The Giants commence organized team activities Monday. What should you watch for during this offseason period?
It’s a bizarre time period in the NFL, to say the least.
The offseason program has returned after last year’s edition experienced a cancellation amid the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it’s unclear who’s attending these workouts, many of which are voluntary with the virus still lingering.
We don’t know which Giants players will be heading to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for organized team activities — starting Monday, Big Blue will be taking part in eight separate OTA practices in preparation for the 2021 season.
But assuming some of the more significant names on the roster show up instead of possibly putting in the work at an off-site location, what should fans pay attention to during this specific time span?
Daniel Jones and his new offensive counterparts
The Giants entered this offseason desperately needing to enhance the talent level within the wide receiver and tight end rooms.
Guess what: they did.
The organization went out and signed receivers Kenny Golladay, John Ross, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and drafted receiver Kadarius Toney. New York additionally worked out former Panthers, Bills, and Chiefs wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at last weekend’s rookie minicamp and subsequently offered him a contract, so maybe the 2014 first-rounder can step up and make a comeback in a tight end role (he hasn’t played since 2018).
But talented targets are no use if the quarterback can’t step up — now’s the time for Daniel Jones to start developing a notable rapport with his new weapons.
Let’s be honest: the acquisitions of these receivers and tight ends and the overall improvement of the two position groups (at least on paper) are for Jones and his crucial development. The 2019 No. 6 overall pick must take that on-field leap in 2021 and requires the correct assistance in order to do so.
Now, he possesses that type of aid.
The ball is in his court, and when it comes to the connection between him and his targets, Jones must begin laying the groundwork during the OTA period (if he and the new weapons are present).
New and old faces in the loaded secondary
Again, we don’t know who will attend the in-person OTAs, considering players possess the collective bargaining agreement right to opt-out of them.
But regardless, this secondary must continue to build sheer chemistry.
Following a number of offseason moves made both this year and last, the Giants defensive backfield is loaded ahead of 2021.
The unit now includes 2020 Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry, 2021 free-agent cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, talented slot corner Darnay Holmes, a highly versatile Logan Ryan-Jabrill Peppers safety tandem, and Xavier McKinney, arguably the most talented safety of the 2020 draft class.
Not to mention, the Giants drafted Central Florida cornerback Aaron Robinson in this year’s third round to provide reliable depth.
Big Blue was tied for 16th in the NFL last year with 237.9 passing yards allowed per game — expect that mark to improve in 2021, but the process of accomplishing that goal starts now.
The offensive line’s (hopeful) improvement
Daniel Jones is in his second year working in the same system, will have a new and improved slate of weapons, and is additionally getting Saquon Barkley back from injury.
He should immensely develop, but the offensive line will also need to grow and play its part in that process.
The Giants could’ve used their first-round draft pick this offseason on an offensive tackle to perform on the right side of the line while 2020 first-round selection Andrew Thomas retained his role as the starting left tackle. However, the organization will be banking on either veteran Nate Solder or pending second-year man Matthew Peart to man that spot.
Will Hernandez or Zach Fulton may also start at one of the guard spots while center Nick Gates and fellow guard Shane Lemieux are expected to return to their respective starting roles.
Phase 2 of the offseason program took place this past week, and according to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, the Giants had a significant number of offensive linemen attend the in-person workouts. Will this remain the same for the OTA portion?
Some attendance context on Phase 2 of the Giants’ offseason program: As other have reported, about 45 players, including Daniel Jones, are attending the voluntary workouts. Told that OL and LB are the most well-represented position groups. The OL turnout is encouraging.
— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) May 19, 2021
The mid-to-late-round draftees
First-round wide receiver Kadarius Toney is sure to earn a significant role within Jason Garrett’s offense. The same goes for second-round edge rusher Azeez Ojulari on the defensive side of the ball.
As was previously mentioned, third-round cornerback Aaron Robinson should provide reliable depth in a talented secondary.
But the mid-to-late-round picks need to make names for themselves and can continue to do so when working alongside the veterans during OTAs.
Fourth-rounder Elerson Smith must put in the work to eventually earn a notable role within an edge rusher rotation that includes pending fourth-year player Lorenzo Carter and soon-to-be third-year man Oshane Ximines. Not to mention, free-agent pickup Ryan Anderson will surely be receiving some reps if he makes the final roster.
Sixth-round running back Gary Brightwell won’t be earning a starting job (that’s obvious) and will have a noteworthy amount of ground to cover to be the No. 2 back behind Saquon Barkley — Devontae Booker and Corey Clement will additionally be in the mix for that role.
Thus, Brightwell’s primary responsibilities will likely be on special teams.
Sixth-round cornerback Rodarius Williams will additionally have a ton of ground to cover within the reserve portion of the defensive backfield depth chart.