With rookies reporting to training camp on Wednesday, the start of the 2021 NFL season is just about underway. The New York Giants face lofty expectations after spending an exorbitant amount of money this off-season to bolster several units, but some of the more exciting days ahead involve position battles — current players will battle it out for starting jobs.
However, the Giants have an incredibly deep team this year, as the depth spots are up for grabs, and there are some quality players looking to land a spot on the 53-man roster.
Let’s take a look at the top position battles that will commence this summer and who could emerge victorious.
Top five position battles for the New York Giants:
1.) Darnay Holmes V Aaron Robinson
One of the more exciting battles is between slot corner Darnay Holmes and third-round draft pick Aaron Robinson. Last season, Holmes proved to be a feisty corner but did have trouble at times in the penalty category, allowing five over 442 total snaps. Of course, his hiccups were simply related to inexperience, and he should take a step forward this year after dealing with injuries. He finished the campaign allowing 406 yards and zero touchdowns, one of the only rookie corners to do so with over 400 snaps.
Holmes featured in Patrick Graham’s zone defense, but with the unit looking to take a more man coverage-based approach, Robinson out of UCF could fit the bill. He is an aggressive interior corner that plays through the body and is stout in the running game. He will undoubtedly give Darnay a run for his money, making this battle one of the top to watch.
2.) Outside linebackers
The Giants invested heavily in the outside linebacker core this off-season, acquiring Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson, and drafting Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith. With the injection of new talent, we can expect a war at the spot, especially with the return of Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, who will be looking to retain their starting jobs. Competition brings out the best in everyone, and Ojulari could have the upper hand coming off a stellar season in the SEC, leading the conference in sacks and forced fumbles.
However, I wouldn’t disregard Smith as a player who could push for snaps, given his superior athleticism and relentless work ethic. While I estimate that Carter and Ojulari will emerge as the starters, the remainder will be used in a rotational fashion and will see the field frequently.
3.) Nate Solder V Matt Peart
When the Giants drafted Matt Peart out of UConn last year in the third round, they saw a player with immense upside and tangible traits. He added ample muscle mass this off-season, increasing his strength and retaining his agility/mobility.
If he can increase his efficiency in pass blocking, Peart could be a bookend right tackle for many years to come. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t write off Solder just yet, as he’s returning after opting out of the 2020 season due to Covid. He hasn’t played right tackle since his rookie season back in 2011, but as a savvy veteran, he could push for snaps if Peart struggles early on.
Based on how much money the Giants spent this off-season, though, it is clear they’re depending on their young line to emerge and keep the costs down, which would suggest Peart will likely earn the first shot at the starting job.
4.) Wide receivers
Having added Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney this off-season to the wide receiver corps, there will be a position battle for the No. 5-6 spots. The estimated starters are Golladay, Toney, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton, which leaves John Ross, Dante Pettis, Austin Mack, CJ Board, and David Sills to battle it out for the depth positions.
The Giants did sign Ross to a one-year, $2.25 million deal, which includes a $500K signing bonus and $1 million guaranteed. This would suggest that he is in line to land an active roster spot, so there may only be one position left for the taking. This will be another exciting battle to watch as training camp moves along, especially if injuries arise.
5.) Shane Lemieux/Will Hernandez V Zach Fulton
One low-key battle could be between guards Shane Lemieux, Will Hernandez, and Zach Fulton. Most project that Hernandez and Lemieux will snag the starting guard spots, but we shouldn’t write off Fulton just yet. While the former Houston Texans did allow 11 sacks last year, he was overall an average interior lineman, playing mostly at right guard. This was his worst season to date, proving to be far more efficient during the 2019 and 2018 seasons.
For example, Fulton featured in 1,102 snaps in 2019, earning a 77 overall pass backing grade, per PFF, allowing just one sack. He quietly had a solid campaign, and if Lemieux struggles in past protection, he could easily take over without skipping a beat. This may be more of a battle than some estimate.