With the 2014 draft in the books and the rookies on their way to East Rutherford to begin integrating with the veterans, it’s time for the competition to begin.
Indeed, the upcoming training camp is going to have a lot of competition at several spots—probably about as much as I can recall since head coach Tom Coughlin’s first season in 2004.
Here's a look at some of the key battles:
The projected starters are, from left tackle to right tackle: Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Chris Snee and Justin Pugh.
Beatty (broken leg) and Snee (hip/elbow) have medical question marks next to their names.
While the hope is that each will be ready for the start of training camp, the Giants protected themselves by adding two veteran tackles in Charles Brown and John Jerry.
Meanwhile at center, Weston Richburg will be looking to unseat Walton as the starter. If Richburg can become a starter on Day 1, he’d become the first Giants rookie draft pick since Rich Umphrey (Round 5, 1982) to do so, per Pro Football Reference.
If the Giants depth chart were to be published tomorrow, the identity of the starting tight end would probably be a hotly contested debate.
Currently, Ourlad’s NFL Scouting Services lists third-year pro Adrien Robinson as the starter, possibly based on his higher draft pick status (fourth-round pick in 2012).
That’s putting a lot on a player who has taken three snaps on offense over the last two seasons and has yet to post any receptions in his NFL career. Interestingly, the Giants brass claims that this year’s tight end class wasn’t enticing enough.
“The tight end position wasn’t a class we felt was very strong,” vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross told reporters after the draft. “Even with a couple of the guys, there are things that to the outside eye you don’t know about some of these guys that devalue them even more.”
However, that doesn’t mean that the Giants aren’t still on the lookout for another tight end.
“We have to,” head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters after the draft, and before the team reportedly signed undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble.
“That’s not enough numbers for camp. We need some numbers, yeah. I hope we can find some numbers.”
The big question regarding who might have the edge as the starter is what particular characteristics new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo emphasizes at the tight end position.
Coughlin offered a few clues.
“Our guys are still blockers and kind of Supermen kind of people. They have to block, they have to be able to release off the line, they have to catch the football, they have to be people that you’re looking for in that green zone area, get the ball up high.”
So where does that leave the tight end position?
There’s unrestricted free agent Jermichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers, who is still awaiting medical clearance after having neck surgery last fall.
Or there’s Robinson and Donnell, both of whom will have a golden opportunity to step out of the shadows.
“Yeah it’s a concern, it’s a concern in a lot of ways, but we’ve got, as has been said, a couple young guys here that, ‘Fellas, if you can’t see your way to the field now,’” Coughlin said.
For the third year in a row, Will Hill, the Giants talented starting safety, is facing a league-imposed suspension related to a failed drug test that Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News estimates will be anywhere from six to eight games if the third-year safety loses his appeal process.
The Giants, for their part, have not made any official statements regarding Hill, other than general manager Jerry Reese’s statement at his predraft press conference that the team will respect the appeal process.
If Hill loses that appeal, the Giants will presumably open training camp with Quintin Demps as the starter alongside of Antrel Rolle.
They are also hoping that Stevie Brown can make it back from ACL surgery and that Cooper Taylor, whom they drafted in the fifth round last year, will step up. Regardless, the pending loss of Hill would be huge if Brown has a setback or an injury strikes down any of the other safeties.
That’s a big reason why the Giants drafted Nat Berhe with the first of their two fifth-round draft picks.
“(Berhe) is an all-around football player that we think can come in and right away be a backup and help us on special teams,” Coughlin said. “He is a throw-your-body-around kind of guy, really sharp, loves football—the whole deal.”
“(Nat Berhe) is a football player,” added Ross. “He plays a hybrid role as a safety, corner and linebacker role where he is all over the place.”
If Berhe and at least one of the undrafted free agents (Thomas Gordon and C.J. Barnett) whom the Giants plan to bring to camp, can come along, that will go a long way toward removing this position as a concern.
The Giants didn’t draft a fullback nor did they sign a rookie. Yet for the first time since the 2007 training camp, they’re going to have a competition between two very capable players, John Conner and Henry Hynoski.
Conner, a 2010 fifth-round draft pick of the New York Jets, is on his third NFL team after making a stop in Cincinnati in 2012. Last season, he joined the Giants on Sept. 25 on a two-year contract after Hynoski suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder in Week 3.
Although Conner had to learn the Giants’ playbook on the fly, he did so rather well, finishing as the third-best run-blocking fullback and fifth-best fullback overall, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Hynoski’s 2013 season seemed over even before it started when he suffered an unfortunate knee injury during an OTA practice. He fought his way back and was on the field by opening day until his shoulder injury. Unfortunately, he didn’t look to be anywhere near the player he was in 2012, when he finished as the fifth-best run-blocker and eighth-best overall fullback.
With both players starting from scratch in a new offensive system, this battle should be one of the fun ones to watch this summer, assuming both make it to training camp.
Let the Games Begin!
Overall, it promises to be a competitive Giants camp, and Coughlin sounds like a man who can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
“Let’s get this thing going, let’s get the mesh going, let’s get this camaraderie thing going, let’s get out on the field and be smart about it," Coughlin told reporters after the conclusion of the draft.
"Compete—we’d like to be able to match up all of the positions with some competitiveness because that’s how you get better. So I’m excited about that part of it,” he added.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.