1. Safety Jabrill Peppers was the defensive standout of the first week of OTAs.
John Schmeelk: Fiction -- Peppers has shown his athleticism and had an interception, but I thought Evan Engram got the best of him at times on Wednesday. Markus Golden has impressed me with his ability to get to the quarterback, but in workouts without pads or contact, I can’t take too much out of that. I’ll go with Sam Beal. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the second-year cornerback as he comes off shoulder surgery, but the fact he has been out there and taken all his snaps with the first team and doesn’t look out of place is enough to impress me. He also got his hand on a ball that resulted in Peppers’ interception during the first OTA. He is long, but seems to move and change direction very well.
Dan Salomone: Fiction – He’s not hitting anyone at this time of the year, but middle linebacker Alec Ogletree has been able to display his coverage skills – like he did last season. In the first OTA, Ogletree redirected a pass that cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted. The next day, he intercepted one himself. This comes a year after he had five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Lance Medow: Fact -- I think it was very close between Peppers and Sam Beal, but I’ll give the slight edge to Peppers. Both players were extremely active during the first week of OTAs and displayed a knack for getting their hands on the ball. One of the reasons the Giants wanted Peppers included in the trade with Cleveland was because of his versatility and that has already been on full display during a few practices. He’s collected a few interceptions, has had a great read on the ball and fielded a handful of punts during special teams drills.
2. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard was the offensive standout.
Schmeelk: Fact -- I’m wowed every day by Saquon Barkley’s explosive, shifty, and elusive athleticism but during OTA’s, it is always going to be a receiver. Shepard has proven hard to cover for every cornerback out there. Shepard has an advantage with the defensive backs being unable to put their hands on him at the line of scrimmage, which allows him to show off his route running and change of direction ability. I also want to give a special mention to Daniel Jones, who has thrown a nice ball and spirals in windy conditions.
Salomone: Fiction – Evan Engram has to be exciting Giants fans. Hampered by injuries, his numbers dipped in his sophomore season, but the tight end finished strong with 22 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown in his final four games. He looks confident this spring as he heads into his third season, the second in Pat Shurmur’s offense. His numbers should rebound and then some.
Medow: Fact -- Sterling Shepard is clearly looking to establish himself as the number one wideout and a player who can be just as much a threat on the outside as he is in the slot. Shepard hauled in numerous deep balls during practice and provided several explosive plays for this week’s highlight reel.
3. Cornerback Sam Beal has the most to gain this spring.
Schmeelk: Fiction -- Beal has a lot to gain, but not more than any of the other young cornerbacks who will be competing for playing time. Beal, DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Grant Haley and Julian Love are all competing for snaps on defense. Every one of them has a ton to gain in OTA’s and training camp. There will be a similar competition at outside linebacker, where Kareem Martin, Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will vie for snaps. It should be a great competition at both spots and a lot of fun to watch.
Salomone: Fact – He was a supplemental draft pick who missed all of his first season with a shoulder injury. Now he’s in line to play a major role in the new-look secondary. He’s capitalizing on the opportunity so far, highlighted by a pass breakup in the end zone that led to a Jabrill Peppers’ interception. It was a great play, and more importantly, he made it by fully extending the arm on his rehabbed shoulder.
Medow: Fiction -- Sam Beal certainly has a great opportunity, given the youth movement at corner, but coming into this offseason, most expected him to be in the mix for a starting job. I think the player with much more to gain this spring is wide receiver Corey Coleman, who wasn’t with the team last offseason. The third wide receiver job is wide open. Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard and Darius Slayton are also competing for that role but there’s no reason why Coleman can’t win the competition. Late last season, he showed some flashes as a receiver and return man and if he can pick up where he left off, I wouldn’t overlook his ability to make a statement this spring. He bounced around from team to team in 2018 before settling in with the Giants, but let’s not forget we’re talking about a former first round pick.
4. The offensive line is shaping up to be the strongest unit on the roster this season.
Schmeelk: Fiction -- The mere fact this is a consideration should tell everyone how far the offensive line has come. Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio/Spencer Pulley, Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers should provide stability blocking for Saquon Barkley and protecting Eli Manning. I’m not sure who the swing guard and tackle will be, though I imagine Chad Wheeler is the leader in the clubhouse for the latter position. With that said, I can’t say the offensive line is stronger than the running back room. Barkley is a top back in football who can do everything. Wayne Gallman developed into a solid backup last season. Elijah Penny proved to be a versatile fullback, while Rod Smith brings experience as both a running back and fullback. I have no worries about the running back position, which is led by a player who will contribute at the most elite level.
Salomone: Fact – The fact this is even up for a debate is remarkable considering recent history, but it should come as no surprise. General manager Dave Gettleman made no bones about wanting to fix the offensive line, and since the first day he took over, that is what he has done. Through the draft, free agency and trades, he and his staff have assembled a group with a heavy mix of game-tested veterans, including two 100-game starters in Nate Solder and Kevin Zeitler, and hungry young players looking to establish themselves in the league. Saquon Barkley will be even more fun to watch this year with this group paving the way.
Medow: Fact -- As I mentioned in my answer to the previous statement, wide receiver deserves some consideration, as does running back, given how those depth charts look, but you can make a strong case for the offensive line. With multiple veterans in the mix, such as Nate Solder, Spencer Pulley, Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers, and two young players who have starting experience in Will Hernandez and Chad Wheeler, there’s a mix of talent across the board. On top of that, you have Jon Halapio returning from a season-ending leg injury, as well as two players on last year’s roster competing for roles in Evan Brown and Brian Mihalik. You can never have enough competition at any positon, and there’s plenty of that on the offensive line, which should provide the Giants with depth at a critical area.