New York Giants: Early Rookie Progress Reports
As far as the New York Giants are concerned, the future is now.
The future, of course, is their rookie class, where several members are going to be asked to step into roles a lot sooner than perhaps head coach Tom Coughlin and the rest of the organization might like.
With the team having completed its first OTA of the offseason, the media was allowed a glimpse at the entire workout as well as access to the players themselves. During that access, we were able to get an early sense of how far along some of the rookies have come, what their prospective roles might be and where they stand in their development.
Here is a look at six of the rookies who drew attention for one reason or another and how their roles appear to be shaping up.
OT Ereck Flowers
When the Giants selected Ereck Flowers with the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft, everyone from head coach Tom Coughlin to general manager Jerry Reese made it clear the team was eye-balling the 21-year-old former Miami Hurricane as a potential left tackle.
Unfortunately due to a pectoral injury suffered by incumbent Will Beatty, Flowers’ time to play left tackle has arrived much sooner than anyone anticipated.
The debate about Flowers, though, is whether he’s ready to step in and play at a high level against the NFL’s speed-rushers who lie ahead on the Giants' schedule.
According to an unnamed NFL offensive line coach who spoke to Greg A. Bedard of the MMQB, Flowers’ technique is “some of the worst technique I’ve ever seen in a player drafted that high.”
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin pooh-poohed that criticism, telling the media after the start of OTAs, “I don’t subscribe to that—what people, what they say—he is our kid. He is an outstanding young player. He is going to do nothing but get better.”
In the same breath, Coughlin admitted that Flowers—whom he praised for having “outstanding feet, nifty for a big man”—had a few things he needed to iron out with his technique.
“Sure, there are going to be things that happen to him that haven’t happened before. We knew there were a couple of things we need to clarify and work on him, but he will work.”
The good news is the start of the season is a long way off, and the Giants are hoping that Flowers takes well to the coaching and is ready to roll when the curtain rises on the campaign.
S Landon Collins
Earlier this month, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, when asked about how he would align the safeties, told reporters that he wasn’t ready to designate a “free safety” or a “strong safety” just yet.
“Actually we want to get all of the safeties to learn both so we can figure out where we’ll put people,” he said.
“We’ve just got to line them up left and right for right now. That will probably stay like that for a pretty good duration, and then when we feel like maybe we should hone in on a particular spot, we’ll do that, but we’re not going to do that right away.”
So while Spagnuolo held true to his word by having his safeties take turns playing down in the box and dropping into coverage, it was interesting to note that Landon Collins, the team’s second-round draft pick who is projected to be a starter at one of the safety positions, primarily lined up on the strong side of the formation.
Collins, who began to look at home in this defense in the rookie minicamp, continued to look like one of the more polished players out there. On one play during the first OTA, he managed to knock a ball away from tight end Daniel Fells on a pattern run along the far sideline.
In drills, Collins also looked the smoothest as far as his backpedal and flipping his hips and getting into position to catch a ball.
Against the run, Collins seemed quick in diagnosing the play and getting himself into position to stop the running back.
Because of the no-contact nature of the drills, he didn’t get a chance to show off his tackling abilities, which NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein praised in his predraft write-up of Collins.
So far, though, Collins is definitely coming as advertised as far as being a pro-ready safety with a solid football IQ and good instincts, especially against the run.
DE Owa Odighizuwa
Owa Odighizuwa was one of the stars during the rookie minicamp, especially with how he abused a rookie offensive tackle by zipping past him and into the backfield.
In the first OTA, however, he was limited as far as the team drills were concerned.
Moving forward, Odighizuwa should have a good opportunity to get more snaps. Veteran defensive end Robert Ayers had to be carted off the field after injuring his knee and ankle, but according to Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo, tests didn’t reveal any major damage to the defensive end’s knee or ankle.
Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ayers has to miss a workout or two just as a precaution. If he does, that should allow Odighizuwa to see an increase in his snaps.
S Mykkele Thompson
The Giants have wasted little time in trying to get defensive back Mykkele Thompson involved in the mix.
Working with the second team, Thompson handled most of the coverage responsibilities as the deep safety and came up with one of the nicest plays of the OTA practice.
On a lame-duck pass thrown by quarterback Ryan Nassib, Thompson adjusted to the ball, getting in front of receiver Preston Parker and then picking off the pass in the end zone.
Thompson’s alert and athletic play during the seven-on-seven drills earned him a special mention from Giants.com’s Dan Salomone as one of three standout players in the opening OTA practice.
WR Geremy Davis
Geremy Davis is another receiver who looks like he might make a little noise this summer.
During receiver drills, Davis displayed soft hands in pass-catching exercises. He did a nice job of looking at the ball all the way in and then running through a human tunnel of teammates who took blocking cushions and tried to swat the ball out of his grasp.
On special teams, Davis, who, in a podcast interview with myself and Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, said that he relishes an opportunity to mix it up on the coverage units, lined up as a punt gunner.
As he did in the rookie camp, Davis was often one of the first men downfield to play the ball.
Thus far, he has mostly worked against single coverage as a punt gunner, so it will be interesting to see how he fares if he draws double coverage at some point—which, given the way he’s been performing as a gunner, might come sooner rather than later.
WR Ben Edwards
Former Richmond receiver Ben Edwards, whom New York signed following the rookie minicamp earlier this month, is listed at 5’10" and 197 pounds, but he sure doesn’t play like a smaller receiver.
Working with the third team, Edwards was fearless in his route running, showing nice soft hands when making the catch.
What was particularly interesting, though, is that Edwards was one of the candidates the Giants had lined up to return punts during the drills in their first OTAs—interesting because receiver Dwayne Harris, who was supposedly signed in part for his return abilities, was not spotted returning punts once.
Getting back to Edwards, he looked good fielding the punts, although the punts from Robert Malone lacked distance, which meant that Edwards didn’t have much room to navigate once he secured the punt.
Still, it’s nice to see Edwards understands that his ticket to the NFL is going to be on special teams.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes, practice observations and other information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.