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Fact or Fiction: Top competitions at OTAs

1. The most important competition on the Giants is right tackle.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -- While right tackle is an essential positon, I won’t vote “Fact” here because I think barring injury, Mike Remmers is going to win this competition. He is a capable and competent right tackle who understands the offense and should provide a workmanlike effort at the position. Instead, I am going to turn to cornerback, where after Janoris Jenkins, there are a bunch of players with little experience competing for the starting and nickel spots. If a young player steps up and runs away with this competition at either spot, that means they are showing they are going to be a good pro, which is essential for the Giants moving forward. They need their young cornerbacks to show up this season if the defense is going to be good enough to win games in 2019.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction – Everyone is forgetting about the competition at center. Jon Halapio, who opened as the starter last season before getting hurt in Week 2, and Spencer Pulley, who was a big part of the offensive surge in the second half of the year, both re-signed with the Giants this offseason. As a former center himself, coach Pat Shurmur has an eye for the position. Whoever it is will be directing traffic for an offense looking to take another leap in Year 2. Whoever doesn’t get the job will provide valuable depth throughout the grind of a season.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction -- It goes without saying every position on the offensive line is crucial. Whoever wins the right tackle job will play an important role in determining how successful the Giants will be on offense in 2019, but considering Mike Remmers is a polished vet with 64 starts under his belt and Chad Wheeler already has familiarity with the scheme and the position, the Giants have options at that spot. That’s not to say those are the only two players who will compete for the job, but it’s fair to assume those are the two front-runners. The experience Remmers and Wheeler bring to the table is the reason why I would argue the competition at the cornerback spots are most important. Outside of Janoris Jenkins, Grant Haley and Tony Lippett, no other corners on the roster had any defensive snaps with the Giants in 2018. That means James Bettcher will be relying on several new faces, highlighted by essentially four rookies (DeAndre Baker, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, Sam Beal). There’s plenty of talent and upside in that group but also a lot of unknown.

2. The most wide-open position on the roster is the nickel cornerback.

SCHMEELK: Fiction -- If the slot cornerback on opening night isn’t either Grant Haley or Julian Love, I would be surprised, so I don’t consider that to be wide open. It will be a fair competition with neither player having an advantage going in but only two people are involved. I am interested to see if Love does enough at safety to challenge Antoine Bethea. I think the edge rusher/outside linebacker spot is wide open. I could see scenarios where Kareem Martin, Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter or Oshane Ximines end up starting and getting the majority of snaps at some point this season. All four have different skill sets. Golden has the best pass rushing skill with his 12.5-sack season in 2016 and two years removed from his ACL injury. Carter is the best athlete of the group with the raw tools to be anything he wants to be, including a dominant pass rusher. Ximines was one of the most effective pass rushers in college last year. Martin can do a little bit of everything and is very reliable. All four will have a role, and I look forward to seeing who wins the most playing time.

SALOMONE: Fact – The only thing general manager Dave Gettleman likes as much as a hog molly is a cornerback. He used 30 percent of his 10-man draft class at the position, in addition to picking up Sam Beal in last year’s supplemental draft. Looking at the nickel cornerback specifically, this will be a good one to watch throughout OTAs. And you’ll be able to tell a lot. No pads means the passing game is on display, both offensively and defensively. The rookies are interesting with Julian Love being able to play all over the field and Corey Ballentine having experience playing inside. Meanwhile, Grant Haley played 429 snaps last year, each one of them invaluable as he tries to cement his spot as a former undrafted free agent. 

MEDOW: Fiction -- Although this year’s fourth-round pick Julian Love is a great fit at nickel corner and has already been pegged the favorite, he’s going to have to go out and earn that role. Grant Haley is still very much in the mix after playing well down the stretch of the 2018 season, and don’t dismiss Michael Thomas from the conversation given he was utilized in that spot in addition to safety. While you can certainly make the case that there’s competition at nickel corner, I think the most wide-open position is the third wide receiver job. Here are the candidates: Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard and rookie Darius Slayton. Each of those players brings something different to the table, but I don’t think anyone in particular has a huge edge entering training camp.

3. The player you’re most interested to see at OTAs is cornerback Sam Beal, who spent all of last season on injured reserve.

SCHMEELK: Fact -- I watched Beal’s handful of snaps at his only practice last season, and I am excited to see more. I’ve seen the rookie class at minicamp and ad nauseam on tape, so I have a good feel for them. My exposure to Beal is limited and I want to see more. He has the length and speed to be a good press man cornerback playing the way Bettcher wants his guys to play. Let’s see how healthy he is coming off shoulder surgery last season and how he covers NFL wide receivers.

SALOMONE: Fiction – Get your Daniel Jones fix in now. After OTAs and training camp, it is anyone’s guess when you will see the sixth overall pick again. Much has been made about what the rookie from Duke can learn from Eli Manning in terms of habits and how to comport himself as a future starting quarterback of the New York Giants, but he still needs to produce on the field. This spring is about adding practice reps to his memory bank.

MEDOW: Fact -- The Giants sacrificed a third round pick in this year’s draft when they took Sam Beal in last year’s supplemental draft, but due to injury, neither the team nor the fan base had a chance to see what he could bring to the team in 2018. With the corner depth chart very much up in the air, Beal has a great opportunity to not just see time on the field in 2019 but emerge as a key contributor. For that reason alone, it’s fair to say many are itching to see what he can do.

4. The player most likely to produce the best highlights during OTAs is rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton. 

SCHMEELK: Fiction -- This is actually a tough question since it is hard to take Saquon Barkley because running backs don’t really shine in unpadded practices with no hitting or tackling. You almost have to take a wide receiver with their one-handed grabs and deep passes. I’m going to go with Sterling Shepard, who is the quickest of the wide receivers and should be able to some damage down the field in practice.

SALOMONE: Fact – Slayton had a few drops as he was “trying to figure a lot of stuff out in the first half of the first practice” at rookie minicamp, wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said, but the fifth-round pick rebounded and showed what the scouts saw in him. And that is a guy who averaged over 20 yards per catch in college. He’s going to make some plays in the OTA setting.

MEDOW: Fiction -- Given there’s no contact allowed during OTAs, the only appropriate answer is either a wide receiver or a corner because that’s where you’ll see the most activity during this period of the offseason. Slayton is a vertical threat who has already shown some flashes during rookie minicamp, so he’s a strong candidate, but I’ll go to the opposite side of the ball and say first-round pick DeAndre Baker will steal the show during OTAs with his cover skills.

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