Five players to keep an eye on as the Giants kick off minicamp Tuesday
Get your Giants fix while you can. After this week, players won't be back on the field until training camp.
From Tuesday through Thursday, the team will hold its mandatory minicamp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, thus concluding the offseason workout program that began on April 9. No live contact is permitted, but full team drills are allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. The rules are the same as organized team activities (OTAs) with one exception – this minicamp is mandatory.
Practices are not open to the public, so stay tuned to Giants.com for highlights and pressers. Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media after practices on Tuesday and Thursday, and coordinators are scheduled for Wednesday. Various players will speak throughout all three days.
Here are five storylines to follow this week:
1.The statuses of Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins. Two of the Giants' cornerstone pieces are coming back from injuries this season. Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowler who played in just four games in 2017 because of his ankle, has been limited to individual drills in the team's offseason program.
"He just has to get out there," Shurmur said of Beckham's continuing rehab. "Obviously we will visit on how he is doing and again, we talk frequently. We'll visit how he is doing and put him out there and give him a little bit more as we go."
Meanwhile, their two-time Pro Bowl safety is back on schedule after undergoing a second surgery in April on the arm he fractured in the second-to-last game last season. Collins recently shed the red "do not touch" pinnie he wore over his white No. 21 jersey, leading him to say he is "very close" to being 100 percent again. "But at the same time," he said, "at the end of the day, we still won't take any risks."
2. The ongoing transition to James Bettcher's 3-4 scheme. Players like Olivier Vernon, Avery Moss and Romeo Okwara now have "OLB" next to their names instead of "DE" because of the new defensive coordinator. After an average ranking of 4.3 in the NFL in yards for his defense over his three years with the Cardinals, Bettcher brings over a proven scheme rooted in a 3-4 base with multiple variations. The linebackers have looked impressive this spring, particularly in coverage as they learn the new playbook.
While the front seven makes the biggest adjustments, there is still plenty to sort out in the back four. The competitions are on for the second safety spot, as well as the third and fourth cornerback roles. During non-contact spring football, wide receivers, tight ends and defensive backs are the focal points. So be on the lookout for them.
3. Saquon, Saquon, Saquon. When you're talking storylines, you can't leave out the highest drafted running back since 2006. By no fault of his own, Saquon Barkley has yet to show his full skillset due to the nature of non-contact OTAs. However, Barkley at half-speed is better than most at full-speed. Here is a taste of the first impressions he made on the team this spring:
Veteran tight end Rhett Ellison: "He's a humble guy. He just comes in and he works. Anytime you have a rookie, especially a first-round pick like that, and they come in just ready to work with their head down, that's the best you can ask for. Obviously, it's hard to tell when you're playing in underwear to see the physicality of the game. But I'd say his work ethic and just his humility is pretty cool."
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard: "Really explosive. If you look at his legs, it's like tree trunks, so I can imagine how hard it is to tackle that guy. But yeah, it's definitely a great piece to add to the puzzle."
Shurmur: "He hasn't disappointed us one bit. We have high expectations for all of our rookies, especially Saquon. He has been out there running the ball well and is catching it well. He did a nice job … in pass protection. He is doing all the things now that we need to see him do to trust him out on the field next fall. He has done a good job."
4. Rebuilt offensive line has competition at center. Brett Jones and Jon Halapio are proving that competitors can still be “best friends.” Incoming general manager Dave Gettleman saw enough to bring back the two linemen this offseason as they look to find permanent homes after long journeys to where they are today. Jones, a former All-Star from the Canadian Football League, was just looking to get his foot in the door with the Giants in 2015, and now he is aiming to retain his starting center job for the Giants.
Meanwhile, Halapio bounced around from New England to Denver, to Arizona, to the Fall Experimental Football League's Brooklyn Bolts, back to New England, and then to the New York Giants. He never played in an NFL game until last season, when he appeared 10 times, including the final six weeks starting at right guard. Now he is seeing many of the first-team reps at center, a position flanked mostly by rookie Will Hernandez on the left and newcomer Patrick Omameh on the right. On the outside, Nate Solder is at left tackle and Ereck Flowers at right tackle.
"[Halapio] has done a very good job," said Shurmur, a former starting center and co-captain at Michigan State. "Pio is very smart, he's got good instincts – he snaps the ball well, which is a really refreshing thing for a center. That was supposed to be humorous (laughs). But no, he does all of those things well and he's very competitive and he knows how to play the game. I think Jonesy is doing the same thing. They're just in there competing. I wouldn't over-evaluate who is getting the first-team reps, but I think if you're talking about Pio specifically, he has really sort of opened his eyes that he has a chance to play."
5. The breakout candidates. Whether it's an undrafted rookie or a player who has bounced around a few teams, this week is the last chance to leave a good impression and set the stage for training camp. Between now and the time that rosters are finalized on Sept. 1, there are only so many of these opportunities. So far this spring, we have seen interceptions from the likes of Sean Chandler, Thurston Armbrister, Curtis Riley and Chris Lewis-Harris. We've also seen some nice catches and touchdowns from Hunter Sharp, Amba Etta-Tawo, Marquis Bundy and Kalif Raymond. Those are some names to get to know and keep in mind.