In this week's edition of Cover 3, we discuss the most impressive players at training camp so far.
John Schmeelk: I hate to pick out just one player. Sterling Shepard would be my pick on offense, but I already wrote a lot about him in Fact or Fiction over the weekend. Nick Gates has also impressed playing multiple positions and trying to earn a starting job. For this answer, however, I will go with a defensive player.
I like what I've seen from Leonard Williams from the start of camp until now. Of all the defensive linemen, he is the one I have seen getting penetration in to the backfield most consistently, thanks to his combination of size, strength and athleticism. There haven't been a ton of explosive plays yet, but he has clearly been difficult to block.
Two players who jumped out for me during Friday's scrimmage were Jabrill Peppers and Dexter Lawrence. Lawrence showed freakish movement skills for his size, along with his strength to slow down the running game. Peppers was all over the field, and made plays in the pass and run games. He showed he could cover and be physical filling the hole.
Graham Gano has also been excellent since signing. The sound the ball makes when he strikes it indicates his power, and so far he has been accurate and consistent. He looks fully recovered from his injury.
Dan Salomone: Lance goes into detail about rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes, the clubhouse leader in interceptions, but for the sake of covering all our bases, let's go in a different direction. Offensive tackle Cam Fleming has emerged as a legitimate candidate for a starting role. He was part of a group of free agents and draft picks brought in by general manager Dave Gettleman, who wanted to fix the offensive line once and for all. Then, Nate Solder, a team captain who had started all 32 games at left tackle since joining the Giants in 2018, opted out of the 2020 season because of his family's health concerns.
Coupled with the departure of Mike Remmers, the team's starting right tackle in 2019, the Giants entered camp with no incumbent bookends on the offensive line. Andrew Thomas, the fourth overall pick, was a likely candidate for one of them, but the other remained open. Fleming, who won Super Bowls with Joe Judge in New England and was part of a dominant unit in Dallas under Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo, is staking his claim this summer.
"Well, 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."
Lance Medow: Outside of corner James Bradberry and safeties Jabrill Peppers and Nate Ebner, the Giants have an extremely young secondary with every other player having suited up for no more than two NFL seasons. To take it a step further, more than 50 percent of the roster falls under that umbrella. Given the young nucleus and DeAndre Baker (Commissioner's Exempt List) and Sam Beal (opted out) are not here, the Giants are in need of a corner to step up and make a significant impact. When you take all of it under consideration, Darnay Holmes has been the most impressive player at camp.
Let's put things in perspective. This year's fourth-round pick didn't have a rookie minicamp or any other on-field team activities during the off-season, had to learn a new scheme and get to know his teammates/coaches through a computer screen, and didn't step into the team facility until right before training camp. These factors present some rationale as to why a rookie may struggle in the early stages of camp. Well, that hasn't been an issue for Holmes, who's been one of the most aggressive players on the field and never shies away from contesting passes. The speed of the game doesn't seem overwhelming to him and he's held his own against some of the Giants' top receivers - even making the opportunistic plays he was known for at UCLA, where he collected eight interceptions in three seasons.
It's easy to tell why Holmes earned his degree in three years. He's a smart player, who does a great job anticipating throws and diagnosing plays before they develop. Holmes is also more than capable of playing inside or outside corner as the Giants continue to experiment with players at multiple spots. Yes, there's plenty more work to do and, like any rookie, there will be ups and downs. But the early results are encouraging as Holmes looks to carve out a role in Year 1.
Must-see photos of the Giants in action with training camp now in full swing in East Rutherford, N.J.