New York Giants: Mini-camp musings, we get that it starts upfront
By Curt Macysyn
Mandatory mini-camp typically becomes an observation point to review offseason acquisitions.
The New York Giants are not different than most NFL teams. Players and coaches generally say and do the right things during OTAs. Of course, there are always exceptions to this (see: Lewis, Roger).
An irony does continue, however, that teams don’t want fans or media reading too much into the depth chart at OTAs. But guess what? The depth chart is always significant.
Was there significance for New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor being positioned with free agents and back-ups last week? Within a week, Pryor was jettisoned to the Cleveland Browns.
If J.T. Thomas does not see extended repetitions, chances are he’s losing his roster battle. Ditto for Roger Lewis, especially after his legal issues came to light. Because of the tight windows for coaches to see players, every snap became more critical for bubble players. Despite the coach-speak, personnel packages are worth noting.
It starts up front
Some fans lecture us about not appreciating or paying enough attention to the offensive line. I would respectfully suggest that you read what we’ve written before you post.
At the advent of free agency, I wrote that Andrew Whitworth should be the primary target for the New York Giants. I still stand behind that sentiment.
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It never happened.
Whitworth would have been the one transformational free agent for the New York Giants this year. But Whitworh could have plugged a major hole in the offensive line, and allowed Ereck Flowers to develop. Whitworth’s contract was pricey, but the Eli Manning window is closing.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Rhett Ellison pick-up. I just don’t know if Ellison becomes the one player that vaults the G-Men over the Green Bay Packers. With Ellison likely sidelined for mini-camp, this story will have to wait as well.
After losing out on Whitworth, Jerry Reese decided to experiment with D.J. Fluker on the offensive line this season. In the past, Reese has picked up serviceable offensive linemen. Serviceable linemen are not stars. These pick-ups generally cover the lack of success in drafting linemen.
Right now, nothing will be solved by writing speculative pieces about the offensive line. I agree it’s an issue, but what can be done about it now?
A discussion about the offensive line generally starts with Ereck Flowers. Am I concerned about Eli Manning’s blind side? You bet I am.
New York Giants
Reese and company are putting all their eggs in the Flowers basket. They see him all the time, we don’t.
"“I think if you see Ereck, his body is a lot leaner,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said according to the New York Post on May 13, 2017. “It’s very early and we didn’t get a chance to practice against the defense yet, but you do see some increased quickness. I’m just very pleased that both those young men have made that commitment to try to improve their game physically and do the things that they need to do to their bodies to mature and grow.”"
Flowers and compatriot Bobby Hart may be leaner, but that does not make them better. Unfortunately, the answer to this riddle will probably not come until the regular season. No doubt it’s a calculated gamble, but that’s what it is at this point. Nothing I write is going to change that. Nor am I going to obsess, good or bad, over every preseason snap.
I will be watching intently, however.
Now before anyone gets crazy over tight end Evan Engram, understand that not every rookie makes an immediate impact. For example, safety Landon Collins made tremendous strides between his first and second years. Ditto for Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg.
Instead of focusing exclusively on Engram during the summer, fans should take a look at Eli Apple, Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. Each will be asked to do more this season.
In the case of Apple, I expect his ball skills to improve. With Perkins, he needs to be the featured back, not a change-of-pace guy. Sterling Shepard may actually catch less passes this season, but be more effective. His yards after catch (YAC) needs improvement.
"“What am I looking to work on? Really just after the catch,” Shepard said to NJ Advance Media after the team’s third Organized Team Activity on Thursday. “I feel like I could have gotten a lot more YAC (yards after catch) yardage last year. That’s something that I looked at on film and I want to get better on.”"
This talented trio could be the difference between playoff success or heartbreak come January. Pay attention to their improvement and understand production from rookies is icing on the cake.