Fact or Fiction: What to watch at training camp

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*1. If you’re attending training camp, the best position group to see in person is the wide receivers. *

John Schmeelk: Fact -- As much as I’m looking forward to seeing the pads come on and watch the offensive and defensive lines, for fans the best part of training camp is always the passing game. The one-on-ones between the wide receivers and defensive backs are fun. The biggest oohs and ahs from the stands always come on big pass plays down the field when the offense goes for a big play to the wide receivers. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are two to watch, but also keep an eye on Cody Latimer, Darius Slayton and Corey Coleman, who are trying to make big plays down field with their speed.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Come on, springtime was for the receivers. That was when there were no pads on and they could run free. This is training camp. Let’s look at what the team has in the trenches. The Giants will go as far as the offensive line takes them this season. Tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers missed spring ball, so we’ll get a look at how they bookend the group for the first time in the near future. Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler are two of the strongest humans you will ever see. And then there is the important competition at center between Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley. Keep your eyes on the offensive line.

Lance Medow: Fact -- While there’s certainly more physicality during training camp than in OTAs and minicamp, the one position group that tends to always show up on the highlight reel is the wide receivers. They’re usually very active and involved in just about every play. I also think wide receiver is one of the deepest positions on the roster with some of the best competition for jobs and roles within the offense. Between Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Bennie Fowler and rookie Darius Slayton, just to name a few, there’s plenty to take in during training camp.

2. The most entertaining player to watch (and listen to) in between plays at training camp will be wide receiver Russell Shepard.

Schmeelk: Fact -- Russell Shepard is funny and loud, a perfect combination for practice banter. He was going back and forth with Jabrill Peppers and the other Giants defensive backs throughout the spring. Peppers has some great lines back to him too, but he isn’t as easy to ear over the din of practice. This type of interaction between the offense and defense ups the intensity level, which helps the team.

Salomone: Fiction – I’ll go with Saquon Barkley -- and not just for his freakish athleticism, which is apparent. What also sets him apart is the attention he commands from his teammates. The rest of the players just gravitate to him and what he is saying, whether that’s encouraging his side of the ball or talking trash to the other. He is just as entertaining to watch in between plays as he is when he actually has the ball in his hands.

Medow: Fiction -- It didn’t take long for Jabrill Peppers to make his presence felt in the trash talking department. Just ask Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard, who didn’t shy away from going after the new Giants safety during the offseason program. Peppers has used it as a motivational tool and his teammates seem to be responding in a fun way. That’s more of a reason why, if you’re seeking entertainment value, don’t look further than Peppers.

3. The Giants have changed the most among the four NFC East teams this offseason.

Schmeelk: Fact -- My first instinct was to go “fiction” here and say the Redskins’ changes at quarterback trump everything else, but in the end the Giants are going to look like a very different team. They will have as many as five different starters on offense (RT, RG, C, 2nd and 3rd WR), and seven on defense (2 safeties, 2nd and 3rd CB, two OLB’s and one defensive lineman). The team will be darn near unrecognizable from what they put on the field last season. The Cowboys and Eagles have undergone minor changes from a personnel standpoint, with Dallas having some changes on their offensive coaching staff. As Dave Gettleman continues to transform the roster, the Giants are the answer here.

Salomone: Fact – General manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur have now had two full cycles of free agency and draft picks together, and they have been busy. Looking at just this past year specifically, they redid the right side of the offensive line, acquired a new safety tandem, and drafted three cornerbacks. Then you have newcomers like Golden Tate, Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, and the list goes on. This is a new roster.

Medow: Fact -- The Cowboys and Eagles both made the playoffs last season, so it’s no surprise they looked to keep the nucleus of their teams intact. Both franchises added some key veterans to help round out their rosters but didn’t make massive changes where you can say there are so many new faces. In comparison, the Giants revamped the right side of their offensive line, added a key wide receiver in Golden Tate, have two new starting safeties and have several new corners in the mix. While the Redskins also made some changes, they’re getting a lot of personnel back from injury so those players were already on the roster last season. That’s one other reason why I think the Giants have several newer players than the Redskins. 

4. The division is likely to send multiple teams to the postseason for the second year in a row.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- Just missed the FACT SLAM. It’s possible that two team come out of the NFC East, but it is a very difficult NFC this year. I would not be surprised if any of these teams were one of the six NFC playoff teams: Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Rams and Seahawks. There are scenarios where the Giants, Bucs, Lions and 49ers compete for a playoff spot too. Getting two wild card teams out of the same division, for any of the divisions, is going to be very tough. There is a ton of parity in the NFC this year.

Salomone: Fact – No one would have believed the NFC East would do it midway through last season, but it did. I think it’s fair to say all four teams are on an upwards trajectory and won’t be easy outs for anyone in the NFL. They might do it in an ugly fashion, but I wouldn’t be shocked if two end up clawing their way into the playoffs.

Medow: Fact -- The NFC is an extremely deep conference. The East, North and South divisions can all easily have two representatives and I wouldn’t overlook the West considering the Rams are the defending conference champs, the Seahawks are always dangerous with Russell Wilson under center, the 49ers are healthier and the Cardinals could surprise many with a unique offensive system. With that being said, I think it’s likely that two teams from the East will make the postseason. As I mentioned in my response to the previous statement, the Cowboys and Eagles are two strong teams that are returning a good portion of their rosters from 2018, when they both made the playoffs and the Giants and Redskins could very well make some noise. In two of the last three seasons, the NFC East has had two representatives in the postseason and the fact that no team has won back to back division titles since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-2004 further proves there’s not a great deal of separation between the four teams.

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