the roster, but I don’t think it is likely. Alex Tanney would provide another virtual coach in the room for Daniel Jones, and Kyle Lauletta could be another developmental player if they decide to keep him as the third guy. Head Coach Pat Shurmur seems to like to have a full quarterback room where the players can feed off each other.

Salomone: Fact – I think the Giants like Tanney too much not to reserve a roster spot for him. You see why in practice. This spring, he made as many plays as any other quarterback. His real value, though, is behind the scenes. Eli Manning isn’t the only one mentoring rookie Daniel Jones. On the “Giants Huddle” podcast, the sixth overall draft pick had the following to say about Tanney: “Alex is a guy who’s been in the league for a while and knows how it’s supposed to look, knows how you’re supposed to prepare. He’s helped me a lot within that preparation aspect for practice and taught me a few things in how he prepares and what kind of helps him get ready in reviewing the script.”

Medow: Fact – I’ve gone back and forth with this one since the team drafted Daniel Jones, but the one point I won’t overlook is what Pat Shurmur stressed throughout last season. He said on multiple occasions he values having a veteran backup quarterback because that player can run the offense without receiving many snaps during the week. That’s why I think regardless of Daniel Jones’ progress during training camp and the preseason, the Giants will keep three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.

4. Wide receiver Darius Slayton will be the star of the preseason.

Schmeelk: Fact -- The star of the preseason is inevitably a wide receiver, so why not Darius Slayton? He has great speed and can stretch the field. If he absorbs the playbook and proves himself to be a reliable route runner, he has a real chance to be part of the wide receiver rotation. He should make some spectacular plays throughout camp. Don’t count out Corey Coleman, who will be given a chance to show off his athleticism in the preseason. He was a first round pick for a reason.

Salomone: Fact – Wide receivers (touchdowns) and pass rushers (sacks) usually steal the headlines in the preseason. At least they have for the Giants in recent memory. Slayton has elite speed and showed during spring practices that he can also learn and run the routes, much to the delight of coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula. Yes, that was without the pads and no threat of getting hit. It’s a completely different game when it’s live, but Slayton showed some mental toughness to rebound from a rough rookie minicamp and become the most improved player of spring. Let’s see if he continues this summer.

Medow: Fiction -- No matter what happens in the preseason, Daniel Jones will be the star and steal the show. Whether it’s right or not, let’s face it, most will treat this preseason as if it’s Jones’ Super Bowl. Every decision, every throw, every play will be put under the microscope and blown out of proportion. Being the star of the preseason is not just about production. Unfortunately, it’s also about the headlines and no one will dominate that area more than Jones.

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