There will be a few key position battles worth paying attention to as the New York Giants attempt to conduct their team overhaul.
The offseason is one of the most crucial time periods for player development and getting the right guys in the right positions. Coming off of back-to-back losing seasons, the New York Giants will need to do everything in their power to get this done.
Dave Gettleman, the Giants general manager, swears he has a plan to turn around the organization. He has now brought in his people, so it is time for him to orchestrate what he set out to do.
In order for Gettleman to carry out his agenda, he must make sure that he has his best players on the field come September. To ensure this, the Giants will have various position battles throughout training camp and the preseason. Three of these competitions are worth keeping an eye on.
Competitors: Daniel Jones and Eli Manning
The most valuable position in football is up for grabs within the Giants organization. Eli Manning, a 15-year veteran, and Daniel Jones, a newly-acquired rookie, will be battling it out for the job. Currently, Manning is the frontrunner for the position as the Giants want to slowly bring Jones up to speed. However, don’t count Jones out of the race quite yet.
Jones has all the capabilities to start week one. He has had a strong offseason showing from OTAs to minicamp. He has already turned some heads with his ability to run and throw the ball with some touch.
— New York Giants (@Giants) June 4, 2019
The Giants offensive coordinator further assured Giants fans that Jones was the real deal by saying, “I think he’d be ready to go [Week 1],” Mike Shula said recently. “That’s my personal opinion. I do.”
Daniel Jones has been making plays all around this offseason. He has really got the trust of his coaches and fellow teammates. Due to his strong showing, Jones has positioned himself right next to Eli Manning for the starting job.
For Manning, the veteran started off the offseason quite sloppy. While he is still getting the majority of the first-team reps, he has been very careless with the ball throwing many interceptions and deflected balls.
During minicamp, it also seemed as if Manning was throwing a lot of dump-offs and was hesitant to throw the ball downfield. On the other hand, the rookie was slinging the deep ball with no fear and was a lot more aggressive with his throws.
The risk-taking aspect at quarterback was something the Giants were lacking last year with Eli Manning. There were many times that receivers would break open downfield but the Ole’ Miss product seemed reluctant to throw it that far. As of now, Jones appears to have a more “out for blood” mentality that the Giants desperately need.
Even though Manning had a lackluster start to minicamp he finished it off on a high note. He went 13-17, connecting on his first ten passes, in the final stages of minicamp. Two these passes were deep shots to Corey Coleman and Golden Tate. This was a huge stride for Manning as he attempts to prove that he still has the arm strength and ability to play football at a high level.
If Manning continues to improve, it will be an uphill battle for Jones as he is already slated to sit behind Manning for some time. Nevertheless, Jones has developed his game throughout this offseason and will look to continue to develop as he pushes Manning for the starting job.
Competitors: Grant Haley, Sam Beal and Julian Love
The Giants have done everything possible to revamp their secondary. New York drafted three cornerbacks in the draft and obtained two rookies last year. Big Blue will now have to sort through their core of youngsters to make sure they have the best players on the field.
As of now, it seems that the Giants will start Janoris Jenkins and rookie DeAndre Baker on the outside. Baker was their first-round pick and has had a solid offseason so far. The Giants have high hopes for him as he is slated to be their number one corner once the Giants part ways with Jenkins.
For the rest of the corners, they will be competing to see who gets the slot position. As of now, the three that emerge on top for the job are Grant Haley, Sam Beal and Julian Love.
The Giants will be retaining their former starting slot man out of Grant Haley. He is currently starting as the cornerback three and has done a good job to hold his ground. Haley is an undersized cornerback standing only at 5-foot-9. He does not have elite measurables, but does come equipped with a tremendous overall feel for the game.
The best thing the former undrafted free agent has in his favor is his NFL experience. The other two defensive backs up for the job have never played an NFL game. As a rookie last year, Haly was able to start nine games in the slot where he recorded two pass deflections and 33 tackles. Grant Haley also recorded a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 69.3—first amongst all Giants cornerbacks.
While Haley may have experience on his side, Sam Beal has his insane athleticism. He stands at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, a great size for a cornerback. To add to his resume, he runs a 4.40 40-yard dash and has a ridiculous 37-inch vertical.
“We’re very, very excited about getting Sam in the draft,” Gettleman stated after the selection of Beal. “He’s long, he’s very athletic for a corner, he has all the physical skills, he can carry the vertical, he has very good play speed, he shows instincts out there, he has ball awareness, he doesn’t panic when the ball is thrown at his guy, and he is a very willing tackler. We just feel it gives us a really talented young kid with the ability to ascend.”
Beal was drafted last year in the third round of the supplemental draft. He was a highly-touted corner out of Western Michigan. It was said if he stayed another year he could have been a fringe first-round selection. Beal decided to forego his final year of college and go directly to the NFL. Unfortunately for him, he was sidelined all of last year with a shoulder injury he suffered last July.
