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Fact or Fiction: Biggest strength of 2021 Giants

FACT-OR-FICTION

The Giants.com crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

The strength of the team heading into training camp is the secondary

John Schmeelk: Fiction - Let's go with wide receiver with the secondary as the second unit on this list. We don't know with certainty who the third outside corner would be behind Adoree Jackson and James Bradberry (Aaron Robinson or Darnay Holmes?), but we're sure of Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard). In other words, the receiver position would survive an injury a lot easier than the cornerback position. Figuring out the receiver depth chart will also be a challenge because of some tough competition. John Ross and Dante Pettis were high draft picks and have NFL experience. CJ Board is a special teams contributor. And Austin Mack, Alex Bachman, David Sills, and Derrick Dillon are young players still trying to make their way.

Lance Medow: Fact - The wide receiver corps makes a case to be included in the conversation but the secondary wins when you take proven talent and experience into consideration. James Bradberry, Adoree Jackson, Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers each have played at least four seasons in the NFL and provide positional versatility. The Giants also have a young nucleus of players, including Julian Love, Darnay Holmes, Xavier McKinney and Aaron Robinson, who also provide versatility (Love and Holmes contributed to the rotation in 2020).

Matt Citak: Fact – This was a tough one with the wide receivers coming in at a close second, but let's give the edge to the secondary. James Bradberry is coming off a dominant first season with the Giants in which he was one of the top shutdown corners in the NFL and earned his first Pro Bowl selection. Across from him is veteran free agent Adoree' Jackson, and while he went through an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, the former USC Trojan was one of the top outside corners in the league in his first three seasons in Tennessee. Darnay Holmes and third-round pick Aaron Robinson will battle it out in the slot, giving plenty of reasons for optimism. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more talented and promising safety trio than Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney. With a full offseason to work out together and build chemistry, the secondary will not only be the strength of the Giants' defense, but it will also be one of the top units in the NFL.

Joint practices will be a major benefit for the Giants this year

John Schmeelk: Fact - By the time the Giants get to their week of joint practices with the Browns, which would probably start around Aug. 18th, they would have had approximately 14 practices at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. That's about the time when working against the same people in the same environment begins to get monotonous and perhaps even the impact of that work becomes a little muted. Getting to work against another group of players (two new groups if they also practice against the Patriots) running a different schemes will give the Giants a different challenge. The greatest benefit of those joint practices is the additional evaluation it will give the coaching staff and front office in putting together the final 53 and determining the strengths and weaknesses of the roster. These controlled but competitive sessions can offer invaluable insight that teams may not even be able to get from their preseason games, given the number of reps available.

Lance Medow: Fact - With the NFL going from four to three preseason games, any additional live reps you can get against an unfamiliar opponent is beneficial, especially for players competing for the last few spots on the roster. When you go up against your teammates throughout training camp, it can become a bit predictable and you get more too comfortable playing against specific personnel because you can easily pick up on their tendencies. This luxury doesn't exist once the season starts. So adding joint practices on top of three preseason games provides the coaching staff and front office with more opportunities to evaluate players outside of their comfort zones.

Matt Citak: Fact – Coach Judge touched on this topic while speaking to the media on Thursday. By the time the Giants begin their first batch of joint practices with the Browns, the team will be several weeks into camp. As useful as training camp is to get everyone ready for the start of the season, there is only so much a team can gain from going up against the same players and schemes every day. Judge put it best when he said these practices help to "break the monotony" of camp. The practices against the Browns and Patriots will not only allow the team to see different looks from different players before the season kicks off, but it will also help lessen the workload during August. After the first few grueling weeks of camp, these joint practices will give the offense a chance to rest while the defense is on the field, and vice-versa. This is also a great way for both units to somewhat simulate game situations, where one can come to the sideline and make adjustments while the other is out on the field.

