There’s an indisputable mantra for the NFL preseason: unexpected success stories give way to unexpected contributors. For the New York Giants, that concept conjures up both hopes and fears. While some of New York’s roster hopefuls could emerge as key starters, the team’s more established players need to avoid and recover from injuries in August in order to lead the Giants in the fall. With various possibilities in play, many Giants players are under scrutiny. Let’s take a look at five players who will garner much of this attention during New York Giants training camp.
Five Players to Watch at New York Giants Training Camp
Saquon Barkley is arguably New York’s best player. He also has a lot to prove. That’s not bashing Barkley’s ability, but there are plenty of questions surrounding his health. Since tearing his right ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, Barkley hasn’t seen much on-field football activity. The Giants have been extremely cautious with the star running back, placing him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before training camp began on July 28.
That decision was an expected one, and it remains to be seen whether or not the Giants will activate Barkley at any point during the preseason. If Barkley does see the practice field, it will be important to see how his knee impacts his agility and acceleration. The team needs Barkley at full strength to contend for a playoff berth, so any progress he makes during Giants training camp will be especially noteworthy.
Aaron Robinson, a third-round draft pick out of UCF, also happens to be on the PUP list with a core muscle injury. However, Robinson’s injury is a minor one, so he should see the field relatively soon. Once Robinson returns, he will compete with Darnay Holmes for the starting slot cornerback spot.
Robinson brings great physicality and awareness to the Giants. He has the potential to become a great matchup against opposing tight ends. But it will be tough to beat out Holmes, who didn’t give up a touchdown in 44 targets as a rookie last season. Regardless of whether Robinson wins the starting role, though, it will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize him. The rookie can strengthen the Giants defense against the run, provide the secondary with depth, or even play alongside Holmes on third downs. It’s just a matter of what the Giants will do with him.
John Ross is one of many speedy slot receivers on the Giants roster. That leaves many wondering where Ross fits in New York’s receiving core. It also puts the team at a crossroads. Bringing Ross aboard onto the final 53-man roster would prioritize the Giants deep-passing attack over all else. Cutting him in favor of a special teams ace like C.J. Board would make the team slightly more versatile, but would rob the Giants of another potential big-play threat.
On a simpler level, Ross’s performance and his connection with head coach Joe Judge will draw significant attention. As the ninth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Ross didn’t live up to his lofty expectations with the Cincinnati Bengals. Injuries and a sour relationship with the Bengals coaching staff frequently kept him off the field. Thus, Ross’s attempt to revive his career and mesh with Judge’s discipline-heavy culture should be a key storyline of Giants training camp.
It wasn’t a secret that starting tight end Evan Engram struggled in 2020. That contributed to New York’s decision to sign veteran Kyle Rudolph to a two-year, $12 million deal this offseason. Rudolph’s prowess as a blocker gives him immense versatility in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s run-heavy scheme.
Although Rudolph is also currently on the PUP list with a foot injury, it will be interesting to see how (or if) he coexists with Engram when he gets back on the field. The Giants can deploy Rudolph in a multitude of ways. Will the coaching staff work him into the passing game as a weapon for Daniel Jones, or will he primarily contribute as a run-blocking tight end?
% of catchable passes dropped since 2017:
🔹 Kyle Rudolph – 1.0
🔹 Larry Fitzgerald – 2.1
🔹 Allen Robinson – 2.2
🔹 Antonio Brown – 2.2pic.twitter.com/7Nt7qa5ATv
— PFF (@PFF) March 2, 2021
It’s not often you see a returning punter on lists like this one, but Riley Dixon’s job is up for grabs. Due in part to subpar punt coverage, Dixon’s play was inconsistent in 2020. With Ryan Santoso, who doubles as a kickoff specialist, in the fold, the Giants coaching staff will keep a close eye on Dixon. While Dixon has the advantage to make the roster as the incumbent, he’ll be under lots of pressure to thrive during the preseason.
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