Now, Sam Beal will be looking to bounce back and prove to the Giants he was worth the choice. In his first OTA practice, he already caught everyone’s attention as he batted a pass into the arms of Jabril Peppers who returned it for a touchdown. Beal has continued to use his size and physicality to make plays. However, right now it seems that Beal will sit behind Janoris Jenkins until New York decides to part ways with him. Beal won’t be satisfied with this as he has preached on his ability to cover the whole field so he will continue to fight Haley for the job.
The final player up for the nickel corner position is Julian Love. He was the fourth round pick and is coming off a college season where he was runner up for the Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back in college football).
Love is currently the fan favorite for the job as he is an elite corner out of Norte Dame. Last year, he helped to bring his school all the way to the College Football Playoffs earning him a lot of well-deserved publicity.
Even though Love may be what the fans want to see at the nickel position, he might not be the starter there. Like the rest of his competitors, he too has had a strong offseason. However, the situation for Love is that Giants seem to have a plan for him that is similar to that of Sam Beal.
Julian Love has been splitting his time between the cornerback position and the free safety position. It looks like the Giants will want Love to become the heir to Antoine Bethea as the veteran is already 34 years old. Even though Love is tasked to learn the ropes of two positions he has still been a formidable foe for Grant Haley.
For now, Haley has the job but it is a tight race between him, Beal and Love.
Right Inside Linebacker
Competitors: B.J. Goodson, Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly
The one spot the Giants have not done much to improve is the inside linebacker position. They did not draft any last year and drafted one this year out of Ryan Connelly. This is a worrisome statement for Giants fan as the middle of their defense has a whole.
Currently, B.J. Goodson is the filler of the right inside linebacker spot. He was the starter last season as registered 13 starts with 61 tackles and two interceptions. These were career-highs for Goodson but his overall play was average at best.
Goodson currently is a primary run stopper who falters in the pass. Last season, he was consistently replaced on passing downs by Tae Davis or a defensive back. When Goodson was targeted 39 times, he allowed 29 completions. While he may be a solid run defender, his production in the passing game needs improvement.
Goodson has been working on this aspect of his game. It appears as if the Clemson product has somewhat refined his pass coverage technique. He caught the attention of many on the first day of minicamp by being a ball hawk. Goodson did this by picking off a pass for a touchdown early in the day. He later deflected an Eli Manning pass that would have been a touchdown.
If Goodson can continue to perform like this against the aerial assault, he will surely hold his starting job. Goodson needs a lot of work, but if he can get to the place where he can be an every-down starter he and the team will be better for it.
As of now, Tae Davis an others are making a strong push for Goodson’s spot. Davis was an undrafted free agent last year out of Chatanooga. Even coming from a small school with no guarantee to make the team, Davis instantly made his name heard. He started out as a special-teams demon. Throughout the season, he worked his way up the depth chart to a role on the defense. This even earned him two starts last season when Goodson or Ogletree went down with an injury.
Now, as he comes off his 33-tackle season, Davis will look to make a huge jump in year two. Davis has been very active so far this offseason, receiving a lot of reps with the first team. During minicamp, Davis was implemented in the starting lineup for the majority of passing downs. Also, Davis was their go-to guy when the Giants elected to use an inside linebacker blitz. This was a surprise to many because Goodson was supposed to be the primary downhill force in the group.
The choice of using Davis in the middle is one that provides versatility. The Giants have been one of the worst teams in terms of defending the tight end and running backs out of the backfield. Tae Davis, so far, has shown that he can do this better than anyone else in his position group.
The implementation of Davis in the lineup allows Ogletree to not have to drop back in coverage as often. This allows both players to play to their strong suits, making the Giants a better team for it. Right now, Goodson is the starter, but there should be no surprise if Davis takes away a big chunk of Goodson’s snaps.
The final player in the mix for the right outside linebacker position is Ryan Connelly. He is a former walk-on at the University of Wisconsin. During his college days, he reportedly worked harder than anyone and was able to earn himself Third-Team All-Big Ten honors as a senior.
He’s now continuing his determination to see the field in his NFL career. He has already started to pick up the packages and various plays that the Giants run on defense. In doing this, he uses his incredible intelligence that every coach that has ever coached him raved about.
Connelly also was one of the best players in the Giants rookie minicamp. He forced Big Blue’s defensive coordinator, James Bettcher, to break one of his rules.
“You try not to show a rookie to the vets too early, but I was showing the cut-up to the vets,” Bettcher said. “This is a guy from the rookie minicamp, and it was a concept and a route and he played it exactly the right way. It was a great example. Smart and tough.”
The knock on Connelly is that he does not possess above-average athleticism. He is also not great in pass coverage, which is an area the Giants have struggled mightily. This has him slated for a role similar to that of Tae Davis last year. Connelly may appear in some defensive packages, but as of now, it seems that the majority of his playing time will come from special teams.
Nevertheless, the Giants are extremely weak in terms of their second middle linebacker spot. So if Connelly continues to make the Giants coaching staff break their rules, he may become a starter earlier than anyone expected.