First-round pick Andrew Thomas is the first person you will pick out to watch at training camp.
John Schmeelk: Fact - Without the benefit of seeing OTAs and learning the basics of what Joe Judge and his coaching staff want to do, there is so much I want to see. I will certainly be watching Daniel Jones closely, but I am more anxious to see him in game situations than in practice. Thomas is a logical choice, assuming we are talking about the first padded practice. He needs to be good enough to step in right away and be a starting-caliber offensive tackle in the NFL. If we are including unpadded practices, my eyes will immediately jump to see how well James Bradberry can cover the Giants' array of elusive wide receivers. He needs to play at a very high level this year for the secondary to perform well.
Dan Salomone: Fiction - The statement says person, not player. Let's see Joe Judge in action for the first time as a head coach. If his first six months have shown us anything, it's that his practices will be no-nonsense and detail-oriented. As a whole, this coaching staff seems like, for lack of a better term, a bunch of football junkies. How they establish a culture is definitely the first thing I will watch.
Lance Medow: Fact - I'll likely go back and forth between Andrew Thomas and Xavier McKinney because both players were high draft picks having to learn new schemes and adjusting to life in the NFL in a most unique off-season. I'll give Thomas the slight edge because he was the fourth overall pick and with that slot, comes high expectations. It's also going to be very interesting to see where the Giants line him up for the first time at training camp. Will he be on the right side? Will he be working with the first team? How will he handle going up against some of the best defensive linemen on the team? The answers will provide a glimpse into what we can expect moving forward.
With the Giants reporting this week, take a look at rare photos of training camp through the years.
The best one-on-one camp matchup will be Darius Slayton vs. James Bradberry.
Schmeelk: Fact - It is hard to put either Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley into individual matchups. So let's look at the receivers, and odds are that Slayton and Bradberry will be the most common matchup outside since Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are expected to spend a lot of time playing inside. This matchup will indicate how big of a jump in production Slayton might be ready to make in his second season, and how impressive Bradberry will be locking up opposing teams' best wide receivers. I'm also eager to see the three safeties - Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney and Julian Love – match up against Evan Engram in pass coverage.
Salomone: Fiction - How about the quarterback of the offense vs. the quarterback of the defense? That, of course, is Daniel Jones vs. Blake Martinez. Everyone on their respective side of the ball will be looking to them on the field as both units adjust to new schemes. The team has done the best it could during the virtual off-season, but it's a whole different ball game when it's live in practice, let alone games.
Medow: Fact - James Bradberry is the new face in the secondary and the big splash the team made in free agency and Darius Slayton is coming off a very impressive rookie campaign. Will Bradberry solidify one side of the field in the secondary? Will Slayton pick up where he left off in 2019? I can't think of a more effective way to get some hints than watching them go up against one another during camp. Given the youth in the secondary, specifically at corner, there's no better test for Slayton on a daily basis than Bradberry and vice-versa.
The sleeper draft pick to watch this summer is LB Carter Coughlin.
Schmeelk: Fact - I thought about picking Cam Brown, but Coughlin's pass-rush production and impressive athletic profile (9.8 RAS score) make me more interested to see how he adjusts to the NFL. Coughlin's 20.5 sacks over his last three college seasons show a player that can get to the quarterback, but he weighs under 240 pounds. It is hard to be an edge defender and play on the line of scrimmage in the pros without weighing closer to 250. I am eager to see how he can translate his impressive athleticism and pass rush ability to become a good NFL player.
Salomone: Fact - Let's get this out of the way. No, he is not. And no, he has not.
"No, I've never met [Tom Coughlin], and we are not related," Coughlin said, "but I've got a bunch of people that have been asking me that over social media."
Coughlin, a seventh-round draft choice, can make a name for himself with the Giants. Versatility is the name of his game, much like the rest of the first draft class with Joe Judge as head coach. At Minnesota, Coughlin played the team's "RUSH" position, which is hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end. It allowed him to drop into coverage, get after the quarterback, play off tight ends and make plays near the line of scrimmage.
"[Coughlin is] a guy that gives us more speed on the edge," Judge said. "He brings some length with him. He plays with a high motor and a lot of aggressiveness. He was productive in Minnesota's scheme and with the way we are going to play guys on the edge in different packages, he's someone with a lot of value."
Medow: Fact - Any player who collects 22.5 sacks in his four-year college career shouldn't be overlooked and that's exactly what Carter Coughlin did at Minnesota. The stats jump off the page and the fact that he was a seventh-round pick makes him a huge sleeper. Coughlin was a very active and opportunistic player for the Golden Gophers, recording 40 career tackles for losses and eight forced fumbles. His versatility could prove to be a huge asset for the Giants as he's played on and off the line of scrimmage and contributed on special teams. As a late-round pick without the luxury of much on-field work before the season starts, most of Coughlin's opportunities will likely come on special teams.
Installing an offense takes more time than it does on defense once players get on the field.
Schmeelk: FACT!! The defense is always a little bit ahead of the offense when camp gets started. There are a lot more moving parts to an offensive scheme, and more continuity that needs to grow between the players. Since most of the team's skill position players are returning from last season, the issue might be mitigated a bit, but it probably won't disappear. The new offense might not get their first on-field reps going full-speed until the middle of August and only three weeks or so until the start of the regular season. Utilizing walk-throughs to help learn the scheme before unpadded practices are allowed will be essential to getting everyone integrated into the new scheme from a mental standpoint. It could also help hasten on-field execution.
Salomone: Fact - Both take thousands of reps to master, but I think drive and determination can flatten the learning curve more on the defensive side. And those traits don't require knowledge of a playbook. As Super Bowl champion safety Antrel Rolle used to say, "See ball, get ball." Meanwhile, for example, a wide receiver can hustle all he wants, but if he isn't on the same page as the quarterback, who isn't on the same page as the offensive line, who isn't on the same page as the offensive coordinator, then the whole thing falls apart.
Medow: Fact - I think it's fair to say that even if you have both sides of the ball returning from the previous season, the defense is usually ahead of the offense. The offense is all about the timing between the quarterback and the rest of the parts - from the offensive line to the running back and the receivers. When it comes to the classroom, you can have everyone completely understand the scheme but the question remains: Does it translate to the field? That's not to say timing on defense doesn't matter, but that side of the ball is more about physicality, emotion, hustle and simply being relentless. If someone is out of place or misdiagnoses a play, it can impact the defensive execution; but there's also a way to make up for those mishaps.
On offense, the wide receivers and tight ends are at the mercy of the quarterback because they can only do so much without the ball. The quarterback needs the offensive line to execute in pass protection and the same thing can be said for the running back - one glitch in the process and the play is probably doomed.