New York Giants: Top training camp battles to watch for

New York Giants, Darnay Holmes, Julian Love, Jabrill Peppers, DeAndre Baker, Xavier McKinney, Corey Ballentine

Taking a look at the top training camp battles for the New York Giants:

With the NFL training camp start dates officially being announced on Saturday for all teams aside from the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs, who are reporting earlier, football fans finally have something to look forward to:



Now, with that being said, just because the dates are now set doesn’t mean everything is back to normal or will be anytime soon. There obviously won’t be any fans in the stands, and there will be a limit as to how many players will be allowed in the facility at the same time, at least for now. That will probably also be the case for how many can be on the field at the same time as well.

Then there’s the predicament of what would happen if one or more players test positive for COVID-19, in which case those infected would most likely be quarantined for an extended period of time, and training camp as a whole might get shut down depending on the number of cases. This is just speculation, however, as the NFL and NFLPA have not even reached any kind of agreement on how they would handle this kind of situation, and therefore it’s a real possibility that players could choose to stay home and not come to camp if they don’t feel comfortable. The league has had months of preparation time, and yet the players still don’t know what health and safety protocols the NFL will be taking regarding the pandemic, which is ridiculous and very problematic. It’s a messy situation that will most likely be faced with obstacles and challenges throughout.

However, assuming all goes smoothly and proper guidelines are taken by the league that everyone abides by. This news means that football is officially underway, and we are getting closer to the 2020 NFL season. With that, let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing and exciting training camp position battles for the Giants this summer.

Backup running back

Saquon Barkley has the lead running back role locked down and will be the centerpiece of Jason Garrett’s offense, but what about the runner behind him who will also play a role in the offense and help manage Saquon’s workload?

Veteran free-agent signing Dion Lewis is the favorite as of right now, with his speed and shiftiness being a nice complement to Saquon’s skill set. His pass-catching ability and seven years of experience come in handy as well, but there is also third-year back Wayne Gallman who was the back up last season and played pretty well when Saquon missed time with an ankle sprain. However, Gallman seems to be in an uphill battle to make the roster and probably needs to have a big training camp to stick around, as he’s one of the only Jerry Reese draft picks remaining on the team.

There’s also undrafted free agent running back Javon Leake, who demonstrated explosiveness and potential in limited snaps at the University of Maryland. He’s expected to be more of the third-string running back who’s heavily involved in special teams to start out, but if he balls out at camp, he could possibly carve out more of a role for himself in the offense. It will be fun to see these three backs, amongst others, battle it out for snaps behind Saquon this season.

Center and right tackle

The Giants should have an improved offensive line this season, with three of the five positions seemingly set and better quality depth all around. Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler will stay as the left and right guards, and first-round draft pick Andrew Thomas should take over the left tackle spot from right the get-go. At center and right tackle, however, those positions are open for the taking.

At center you have former undrafted lineman Nick Gates and this year’s fifth-round pick Shane Lemieux, who is a guard naturally but has been training at center as well over the offseason, as the top contenders for the position. The Giants also still have veteran Spencer Pulley and have been keeping tabs on Jon Halapio, their underwhelming starting center from last year. If he’s fully recovered from his torn Achilles and ready to go, they could bring him back and throw him into the fight. It also remains to be seen whether they would add a more proven veteran, such as former Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt, who is also recovering from an ACL injury he suffered midway through last season. Assuming he’s healthy, he would offer an upgrade who could be had on a cheap “prove-it” deal.

At right tackle, the top options for that spot currently are Nate Solder, who was the starting left tackle the past two years, and veteran free agent signing Cameron Fleming. The Giants also have their third-round pick Matt Peart, who is supposed to be their right tackle of the future but needs some more development first. However, if he performs well during camp and surprises people, he could take over earlier than anticipated. Gates also has experience playing tackle, so he could be a candidate there, depending on what happens at center. Both of these positions have fierce competition brewing, which should be very entertaining to follow.

Edge rusher

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants have a big question mark in the pass-rushing department. They’re set on the inside but lack a true, proven threat on the outside and seem to be aiming for more of a committee approach. They do have a number of candidates with potential and upside, and they will all be fighting for snaps. The leaders of the pack right now are third-year veteran Lorenzo Carter, who is entering a make-or-break year, and second-year man Oshane Ximines, who registered 4.5 sacks on limited snaps last year.

The Giants could be getting back their leading sack artist from last season, however, as they placed the seldom-used unrestricted free agent tender on Markus Golden. Golden produced 10 sacks on a one-year deal last year and showed he was fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in 2017. It’s looking more and more probable that they will bring him back for at least one more year, and if they do, he will most likely reclaim a starting spot.

There’s also free-agent signing Kyler Fackrell, who could be a diamond in the rough for the Giants this year like Golden was last year. He had a great season in 2018 where he totaled 10.5 sacks, but fell off last year and only managed 1 sack on far fewer snaps. The Giants give Fackrell a perfect opportunity to try and regain his 2018 form, so we’ll see if they cash in with another low-risk, high-reward type signing. Seventh-round pick Carter Coughlin and a few undrafted edge rushers have promise as well, so it remains to be seen if they will impress enough in camp to make the roster and crack some rotational snaps in year one.

Outside and slot cornerback

The Giants have a slew of young defensive backs with lots of talent and versatility, which is great. They are set right now at both safety positions, with second-round draft pick Xavier McKinney at free safety and fourth-year safety Jabrill Peppers at strong safety, and also at their number one cornerback spot with free-agent signing James Bradberry. They still have question marks at the number two cornerback spot and in the slot cornerback spot as well, and there are a number of guys who will be competing for both of them.

It was presumed that second-year corner Deandre Baker would have the other outside corner spot locked down, but then he was arrested under some ugly armed robbery charges. There are constant back and forth reports about the incident, and nobody knows what to believe or when a resolution will be reached. It still is unclear if Baker even has a future with the team going forward. There remains a good chance he either gets cut or at least suspended, and he’s now in a position where he would likely need to prove himself in order to regain his starting spot if he remains with the team.

The next two players in line behind Baker are second-year defensive back Julian Love, who was a standout outside corner in college but mostly played safety his rookie year with the Giants. He is versatile and could play both on the outside or in the slot. This year’s fourth-round pick Darnay Holmes is another one of those versatile players. He was projected to take over in the slot, but now, with the whole Baker conundrum, he could possibly see playing time on the outside, which is where he played in college as well.

2018 supplemental draft pick Sam Beal is a talented player with lots of potential but has just been unable to stay healthy so far in his young career. He was inconsistent but showed some flashes last season on the outside and has a tremendous opportunity now to prove his worth. Corey Ballentine, last year’s sixth-round pick, struggled as a rookie in the slot, but that was understandable given he was faced with tragedy that he was dealing with throughout the season while having to adjust to a new position in the process. He showed flashes last preseason and could surprise people with a year under his belt and more time to get his mind right. Grant Haley also has some professional experience in both roles for the Giants and could fight for snaps, although he struggled last season, and his roster spot could be in jeopardy.

The Giants also signed former XFL standout Dravon Askew-Henry, who is another Swiss Army knife in the secondary and could play on the inside, outside, or at safety. It’s clear that there is a surplus of candidates to compete for these spots in the secondary, and it will be exciting to see them go at it and compete during camp.

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