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Fact or Fiction: Competitions to watch, OTA standouts


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

The most intriguing competition on defense is at safety.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – But it's close. I do think Dane Belton will do everything he can to fend off second-round draft pick Tyler Nubin from taking one of the two starting safety spots, but it will be difficult. I'm still more intrigued by what is going on at cornerback, where Cor'Dale Flott and Nick McCloud seem to be the leaders in the clubhouse. But I sense there's an opportunity for someone to step up and seize either a starting outside cornerback spot or the nickel position. I also think this is a bit more wide open than the safety position, which makes it a bit more intriguing. Perhaps the team's five defensive back package will feature three safeties and allow both Belton and Nubin to be on the field more.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Much has been made about the importance of the front four in Shane Bowen's defense, but they can't get home if they can't hold down the back end. That's where the safeties come in. Despite parting ways with Xavier McKinney in free agency, the Giants have an intriguing group as the last line of defense. Rookie Tyler Nubin, who set the program record with 13 interceptions at Minnesota, joined a room that already included Jason Pinnock and Dane Belton, who have the ability to change games with takeaways. This could become one of the strongest positions on the roster as the season progresses.

Matt Citak: Fact – Jason Pinnock took a big step in his development last season in what was the first extended action he's seen in his young NFL career. Pinnock was on the field for 95 percent of the team's defensive snaps and rarely left the field before suffering an injury in Week 17 that forced him to miss the season finale. Dane Belton played just 26 percent of the defensive snaps last year but made them count with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tyler Nubin was selected in the second round and could immediately step into the starting lineup, while veteran free agent signing Jalen Mills offers some versatility in the defensive backfield. I'm interested to see how this competition plays out, as all four players could fight their way into some serious playing time.

The most intriguing competition on offense is at tight end.

John Schmeelk: Fact – The mere fact we don't know if Darren Waller wants to play football this year makes this spot the most intriguing. If he does play, I think it is pretty straight forward with Waller, Daniel Bellinger, and Theo Johnson as a developmental player. If Waller doesn't return, it becomes more interesting with a window opening for Lawrence Cager or Theo Johnson to seize a bigger role as a receiving threat. Backup running back would be my honorable mention here, with the spot behind Devin Singletary very open with a lot of different opportunities for players to play themselves into the backup role.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Nothing is set in stone yet, but we've seen how things are panning out this spring at every position other than tight end. Lawrence Cager has certainly made the most of his opportunity at OTAs, and rookie Theo Johnson has already racked up a lot of catches.

Matt Citak: Fiction – What happens with Darren Waller will obviously have a significant impact on the competition among the team's tight ends. However, I'm more interested to see the competition at wide receiver. While the top of the depth chart seems pretty set with Malik Nabers, Wan'Dale Robinson, Darius Slayton and Jalin Hyatt, the other spots on the roster appear to be more uncertain. There will be a heated battle during training camp between veteran wideouts Isaiah Hodgins, Allen Robinson, Isaiah McKenzie, Gunner Olszewski, and Miles Boykin. Then there are the younger receivers competing for a spot on the roster like Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Ayir Asante, Chase Cota, Dennis Houston and John Jiles. There will likely be two or three roster spots up for grabs, and I can't wait to see which of these receivers separate themselves from the rest of the pack over the next few months.

See all the action from spring practices at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Rookie wide receiver Malik Nabers has been the most impressive offensive player at OTAs so far.

John Schmeelk: Fact – In all honesty there hasn't been one player that has run away from the field on either side of the ball. Maybe it's the nature of OTAs, but I haven't been swayed much one way or another based on that I have seen so far. Nabers did, however, have the most impressive offensive play, when he created almost 10 yards of separation on a double move down the field before catching a deep pass for a touchdown. It was a preview of his dynamic playmaking ability and has been the best play so far in the spring.

Dan Salomone: Fact – That's what you should expect from a sixth overall pick. Given LSU's history at the position, it's really saying something when you finish as the school's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. "He's just got a rare competitiveness and edge to him, something that I haven't been around," assistant general manager Brandon Brown said this week at OTAs. "I kind of say he's got moxie, dog. The cool kids call it aura these days, where he wants to be at his best versus the best on the biggest platform, and he's going to let you know about it."

Matt Citak: Fact – I've spoken about this on BBK, but it's hard to watch Nabers during OTAs and not get excited about his potential. Every time he touches the ball, you can just see that he's a big play waiting to happen. His explosiveness is eye-opening, even during OTAs when contact is not yet permitted. Nabers has an opportunity to provide the offense with a much-needed jolt, and from what I've seen so far during spring practices, the 20-year-old receiver is going to do just that. Daniel Jones also deserves a shout out here, as the veteran quarterback has looked great in his recovery from last year's torn ACL. While it's still too early to say for sure, it appears as if Jones is on track to be cleared by training camp.

Outside linebacker Brian Burns has been the most impressive defensive player at OTAs so far.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I can't go with a player that plays up front because no one is wearing pads and there is no contact allowed during spring practices. With that said, Burns has looked every part of the elite athlete that he has shown to be on tape in his NFL career. I'm going to go with Deonte Banks for the simple reason that I haven't seen anyone really run away from him yet. He is clearly one of the best athletes on the field and seems to have ironed out some of the imperfections from his rookie season.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Everyone knows the tangibles of the two-time Pro Bowler, but the intangibles should have Giants fans excited about his impact on the new-look defense. As he pointed out last week, Burns is in the position that Haason Reddick was when he joined the Panthers. And like Reddick, Burns hopes to impart some wisdom on Kayvon Thibodeaux. "That's when I developed that competitive nature with the other end on the other side," Burns said. "I was able to learn a lot from [Reddick]. It's a similar situation going into my sixth year, [Thibodeaux is] going into his third year. That's the same as me and Hasson. That definitely did wonders for my career."

Matt Citak: Fiction – I want to preface this by saying Burns has looked impressive so far during OTAs. However, without the offensive and defensive linemen actually hitting each other with pads, it's difficult to get a proper read on how either side of the line is truly performing. For that reason, I'm going with Deonte Banks. Banks showed as a rookie that he is not afraid to be left on an island against the opposing team's best receiver, and that confidence has carried over to the spring. Banks has seemingly gotten his hands on the football in every OTA practice as he's been breaking up passes and forcing incompletions during team drills. Banks taking the next step in Year 2 would go a long way in helping the defense improve.

To commemorate their 100th season, the New York Giants today unveiled a "Century Red" uniform, which the team will wear for up to two games in 2024.


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