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Fact or Fiction: Most impressive player at OTAs?


The most impressive offensive player of the first two weeks of OTAs has been Eli Manning.

JOHN SCMEELK: Fact- The other guys I considered for this were Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer and Evan Engram. Then I realized they all had something in common: Eli Manning is throwing them the football. It made the decision easy. Manning has only thrown one interception in all of OTAs and has been by far the best quarterback out there. His physical skills have not deteriorated, he seems to be making quick decisions, and he's getting the ball to open receivers with accuracy. There's really nothing to complain about. The addendum here, of course, is that he is completing these passes with no fear of a pass rush and sometimes will secure completions after what would have been a sack in a real-game situation (because of how long he holds the ball). With all that said, Manning is still the easy answer here.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - If you were living under a rock for the last year and just crawled over to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center to see what was going on, you wouldn't know Eli Manning has had only six full practices in Pat Shurmur's offense with the entire team. You just wouldn't. General manager Dave Gettleman's quote from the Senior Bowl has stayed with me this whole time. Referring to Manning's 434-yard performance against the Eagles in Week 15 last season, the incoming general manager said it was "not a mirage." And with Manning, there is no secret elixir. It comes from being the hardest-working man in the building.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Given there's no contact during OTAs, the quarterbacks are usually the ones who stand out the most. Although there's constant speculation about how many more years Eli Manning has left, if OTAs are any indication, it appears he still has some gas in the tank. Eli has been spreading the wealth during practices as well as putting his arm strength on display. The most encouraging aspect, and likely the most meaningful, is the fact that Manning already appears to have command of and comfort with Pat Shurmur's offense. Even though Eli is a polished vet and picking up a new system isn't necessarily a tall order at this point in his career, this is his third new offense in the span of six years.

The most impressive defensive player has been Eli Apple.

JOHN SCMEELK: Fact- There have been a bunch of people on the line of scrimmage that have been very active like Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin, Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn but without contact I don't want to make too much of it. Judging defensive linemen and pass rushers without full contact is like judging wide receivers when they aren't allowed to run full speed. In other words, it's a waste of time. So being limited to the secondary, I guess Eli Apple is as good as a candidate as anyone. He made a great play this past week when he left his man to grab an interception on a deep ball. He got his head around and saw the ball before making a play on it, something he needs to improve. There have been plays when he has gotten beat but he's been good. Even more important than his on the field work has been his comradery with his teammates. They joke around on the field together and cheer for one another when they make good plays. It is good to see.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Sorry, linemen. We'll get to you in training camp when the pads come on. To laymen like us, spring is for players trying to catch the ball and players trying to stop them from catching the ball. So far, there have been plenty of standouts in the secondary, specifically the corners. Eli Apple, Donte Deayon, Curtis Riley, Mike Jones, and Orion Stewart have all made plays and interceptions. But the one I've been impressed with the most has been the veteran of the lot – William Gay. The former Steeler is approaching 200 career games played, and the experience shows. Gay, who has played in two Super Bowls, won one, and never missed a game in his 11 seasons, will be an asset for this team on the field and in the locker room.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Similar to the first statement, it's hard to say a defensive lineman or linebacker has been the most impressive player on defense given there's no contact. That's why members of the secondary are usually the most active because they can, at least, make plays on the ball. That's the reason why Eli Apple tops the list. Not only has he been opportunistic by getting his hands on the ball but he also seems to have a very positive outlook for the upcoming season after an up and down 2017. Pat Shurmur has been preaching it's a fresh start for everyone and Apple seems to be taking advantage of that philosophy.

Odell Beckham Jr. will account for at least half of Eli Manning's touchdowns this season.

JOHN SCMEELK: Fiction- You sure as heck hope not. I would expect Eli Manning to top 25 touchdown passes this year, and approach or just surpass 30. I don't think Odell Beckham Jr. will catch more than his career high of 13 touchdowns, which means he should have fewer than half of Manning's touchdowns. I think Evan Engram will be a constant red zone target for Manning with his great size, and I would also expect the Giants to rush it in a lot more with their stable of running backs than they have in years past.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Since Beckham came aboard in 2014, Manning has averaged 27.5 touchdowns per season. Of course, last year skewed that number for the worse with Beckham only playing four games – not to mention the slew of other injuries. Manning has thrown at least 30 touchdowns three times in his career, so if Beckham gets in the range of 13, 14, 15 – which is not a stretch at all if he is healthy – then we're approaching 50 percent. And let's not forget how much the presence of Saquon Barkley will free up No. 13.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Odell Beckham has only played in all 16 games once in his four-year career but in each of his first three seasons he played in at least 12 games so that's enough of a sample size to get a sense of some consistent production. While he collected at least 10 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons, his totals have always accounted for less than half of Eli Manning's touchdowns: 2014 (12/30 – 40%), 2015 (13/35 – 37%), 2016: (10/26 -38%). In some of those seasons, you can argue Beckham was by far Eli's most consistent weapon and given he didn't account for at least 50% of Manning's touchdowns then, with players like Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram now in the mix, I don't think Beckham will reach that mark.

Janoris Jenkins will lead the Giants in interceptions this year.

JOHN SCMEELK: Fiction- I never like picking cornerbacks to lead the team in interceptions, especially the best ones. Why? Often teams will avoid throwing at a team's top cornerback all together and he won't have a lot of opportunities. I think there's a better chance a Giants safety leads the team in interceptions. Last year for James Bettcher's defense in Arizona, Antoine Bethea led the team in interceptions with five. I don't expect Landon Collins to play a ton of the deep safety spot that he did, so I'm going to go with an upset and say Andrew Adams. It could be Darian Thompson but I'll go out on a limb and guess Adams get more interceptions than he does this season.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -He'll most likely lead the Giants in interception return touchdowns – he has seven in his career – but because we're talking sheer volume, I can't bet against two-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins. James Bettcher's defense is built for the Landons of the league, and the safety is going to be flying around and making plays all over the field.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - In each of his two seasons with the Giants, Janoris Jenkins has collected three interceptions. In 2016, he finished third on the team in that category and last season, even though he missed seven games, still tied for the team lead with Ross Cockrell. In James Bettcher's three seasons as Cardinals' defensive coordinator, a safety led or tied for the team lead in interceptions twice: 2015 (Tyrann Mathieu/Rashad Johnson) and 2017 (Antoine Bethea). In 2016, a corner (Marcus Cooper Sr.) accomplished that feat, but I think a safety will lead the Giants in interceptions in 2018. While Landon Collins is a strong candidate, my dark horse is Michael Thomas, who could have a breakout campaign.

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