Giants' Projected Winners of Key Position Battles

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2021

Giants' Projected Winners of Key Position Battles

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The New York Giants saw their first preseason action of 2021 on Saturday. They fell 12-7 against the cross-town Jets in a game that ultimately will mean nothing in the final standings.

    The preseason opener did provide an early look at some key position battles that have been unfolding during training camp. Many of New York's critical positions are set—including the all-important quarterback spot—but the Giants are looking to improve on a roster that went 6-10 last season.

    The Giants also need to uncover insurance at running back, as Saquon Barkley continues to make his way back from a torn ACL.

    Here, we'll dive into three key position battles ahead of Week 1 and make predictions on how we see things playing out.

Backup Running Back

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Barkley may or may not be ready for Week 1. He did recently return to the practice field, though the Giants have been taking a cautious approach.

    "At this point, the focus is really to kind of get him moving more and more within the football movements," head coach Joe Judge said, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. "I wouldn't anticipate him being in any kind of live drills this week."

    Identifying a primary backup and potential spot-starter has to be a preseason goal.

    The Giants signed Devontae Booker to a two-year, $5.5 million deal in free agency, and he may get first crack at the job. However, they also have Corey Clement and the recently signed Alfred Morris at the position.

    Clement made a strong case for the role against the Jets, averaging 6.4 yards per carry—though he did lose a fumble. Former Australian footballer Sandro Platzgummer also shined with a 48-yard run.

    This is a battle that should continue over the next two weeks. But Booker, who topped 500 scrimmage yards in limited action last season, should have the inside edge.

    Prediction: Booker wins role, could start Week 1.

Wide Receiver

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    The Giants should be set with their top three wideouts in Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. However, finding a top complementary option will be key, as New York looks to improve Daniel Jones' supporting cast.

    New York signed John Ross in free agency and used a first-round pick on Florida's Kadarius Toney. However, the former has been wildly unreliable during his NFL career, and the latter has been dealing with an undisclosed injury.

    "He's been dealing with it for a little bit," Judge said, per ESPN's Jordan Raanan. "Something that was aggravated in practice toward the tail end of this week. So he was unable to play. ...I'm not going to disclose any person's individual injury at this moment, but we hope to get him out there this week."

    While Toney will eventually get opportunities on the field, he's largely been absent in camp and may not see a significant role early.

    However, 2019 undrafted free agent David Sills V may have made his case for early playing time against the Jets. He finished with three receptions and a team-high 49 receiving yards.

    Prediction: Sills is the No. 4 receiver Week 1.

Outside Linebacker

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The Giants had the league's ninth-ranked scoring defense in 2020, and they're relatively solid on that side of the ball. However, they could use help at outside linebacker—specifically, they could use a player who can consistently rush off the edge.

    The Giants logged 40 sacks last season, but 11.5 of those came from defensive lineman Leonard Williams. No other player had more than four sacks on the season.

    The biggest battle here is between Oshane Ximines—who played just four games in 2020—and rookie second-round pick Azeez Ojulari.

    Ojulari got the start against the Jets, and while he finished the game with only one tackle, he earned playing time with a strong early camp.

    "The real test will be when the pads come on, but I'd say in terms of his mental understanding of the system and schemes, he’s made progress in that," Judge said, per John Fennelly of Giants Wire.

    Ojulari will have to continue proving himself over the next two weeks, but he appears on track to at least see significant early playing time.

    Prediction: Ojulari starts Week 1.