Realistic Expectations for New York Giants Rookies
The New York Giants got their first true glimpse of what their 2017 rookie class—six draft picks and a handful of undrafted free agents—can do during the spring OTAs and mandatory minicamp.
Although there was no contact allowed during the spring, the Giants coaching staff no doubt came away with a general overview of where each player currently is with his technique, knowledge of the playbook and progress made.
How will that all translate when the team opens the regular season in September? Let's run down a list of select rookies, including the draft picks and a couple of premium free-agent signings, and try to gauge what a realistic expectation of his role in the coming season might be.
TE Evan Engram, 1st-Round Draft Pick
In first-round draft pick Evan Engram, the Giants are hoping they finally have a tight end who can help stretch the middle of the field.
Engram, the tight end out of Ole Miss, has done his part so far to show just how much of a receiving threat he can be.
He lined up in multiple spots throughout the spring, including split wide, in the slot and in the backfield, and for the majority of the time he didn't disappoint.
The rookie not only put his speed on display by separating from defenders, he also won a fair share of jump-balls against smaller defensive backs, which is exactly what the coaching staff no doubt is hoping to see during the regular season.
Engram's presence will also allow the Giants to be more multiple on offense. In the practices open to the media, the Giants ran quite a bit of two-tight end sets with Engram one of the tight ends either operating on one side by his lonesome or as part of a trip formation.
While Engram was brought on board for his receiving skills, the young man can also block, if asked.
"He shows a very much so willingness to block and to finish and strain the way we're asking our guys to strain," tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said. "He has a toughness and a willingness to go against anyone on our defense, and I'm hoping that remains through the course of this season."
Expectation: Starting lineup
Stat line: 45 receptions, 625 yards, three touchdowns
DT Dalvin Tomlinson, 2nd-Round Draft Pick
The Giants have an opening on their starting defensive line thanks to the departure of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in free agency.
Second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson, out of Alabama, hopes to eventually fill that opening. Whether he becomes an every-down player as a rookie remains to be seen.
Tomlinson, listed at 6'3", 310 pounds, made more of a name for himself as a run stopper as part of a defensive line rotation in college, a guy who kind of blended in on that Crimson Tide defensive line.
Pro Football Weekly believes that Tomlinson may even be able to line up at the 5-technique on first and second downs. The 5-technique has responsibility for the B and C gaps on his side of the formation, usually the job of the defensive ends in the base defense.
It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo takes advantage of Tomlinson's prowess against the run in select sub-packages to give starting defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon a breather if the 23-year-old can show himself capable of handling those gaps this summer. If he does, that probably won't come until later in the season.
Expectation: Defensive line rotation at 3-technique
Stat line: 15 total tackles (9 solo), 1.0 sack
QB Davis Webb, 3rd-Round Draft Pick
Normally a team would expect its third-round draft pick to be able to contribute at some point during his rookie season.
That won't necessarily be the case for quarterback Davis Webb. Head coach Ben McAdoo has already said that the 22-year-old will be the team's third-string quarterback this year.
That doesn't mean Webb will be standing idly by watching the football world pass by. The expectation will be that he progresses in his comfort level in the playbook while also working on whatever technique changes McAdoo, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti have in mind for the former Cal signal-caller.
For the time being, don't be surprised if, during a visit to training camp, it looks as though Webb is attached to Cignetti's hip.
"What we try to do with all the quarterbacks—obviously one quarterback is in at a time—is have them around their position coach going through that play," Cignetti said.
"Then there may be times if they're not around the position coach, they're out there communicating maybe with players who just came off the field. Talking about the adjustments or things that happened in that set of plays."
To make sure Webb gets plenty of reps during the year, he will likely be asked to run the scout team at some point, the Giants coaches taking advantage of the player's strong arm and mobility.
Expectation: Third-string quarterback, scout team quarterback
Stat line: N/A
RB Wayne Gallman, 4th-Round Pick
The Giants ultimately hope to work rookie Wayne Gallman into a running back rotation that right now is projected to have Paul Perkins as the starter, Shane Vereen as a third-down back and one of Orleans Darkwa or Shaun Draughn as the change-of-pace back.
Once Gallman, 22, comes up to speed on pass protection, he'll likely phase out whoever from Darkwa or Draughn wins that battle for carries.
That might not come until later in the year. Although McAdoo has no problem with playing young players, Gallman's biggest challenge will be learning how to pass protect. Once he can do that without thinking twice, only then will he earn playing reps.
