EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Is this the year Cam Fleming becomes a fulltime NFL starter?
In six previous seasons in the league – four with New England and two with Dallas – the offensive tackle played in 86 regular-season and postseason games. But he started only 28 of them. Fleming started a career-high seven games for the 2015 Patriots. Last year, he was in the starting lineup in three of the 14 games in which he played for the Cowboys.
In the regular season, Fleming has started 10 games at both left and right tackle, five as a tackle-eligible tight end and one game his rookie season at right guard. Both of his postseason starts were at right tackle.
Fleming did not have a defined position when he signed with the Giants as a free agent on March 26. He was considered a contender at right tackle, which did not have an incumbent after last year's starter, Mike Remmers, joined the Kansas City Chiefs, as well as a player who could provide depth at several O-line spots. Then on July 29, Nate Solder, the starting left tackle in all 32 games the previous two years, announced he was opting out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns. That left two openings at tackle. Fleming and first-round draft choice Andrew Thomas are among the contenders to fill them.
"Whatever position they decide to put me in, I'm ready for it," Fleming said today. "I've always been ready. I'm just here to work. Hopefully, we have a great season this year."
Fleming has previously played for the individuals who are now his three most influential coaches: Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo. During Fleming's tenure in New England, Judge was first an assistant special teams coach and then the coordinator. In his final season with the Patriots in 2017, Fleming started at right tackle in the AFC Championship Game vs. Jacksonville and Super Bowl LII against Philadelphia.
"I've played in a lot of big games with Cam Fleming starting at right tackle for us and we came out on the right end of that," Judge said. "I have a lot of confidence in Cam. He comes to work every day and works hard. He's familiar with the system and he plays with the right demeanor. I have a lot of confidence in Cam, I don't care what his history has been because I have been there for part of his history and we won a lot of big games together."
With the Cowboys, he played for Garrett and Colombo, now the Giants' offensive coordinator and line coach, respectively.
"I wouldn't say it's an advantage," Fleming said. "I think it's good that I can try to be a veteran leader and try to help everybody along, especially with the offense. I have previous knowledge of the offense, so I'm trying to help the O-line just move forward so we can be the best we can be this year."
*During one of his daily media sessions last week, Judge said he told tight end Evan Engram, "Man, I love watching you practice. Let's not disappoint me out there today."
Judge probably liked what he saw in today's long, physical workout from the fourth-year pro, who showed off his soft hands on a downfield reception and his physicality while blocking in the run game.
"I think he just took advantage of his opportunities today like he does every day," Judge said. "Evan's a guy who comes out every day and he really empties his tank. He focuses on what he has to do that day and what the focus of practice is. He does everything he can within his role to get better. I think there is tape in the past on what he has been able to do, and he's demonstrated throughout training camp a level of improvement and upside. He's definitely somebody who has been a pleasure to coach every day and I'm glad we get to work with him."
*A popular supposition when training camp began was that a compressed schedule and no preseason games would reduce the opportunities for rookie free agents and other low-profile youngsters to make the final roster. Does Judge agree?
"I would say that every year that I have been a part of the National Football League we've had some kind of undrafted player make our 53(-man) roster and be a contributing factor to our team," Judge said. "I come from a school of thought of it doesn't matter how you got there, it matters what you do when you get there. I can't speak for any other clubs this offseason and this training camp. I know for us, it's our jobs as coaches to evaluate after every practice and create situations where they can demonstrate the ability to play in those situations.
"Everybody is starting at ground zero with us. We're allowing them every day to compete and demonstrate their value and production and that's what we're working on right now. We've had guys from all different experience. Guys who have been here, guys who knew the program all come out and demonstrate different levels of ability and consistency. I've been pleased overall with the roster."
View photos from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.