In this week's edition of "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we discuss which players you should be paying more attention to heading into training camp.
John Schmeelk: This is such a difficult question since we frequently talk about all of the players on this roster. For example, I think Julian Love, Darnay Holmes and Sam Beal are too well known to be considered sleepers, so let's go with the following:
David Mayo. His performance last year has gone overlooked by a lot of people. I'm not sure he will be on the field when the team is in the sub-package on passing downs, but he could be very helpful on early downs against the run. He is physical, instinctual and gets downhill.
Corey Ballentine. Ballentine finally got extensive playing time at the end of last season, when he was asked to play inside at nickel. He had never played that position before coming to the Giants and struggled, but he showed a lot during his rookie training camp and should be improved in his second season, whether it's inside or out.
Corey Coleman. He is the Giants' receiver with the most significant NFL experience, other than the three primary receivers on the depth chart. As a former first-round pick, he has a lot of talent. If Coleman is fully recovered from last year's torn ACL, he has a chance to get a lot of snaps behind Darius Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard.
Nick Gates/Cam Fleming. Even if neither of these players wins a starting job, they will be essential in backing up all the offensive line spots.
And for a super sleeper? Josiah Tauaefa. One of last season's undrafted free agents, Tauaefa played toward the end of the year and flashed the type of athleticism and aggressiveness that give him a chance to succeed in the NFL. At 6-1 and 232 pounds, he could challenge at nickel linebacker next to Blake Martinez.
View photos of the Giants' 90-man roster as it currently stands.
Dan Salomone: He isn't unknown to diehard Giants fans, but Nick Gates could become a household name and a fan favorite along the way this season. A 6-foot-6, 318-pound offensive lineman, Gates originally signed with the Giants as an undrafted rookie in 2018. A preseason ankle injury cost him his rookie year, but in 2019, he played in all 16 games with three starts – two at right tackle and one at right guard. In college, he started 25 consecutive games at left tackle. General manager Dave Gettleman has also said the Nebraska product is in the mix at center.
"You know, just for what it's worth, we've talked about Nick doing that," Gettleman said early this offseason. "He did do some of that last year in practice, so it's not completely new. Nick is smart. The thing you love about Nick is just how tough he is, because it's a fist fight in there. There's no doubt about that. History tells you that the toughness of your team is really, really indicated by the toughness of your offensive line. So, we're always looking for that kind of piece. Nick would be in consideration at center, absolutely."
There's that versatility again that we know Joe Judge and his coaching staff value so much.
Lance Medow: Rookie linebacker Ryan Connelly showed some nice flashes last season before tearing his ACL in Week 4 at home against Washington. He recorded an interception in back-to-back games against the Bucs and Redskins, while compiling a combined 12 tackles and a sack without any missed tackles. Even though it was a very small sample size, the fifth-round pick proved he can be a productive player in the middle of the defense, stopping the run and dropping into coverage.
Given some of the moves the Giants made in free agency (such as signing Blake Martinez), it might look as if Connelly has been overlooked or almost forgotten. You never know how long it takes for a player to return to full form following a torn ACL, so you can't overlook his injury. But it happened early, meaning it'll be almost a year before he steps back onto the field for a regular season game. With Patrick Graham's defense showcasing multiple looks, the Giants will need two reliable linebackers inside and Martinez and Connelly could provide a nice 1-2 punch.