The Giants take the field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for Day 2 of minicamp

The biggest question heading into training camp is the makeup of the starting offensive line

John Schmeelk: Fact - It's not only the most intriguing competition, but also the most important one. There are other things to look at with individual players like Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and Lorenzo Carter, yet the offensive line is going to be the biggest story over the entire month of August. There are reasons to be confident that left tackle Andrew Thomas and center Nick Gates have firm holds on their starting jobs. Shane Lemieux seemed to have secured the starting left guard position during the second half of last season, but he is only entering his second year and needs to earn the spot. Right tackle Matt Peart was highly regarded as a third-round pick and showed potential in limited reps as a rookie, but Nate Solder is a steady veteran that will give him a high wall to clear to grab the starting nod. At right guard, Will Hernandez will be returning to a position he has not played since high school, and will compete with veteran Zach Fulton, among others. It will be equally important to see how well the starters play as a unit. If they can put things together, there's no reason to think the Giants' offense won't take a big step and be a force in 2021.

Lance Medow: Fact - As it stands now, there likely are three starting positions up for grabs on the offensive line: both guard spots and right tackle. It's fair to say Andrew Thomas is the left tackle and Nick Gates has a good grasp at center. Last season, Will Hernandez started seven games at left guard before having to battle COVID-19. He was replaced by Shane Lemieux, who started nine games, but his sample size is relatively small. The Giants also brought in veteran Zach Fulton after parting ways with Kevin Zeitler. With Cam Fleming joining the Broncos this off-season, Matt Peart has a shot to win the starting right tackle job, but he only played 15% of the offensive snaps last season and Nate Solder returns after opting out. So the starting offensive line is far from a finished product.

Matt Citak: Fact – Andrew Thomas and Nick Gates figure to have a stronghold on their respective positions, but the remaining three spots are up in the air. Will it be Matt Peart or Nate Solder starting at right tackle? Peart performed well in limited action last season, but Solder is a seasoned vet who should be fresh and ready to go after a full year off. There will be several guys competing for the starting guard spots. Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez both have starts under their belts from last season, while veteran newcomers Zach Fulton (90 starts) and Jonotthan Harrison (42 starts) figure to be in the mix, as well. And as we've seen in previous training camps, you never know who could step up when given the opportunity. Could undrafted free agent Jake Burton rise to the occasion? What about Chad Slade, Kenny Wiggins or Kyle Murphy? Regardless of the individual starters, the success of the O-line as a whole will play a crucial role in how far the Giants go this season.

Turnovers were the top issue for the Giants last season

John Schmeelk: Fiction - The Giants largely solved their turnover issues in the second half of the season and finished with an even turnover differential, which ranked in the middle of the league. In the team's final eight games they had only seven turnovers while coming up with 12 takeaways. They also had 10 takeaways in the first eight games, but the Giants had a ghastly 15 turnovers, which is part of the reason why they started the season 1-7. If they are able to build on the success of the final eight games, it should play a big role in a more successful 2021 season.

Lance Medow: Fiction - The Giants turned over the ball 22 times in 2020, so it was an issue; but 15 of those mishaps came in the first eight games whereas they had just seven in the final eight contests. Looking at the season as a whole, turnovers weren't the Giants' biggest issue – it was a lack of points. They averaged just 17.5 points per game, second-lowest in the NFL and converted red zone opportunities into touchdowns just 46% of the time, the second-lowest rate in the league.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Despite a shaky start in the first half of the season, the Giants finished 20th in the league in turnovers last year. Note that only seven of the 22 came in the final eight games, including four games with none. After finishing 31st in points and yards in 2020, it's hard to dispute that the Giants' biggest issue was the explosiveness and productivity of their offense. With Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and Kyle Rudolph now in the fold, along with the return of Saquon Barkley, there is reason to believe the offense will improve. It also will be the offense's second season under coordinator Jason Garrett, and with a full offseason to work together, the entire unit should feel a lot more comfortable and familiar with Garrett's schemes and play-calling.

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

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