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Mailbag: Inside linebacker, potential breakout players

Mailbag

Tim in New Jersey: Which player would you guess gets the starting spot at inside linebacker?

John Schmeelk: If Ryan Connelly wins the job, he has a good shot to be the second inside linebacker (next to Blake Martinez) on rushing downs. He also has a chance to be a three-down linebacker next to Martinez if he excels in coverage. David Mayo is the other option at inside linebacker. He plays particularly well against the run, and could be used on early downs more often.

Alec in Florida: Of all the underappreciated players on the Giants' roster, who do you think will have a breakout year?

John Schmeelk: I want to see whether OLB Oshane Ximines can break out and become a more consistent pass rusher. I also want to see where Julian Love finds himself on the defense, and how his skill set matches with what they want him to do. He could be very effective as a hybrid safety/cornerback.

Enzo in Virginia: Do you think the Giants believe it is important to have a tall receiver on the roster, since they decided not to take one in the draft? Jason Garrett didn't have any tall receivers in Dallas, either.

John Schmeelk: I think the Giants want good receivers on the roster. If they are tall, great. If they aren't, great. It is more about style than size. Dez Bryant is only 6-2, but he wins contested catches and jump balls. It is about how a receiver plays, not how tall he is. The Giants brought in two undrafted free agents, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor – both have wingspans in the 90th percentile for receivers – so keep an eye out for players that work "above the rim."

Edwin in Florida: With DeAndre Baker put on the commissioner's exempt list, who on the Giants' roster can compete at cornerback opposite James Bradberry?

John Schmeelk: Keep an eye on Corey Ballentine, Montre Hartage and perhaps even undrafted free agent Christian Angulo. Darnay Holmes could also have a chance to start outside, although many people view him more as a nickel.

View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.

Michael in California: What other running back on the roster do you think is most likely to take some of the load off of Saquon Barkley?

John Schmeelk: The two most likely to grab a share of touches are Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis. Gallman is younger and can do a little bit of everything as a runner and receiver. Dion Lewis has had an accomplished career, and is also capable as a runner and receiver. It might come down to which player is able to pick up the offense quicker.

Bobby in New York: What do you think of the Giants' interior defensive line?

John Schmeelk: It might be the greatest position of strength on the roster. Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams are each well above average starting-level defensive linemen. B.J. Hill, RJ McIntosh, and Austin Johnson are also talented players that play the same inside position. The group should be able to push the front of the pocket to get after the quarterback, and form a strong front against the run.

Mike in New York: Who do you expect to step up as the vocal leader on defense this year?

John Schmeelk: Based on what I saw last year, I would bet on Jabrill Peppers. He was vocal on the practice field last year, and I would expect that to continue in 2020.

Danny in Connecticut: Can Julian Love start ahead of Grant Haley as the slot corner?

John Schmeelk: Love played slot cornerback in college, but he was used more as a safety with the Giants last year. We don't know how the new defensive staff sees him fitting into the defensive yet. He could be in the mix with Haley and Darnay Holmes at nickel cornerback.

View photos of the Giants on the practice fields at training camp.

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