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Mailbag: Which Giants could make a leap in 2020?


Tom in Connecticut: Are there any players returning from last season that you see improving due to the change in coaching staffs?

There are two position groups: the offensive line and defensive backfield. Before I continue, I need to be clear this shouldn't be taken as a criticism of last year's staff. They worked extremely hard to get their players ready to play. Both defensive back and offensive line are technique heavy position that require great chemistry within the unit for it to be successful.

Offensive line coach Marc Colombo is extremely intense, and all reports from Dallas indicate he is an excellent coach. He also played right tackle at a high level in the NFL, which will help him connect to the current players. I expect him to instill a toughness and physicality in the unit that mimics the way he played.

Given the quality of the Dallas lines he coached and played for, I also expect him to improve the individual technique and chemistry. If I had to pinpoint one player in the group, it would be Will Hernandez, who could take a big jump in his third season as a road grating run blocker.

In the defensive backfield, coach Jerome Henderson played cornerback under Bill Parcells with the Patriots and has been a coach in the NFL since 2007. He has a lot of young players to groom. In addition to getting them used to a new scheme, I expect him to instill the importance of being dependable and assignment sound. I also want to see how he impacts the individual play of young returning Giants cornerbacks DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine.

Alec in Florida: What under the radar player on the Giants do you think has the chance to have a career year?

There are so many options since the team is full of young players. I already mentioned Will Hernandez and the young cornerbacks in the previous answer, so I will look elsewhere.

I am going to go with a player entering his fourth season: Jabrill Peppers, who has all the athletic ability in the world but has not fully realized his potential so far in his career. He was used in a myriad of ways by Gregg Williams in his two years with the Browns and was taken off the field too often. Last year, he had to learn a new system before injuring his back at the end of November.

I have faith that this coaching staff will be able to figure out a way to use him that allows him to be a playmaker in the run and pass games. I would expect to see him around the line of scrimmage more frequently. Peppers is a student of the game, and it is only a matter of time that shows up on the field, given his athleticism.

View photos of Giants safety Jabrill Peppers.

Wayne in Connecticut: What will the Giants inside and outside linebacker corps look like?

We've talked frequently about the Giants' edge rushers, who will be outside linebackers in the base defense before becoming pass rushers in a four-man front. I expect that group to be a combination of Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines and perhaps Markus Golden if he re-signs over the summer.

Blake Martinez will be the team's starting MIKE linebacker and will likely be on the field for all three downs. Who the second inside linebacker ends up being will be the product of a summer competition. Ryan Connelly, the Giants 2019 fifth round pick, is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last September. The Giants re-signed David Mayo, who was very productive against the run last year. The Giants also drafted two inside linebackers in the seventh round, TJ Brunson and Tae Crowder.

It will be interesting to see who earns the role of second nickel linebacker and stays on the field on most passing downs. It is possible they shift Peppers to linebacker and play Julian Love and Xavier McKinney at safety in those situations for a small nickel or big dime personnel group with three cornerbacks, three safeties, and one linebacker instead of a traditional 4-2-5 alignment. I'm curious to see how defensive coordinator Patrick Graham decides how to use this unique group of players.


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