The Giants' first full-squad training camp practice occurs July 28, with a ramp-up period eventually yielding to fully-padded practices a week later on Aug. 2. With an improved roster, there will not be quite as much open competition for starting spots, but that doesn't mean there won't be a lot to watch that will determine what the roster will look like to open the 2021 season.
Saquon Barkley is the starter when he is healthy. When that might happen is unknown. He is currently on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list and can be taken off when his surgically repaired knee from the end of October is ready for practice.
It would be fairly surprising if free agent addition Devontae Booker was not the backup. He can run it between the tackles, has the size for short yardage, catches the ball well and has experience as a strong pass protector. Rookie sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell will compete with veterans Corey Clement, Taquon Mizzell, NFL international program member Sandro Platzgummer and newly acquired second-year running back Mike Weber for the third, and perhaps final running back spot.
There is also the question of whether the Giants will keep a fullback. Eli Penny, who can also play halfback, was the team's fullback last season and could back up both positions. Cullen Gillaspia is a more traditional lead-blocking fullback at 6'2 and 235 pounds.
The top of the wide receiver depth chart is not up for much debate. Snaps will be split between free agent addition Kenny Golladay, holdovers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, with first round-draft pick Kadarius Toney getting whatever opportunities he earns. After that, there are questions.
The Giants return a trio of young receivers from last year's team: Alex Bachman, Derrick Dillon, CJ Board, David Sills and Austin Mack. They will compete with veteran free agent addition John Ross III and Dante Pettis for the final receiver slots.
How many receivers will the Giants keep on the 53? It is unlikely to be fewer than five or more than six. If the receiver position can provide special teams value, the number has a better chance of getting to six, which should add to the available opportunities within the group.
Andrew Thomas was selected fourth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, and with the improvement he showed in the 2020 season's final six games, it would be a monumental upset if he was not the team's starting left tackle. What the team will do at right tackle is not nearly as clear.
Matt Peart was the Giants' third-round pick last year out of the University of Connecticut and flashed over 153 snaps rotating in at right and left tackle. He started at right tackle in his final two seasons in college. He is starting training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list due to a back injury. His primary competition at right tackle is likely Nate Solder, who returns to the team after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID. Signed as a free agent in 2018, Solder started for the Giants at left tackle in 2018-19, but has not played significant snaps at right tackle since his rookie year for the Patriots in 2011.
Fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux finished his rookie season as the starting left guard. Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round pick, began the season starting at left guard before relinquishing the job in mid-season after dealing with COVID. He will now have an opportunity to play right guard, which is something he has not done since high school.
The Giants have a number of veterans on the roster who will not only push Lemieux and Hernandez, but also provide stability as backups. Chad Slade, Zach Fulton (90 career starts) and Kenny Wiggins (38) have experience in the NFL. Undrafted rookie free agents Jackson Barton (2021) and Kyle Murphy (2020) will also have opportunities to show what they can do.
Nick Gates is expected to be the starting center, but the competition between undrafted free agent Brett Heggie and veteran Jonatthan Harrison will be interesting to watch. Harrison is starting training camp on the PUP list with a hamstring injury.
Due to the heavy rotation typically used on the defensive line, whoever is named a starter is not very significant. It will be interesting to see, however, who ends up replacing most of Dalvin Tomlinson's snaps as the 3-4 nose tackle and the defensive tackle lined up closest to the center in even-fronts.
Austin Johnson and BJ Hill return from last season, with Johnson having more experience playing over the center. The Giants also added massive Danny Shelton (6'2, 345) to provide more beef up the middle. He has a track record as a good run defender during his NFL career. There will also be a fun competition for the remaining defensive line spots between RJ McIntosh, undrafted free agent Raymond Johnson III and second-year player David Moa.
There might not be a more wide-open position on the roster than edge. Lorenzo Carter played more than 55 snaps in each of the Giants' first four games last season before tearing his Achilles tendon. He was not put on an injury list to start training camp and probably has a slight edge to earn a lot of snaps at the position. Then what? There are a lot of names and only so many snaps for this group:
Oshane Ximines - 2019 third-round pick, season-ending shoulder injury in 2020, starting training camp on the PUP list (hamstring)
Ifeadi Odenigbo - free agent addition with history of sack production (seven in 2019), played mostly with his hand in the dirt as an even-front defensive end in Minnesota, can also rush from defensive tackle on passing downs
Azeez Ojulari - second-round rookie from Georgia with speed off the edge and violent hands, led the SEC in sacks in 2020 with 8.5 sacks.
Elerson Smith - fourth-round rookie from Northern Iowa, did not play college football in 2020 when conference canceled the season due to COVID, had 14 sacks in 2019 season at FCS level.
Ryan Anderson - free agent addition from Washington, had four sacks in 2019
Cam Brown - 2020 sixth-round pick who appeared mostly special teams as a rookie, played 4-3 OLB at Penn State
Carter Coughlin - 2020 seventh-round pick, played outside linebacker last season, was an edge rusher at the University of Minnesota, potential move to inside linebacker was discussed last season
Devante Downs - rotated at outside linebacker last season
Niko Lalos - utility player at 6'5 270 pounds, earned time on the edge in the final portions of the season.
The edge rusher spot will likely be filled by committee this season, but how these players perform in training camp will help determine how those snaps are allocated.
Barring something unforeseen, Blake Martinez will be the starting MIKE linebacker. But who will line up next to him in the base 3-4 defense and as the second off-ball linebacker in the nickel?
Former seventh-round pick Tae Crowder (2020) played well until he got hurt in mid-season. Veteran Reggie Ragland was brought in as a powerful downhill linebacker to compete, along with 2020 seventh-round pick TJ Brunson and second-year player Cale Garrett. Carter Coughlin or even Cam Brown might also get opportunities to take some snaps inside.
In nickel passing situations, there is a chance the team decides to use safety Jabrill Peppers as a downsized linebacker like they did for much of 2020. It would allow the team to get more of their talented group of safeties on the field.
There's a certain level of certainty that James Bradberry, Adoree' Jackson, Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney will have prominent roles in the defensive backfield. Bradberry and Jackson are likely to be the starting outside cornerbacks while Ryan, Peppers and McKinney split the safety duties.
But who is the starting nickel/slot cornerback going to be? Former fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes had success in the role as a rookie and will have a chance to hold on to the job. He will be pushed by third-round rookie Aaron Robinson, who will start training camp on the PUP list with a core muscle injury. Safeties like Ryan, Peppers and McKinney may also get snaps playing over receivers who line up inside.
There is also the matter of determining who the third outside cornerback will be. Both Holmes and Robinson played outside cornerback in college, and there are veterans Isaac Yiadom (who started outside last season), Sam Beal, Chris Milton, Quincy Wilson, Montre Hartage and Madre Harper. Sixth-round rookie Rodarius Williams played outside cornerback in his four seasons at Oklahoma State and will have an opportunity to earn a role. Hartage and Wilson could also take snaps at safety along with fourth-year player Joshua Kalu. Where does Julian Love fit in? He has shown the ability to play deep safety or near the line of scrimmage, and he was even forced into playing outside cornerback at the end of last season. He is a skilled player who may be asked to bounce around based on team need.