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Fact or Fiction: What to watch when pads come on


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

Rookie center John Michael Schmitz is the offensive player you're most interested to see on the first day with pads.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I am excited to see John Michael Schmitz, but when the O-Line/D-Line 1-on-1s start, I will be most interested in Evan Neal and how he fares against dynamic rushers like Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux. Neal continuing to improve at right tackle is one of the keys to the season for the Giants, so I want to see how his offseason work will translate to the field.

Dan Salomone: Fact – I'll just leave you with this quote from P.J. Fleck, his former head coach at the University of Minnesota, on a recent episode of the Giants Huddle podcast: "He loves the contact. He loves the physicality of it. He loves the dirty part of it. He loves the nasty part of it. The nastier, the better he plays. The filthier it is, it's like a pig man. He's just rolling around in that mud, and he's happier as he gets more mud on him. That's the type of player he is, and listen, there's nothing fake about the guy. He's probably the toughest football player I've ever been around as being a head football coach. He's incredibly intelligent, really smart, but it's not about that he just plays center or he's a good offensive lineman. That's what he does. How he plays the position separates him from everybody. That's where in between that six seconds or five seconds, it's a dog fight and a rock fight with him every single play."

Lance Medow: Fact – When offensive line coach Bobby Johnson recently addressed the media, he mentioned John Michael Schmitz's first true test won't come until they put the pads on and has to go head-to-head with Dexter Lawrence during training camp. There's no contact allowed throughout the spring, so if you're going to get any idea of what an offensive lineman can bring to the table, you won't find that out until the physicality of the game is on full display. Schmitz is an experienced college player who spent six years at Minnesota, but Lawrence is an All-Pro coming off a career year. I can't think of a better litmus test and preview of what he'll see on a consistent basis in the NFL.

Matt Citak: Fiction – I can't wait to see Schmitz in pads for the first time as a Giant, but the offensive player I'm most interested to see is second-year right tackle Evan Neal, who has been training hard since the end of the season and appears to be in great shape. Additionally, last year was the fourth straight year in which Neal did not play the same position in consecutive seasons (he played LG, RT and LT in his final three seasons at Alabama). With it being Year 2 in the offense and lining up at right tackle for the second straight year, Neal could take a major step in 2023, and it all starts once the pads come on.

Rookie cornerback Deonte Banks is the defensive player you're most interested to see on the first day with pads.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Banks is a physical, press cornerback. He was not able to utilize the best parts of his skillset during minicamp due to the non-contact rules in place from the CBA. I cannot wait to see him line up face to face, straight up on the line of scrimmage against veteran wide receivers like Darius Slayton to see how well he does against polished, professional players.

Dan Salomone: Fact – He had the top athleticism score among cornerbacks at the NFL Combine, where he showed off his 4.3 speed. Spring football is largely about conditioning and learning, but it's about to get real in a few weeks at training camp.

Lance Medow: Fact – Much like my response to the first statement, I think when it comes to training camp, members of the rookie class are the most appealing to watch because we have yet to see them compete on the NFL level. The former Maryland standout is known for his ability to cover receivers on an island, so let the games begin against a versatile group of receivers. In the NFL, beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage can be a rude awakening for most young corners. Banks will get his first taste of that once they put the pads on in late July.

Matt Citak: Fact – Banks could be one of the biggest X-factors on defense this season. The 6-foot-2 rookie has ideal size, speed and athleticism for the cornerback position, and he put his skillset on full display during spring practices. With Banks on one side and Adoree' Jackson on the other, the Giants have a chance to boast one of the league's more talented CB duos this year. I'm very interested to see how physical Banks gets with wide receivers at the line of scrimmage once the pads are on and contact is permitted, as this is an area in which he thrived in last year at Maryland.

Get excited for the 2023 season with photos from Media Day at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.