Expectation: Rotational running back
Stat line: 20 carries, 111 yards; four receptions, 35 yards, no touchdowns (rushing or receiving)
DE Avery Moss, 5th-Round Pick
The Giants are in search of a solid third defensive end who can provide occasional relief for starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon.
Fifth-round pick Avery Moss hopes to be the last man standing among a competition that will also include Romeo Okwara, Devin Taylor, Kerry Wynn, and—if he rejoins the club—Owa Odighizuwa.
Currently, no one seems to have separated himself from the pack, according to defensive line coach Patrick Graham.
"We have a bunch of guys out there that are going to be working hard. Working hard towards the goal right now in terms of getting better every day," he said. "We'll see how the depth plays out in the fall."
So far, Moss has impressed defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with his explosiveness.
"I don't know if anyone knows Hugh Douglas from down in Philadelphia and he was the first guy that was just thick and powerful from (the waist) down," Spagnuolo said during the rookie minicamp in May.
"Avery is not quite as thick as that, but I thought of him when I watched Avery on tape and he has played that 4-3 defensive end position, which we do a lot of. We still play some under where they have to move down and he looks comfortable doing it, so hopefully put him in the mix with the other guys that we have."
However, Moss might be behind Taylor to start as the latter has shown he can play inside in certain packages.
Still, Taylor is probably not a long-term solution, his presence giving the Giants a potential missing piece until the younger guys can get up to speed.
Expectation: 53-man roster, but inactive for the first half of the season
Stat line: 27 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, one pass defensed
OT Adam Bisnowaty, 6th-Round Pick
The Giants thought enough of Adam Bisnowaty to trade up in the sixth round to get him. And now that they have him, there is much to like about what he brings to the table.
The rookie out of Pitt received some first-team reps during the OTAs in place of the absent Bobby Hart, and held his own with his effort, according to McAdoo.
"He jumped right in there and didn't miss a beat," the head coach said after the 10th OTA. "Fundamentally he still has a lot of things that he needs to work on, but assignment-wise he was sharp."
Bisnowaty has been primarily working at right tackle this spring with the second-team offensive line, but eventually he'll also get some work at guard to increase his versatility.
He's probably a year or so away from competing for a full-time spot, but it wouldn't be surprising if he becomes the first man off the bench for the jumbo and goal-line packages, as well as serving as the understudy to Hart at right tackle assuming Hart hangs on to the job.
Expectation: Backup right tackle
Stat line: N/A
OT Chad Wheeler, Priority Undrafted Free Agent
The Giants chose to eschew the expensive veteran free-agent market to add to their offensive line, instead using the draft and post-draft to add talent.
One such addition is offensive tackle Chad Wheeler, who excelled at USC. Per NJ Advance Media, Wheeler received a $20,000 signing bonus to join the Giants, putting him in that "premium undrafted free-agent" category.
This spring, Wheeler mostly worked with the second-team offensive line at left tackle. During the mandatory minicamp, he received some reps with the starting unit at left tackle, though this was likely more a result of the Giants being without starter Ereck Flowers and projected backup Justin Pugh for that particular practice.
Ultimately, Wheeler might find a place on the 53-man roster if he does well enough this summer. However, he'll likely have to add another position or two to his offerings—as is the case with every young offensive lineman—if he's to increase his value to the team.
Expectation: Practice squad
Stat line: N/A
WR Travis Rudolph, Priority Undrafted Free Agent
Rookie receiver Travis Rudolph is another priority undrafted free-agent signing and a feel-good story after he befriended an autistic boy during a middle school visit to Tallahassee last year, per BBC News.
The 6'0", 198-pound Rudolph, who played his college ball at Florida State, is hoping to become the next football feel-good story, the receiver who bucks the odds to find superstardom in the NFL.
The challenge for Rudolph is that there are three solid receivers already perched atop of the Giants depth chart—Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard.
Veteran Tavarres King looks to have jumped out to a slight lead for a roster spot over Roger Lewis, while Dwayne Harris, primarily a special teamer, still calls the receiver meeting room his home.
If Rudolph were to make the Giants, he'd probably have to do so on special teams. During the spring, he was among the group of players fielding punts, the job currently held by Harris who is occasionally relieved by Beckham when the Giants need a spark.
Can Rudolph unseat Harris for that role? Probably not this year, not with Harris having $1.1 million guaranteed money coming his way this year.
Should Harris not be effective or become too banged up, then perhaps there might be a spot for Rudolph on the 53-man roster later in the year.
Expectation: Practice squad
Stat line: N/A
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.