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Cover 3: Most pressing question heading into camp

Three writers share their biggest questions heading into training camp, which is set to begin in a little more than a month.

John Schmeelk: I will leave aside the position competitions we have written about in many of our other stories and look at something that will impact every team around the league this year: How will they return from an eight month period where no players did any field or weight room work in their team facilities or in large groups away from their teams?

This circumstance will impact teams in different ways. How long will it take for a young team to effectively execute new offensive and defensive schemes when they are doing it for the first time on the field in late July-August? How much will being absent from the team facility impact the development of the first, second and third year players the roster?

How quickly can rookies contribute in their first season? They will not have had the chance to settle into their new cities before they have to worry about training camp and playing regular season games. After training for the combine, have they returned to more appropriate training to play football instead of Olympic-style drills and events? How quickly can they learn not only the new playbook but everything else that goes along with being an NFL player?

What teams are going to be able to stay healthy? Injury rates after the 2011 lockout were the highest the league has ever seen. This offseason, players couldn't even go to or meet with teammates away from team facilities to workout and train on the field together. If players try to do too much too quickly when they return in July, will a plethora of soft tissue injuries ensue?

Teams will have to do a slow build-up to full-speed practices when players return to the facilities, which may turn valuable practice time into mere walk-throughs. Can teams with new coaching staffs and a lot of new players afford skipping practices? Can they afford not to in order to avoid injuries to their players?

It all comes down to one simple question: how will the pandemic and all its effects impact the Giants and every other team in the NFL? No one has the answer to that question, and it might be the one that impacts the league more through the first quarter of the season than any other.

View photos of the Giants' active roster as it currently stands.

Dan Salomone: John and Lance cover the most pressing question – How will all this work logistically? – so I'll cover the football side. This is the third Giants training camp with a new head coach in five years, so my question is this: What makes this team different? What makes this team the one that will turn things around? What makes this team have staying power? All right, that's three questions, but I had to drive home the point.

Like the draft, training camp is about optimism. Everyone is 0-0. Everyone has a chance. Everyone thinks this is the year. One of those teams ends up being right, but that doesn't mean the season was all for naught for the other 31 clubs. Last summer, Giants president John Mara had his own question. His measure of success was would he, when he walked off the field after the final game, feel his team was heading in the right direction. We all know the answer to that one. So, once again, the Giants turned to a new head coach to try to get it right.

We won't know the full answer to my questions for a while, but there will be a million little ones along the way. To quote the finale of "The Last Dance" docuseries – I can't believe I'm doing this and not Lance, a Michael Jordan worshiper – "All you needed was one little match to start that whole fire." For the Giants, the first match gets struck in a month.

Lance Medow: The biggest questions right now are more about the logistics of training camp. What will it look like? How much will the coronavirus impact the length of camp or the preseason? Everything is so fluid that those are the real important questions, but if we're just focusing on the X's and O's, then I would put who starts at corner at the top of the list, especially at nickel. You need a reliable pass rush in today's NFL, but you also need guys who can cover on the back end and can operate on an island. Two starting corners doesn't cut it anymore. You need three or more. Offenses are relying more and more on three receiver sets and utilizing tight ends and running backs in very creative ways. If you don't have a third option at corner, you're going to have to turn to linebackers and safeties who may not be as a reliable in coverage. Case in point, the Chargers are entering the season with Casey Hayward, Chris Harris Jr. and Desmond King as their three starting corners. That's one of the best trios you'll find in the league because they're interchangeable and all proven commodities. 

Last season, Grant Haley, Julian Love and Corey Ballentine were the options at nickel corner. This year, those three are all in the mix, as well as rookies Darnay Holmes, the team's fourth-round pick out of UCLA, and seventh-round selection Chris Williamson out of Minnesota. Who wins that job and who coordinator Patrick Graham turns to consistently in the slot during the season will tell a lot about the secondary. Last season, the Giants surrendered 30 passing touchdowns, tied for seventh most in the NFL. That's certainly a statistic they're going to need to change, and the slot corner is going to play an integral role in helping that cause. Of the five players above, Haley is the only one who has been through multiple training camps. Love and Ballentine were rookies last season and Ballentine's participation in camp was limited due to his recovery from an off the field incident right after he was drafted. Holmes and Williamson have yet to step on an NFL field. The status of the third corner and the competition at that position is the biggest question heading into camp.


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