With the start of training camp fast approaching, a rundown of six things fans of the New York Giants need to keep an eye on when the action begins.
We are literally just days away from the start of training camp—players report Thursday, Jul. 27—and there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the New York Giants. Many fans and pundits alike feel that with the additions they’ve made this offseason, they are the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII.
There are many intriguing storylines that are set to unfold once camp begins. Here are the top six to keep an eye on.
Who will be the starting free safety?
At the start of training camp last year, third round draft pick Darian Thompson was the starting free safety. But his stint as the starter was short-lived. First, he sprained his foot in Week 2 against New Orleans. Then, as he was working his way back, he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot that required season-ending surgery.
Undrafted rookie Andre Adams took over as the starter in Thompson’s place and did a solid job, finishing the season with 46 tackles and one interception.
Now, Thompson is fully healed from his injury and looking to get his starting job back. In college, he had a reputation as a ball hawk, picking off 19 passes over his four years at Boise State. Any team could use that kind of production in the middle of the field.
But the Giants defense was dominant last year. Their secondary, with Adams, was a big reason why.
Recently, Pro Football Focus ranked the Giants secondary as the best in the NFL. So defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo might be hesitant to break up the continuity as this unit will be even better this year.
Ball hawk or not, Thompson may have a tough time unseating Adams. That said, the position battle between these two second year players will be the most intriguing position battle to watch.
How Ereck Flowers performs
Much of the Giants offensive woes last year were blamed on left tackle Ereck Flowers. He struggled mightily against edge rushers and had costly penalties. Often the Giants would be forced to have a tight end or running back stay in to help Flowers in pass protection.
Despite his struggles, general manager Jerry Reese has remained committed to Flowers at left tackle and elected not to draft a replacement in this year’s draft.
This offseason Flowers stayed in the area to work on his technique, took up boxing, and lost weight. Those are all things which should help him with his footwork and overall level of play.
If he can perform like an average left tackle this year, the sky is the limit for the Giants.
Who will backup Eli Manning?
The Giants have been fortunate that Eli Manning has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. So there’s never been much interest or concern as to who would be the team’s backup quarterback.
But Manning is now 36 years old. You have to wonder, at his age, if he’ll be able to maintain his consecutive-games played streak, which currently stands at 211. The Giants drafted what they hope will be his eventual successor in the third round of the NFL Draft, taking Davis Webb from the University of California.
They also signed free agent Geno Smith as another potential option.
Heading into training camp, Josh Johnson who was with the team last season is currently second on the depth chart. But he hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2013, which leaves the door open for both Smith and Webb.
The Giants won’t keep more than three quarterbacks, so it will be interesting to see if it’s Smith or Johnson who winds up as the odd man out.
Who will be the fourth wide receiver in four-receiver sets?
When the Giants signed six-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall in the offseason, the talk began immediately that the Giants had the best trio of receivers in the league with Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard.
The Giants also plan on having rookie tight end Evan Engram lining up off the line fairly often this season, so he might ultimately be the fourth receiver when the Giants go to those four-wide formations.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how the Giants manage all the potential weapons that they have at their disposal in camp.
Who will start at defensive tackle next to Damon Harrison?
Last season the Giants shoved nearly 700 pounds of beef in the middle of the defensive line. Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins made it nearly impossible for opposing teams to run on the Giants as they gave up just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt.
But Hankins left for the Indianapolis Colts via free agency, leaving a huge hole up the middle.
Second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson is projected to be the starter alongside Harrison, but he’ll be pushed by Robert Thomas, Corbin Bryant, and Jay Bromley, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Whoever the starters winds up being, the Giants will need for them to match Hankins’ level of play from last season. That’s not going to be an easy thing to do.
The kicking game
Last season Giants placekickers converted on 21-of-22 field goal attempts and 31-of-35 extra point attempts. But none of the kickers the Giants employed last season are still around.
Robbie Gould, who was the team’s placekicker for the final 10 games last season, is now a member of the San Francisco 49ers. That leaves Aldrick Rosas, who went undrafted in the 2016 draft, as the only placekicker on the roster.
Five of the Giants games last year were decided by a field goal or less, so the 22-year-old Rosas will need to show that he can be a reliable option during camp and in the preseason. If he can’t, the Giants will need to bring in a veteran kicker.