New York Giants camp will be about solidifying offensive line

By Patricia Traina, The Sports Xchange   |   June 17, 2017 at 1:53 AM
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants concluded their offseason program Thursday much to the satisfaction of head coach Ben McAdoo, who opined that his coaches and players "taught well and learned well."

But there is still much to do for a Giants team that is looking to build on their 2016 success and take their game to the next level.

On offense, the team got its first look at tight end and first-round draft pick Evan Engram, drafted 23rd overall. Engram, as he often did in college, lined up in the slot, split wide, in the backfield and even in-line, as the Giants ran some new personnel sets deviating from the 11-personnel they seemed to gravitate toward much of last year.

"I think it is always early, no matter who the player is, to come in and say just off OTAs and off the minicamp that they are ordained as the savior, as the best that has ever played," began offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

"I will say that we are very excited about what the young man brings to the table. I mean, he has an excellent attitude, he is very smart, he is tough and I think from the practices that you guys have seen, we will all agree, he is very explosive and he is very fast. There is an added dimension to the pass-game standpoint that we look forward to using in the season."

Both Engram and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, signed as a free agent after his release from the Jets in March, give the Giants some added firepower to help take away some of the attention that's gravitated toward Odell Beckham Jr., who last season saw his total yardage and touchdowns dip despite a slight bump in receptions.

When training camp opens July 27, all eyes though figure to be on the offensive line, where left tackle Ereck Flowers has turned more than a few heads with his slimmed-down physique, his quicker footwork and better hand punch.

"You can see that Ereck looks leaner," Sullivan said. "There is initial quickness that is there that is impressive. Obviously, it doesn't take rocket science to figure out that here we are in just our shorts and helmets, you are not going to get a true sense of where we are at from a pass protection standpoint, from a run blocking standpoint. But I think Ereck particularly, you see the results of his work getting him to this point."

Defensively, the Giants will have a couple of battles for starting jobs on a unit that otherwise returned most of its key faces from last year.

Safeties coach David Merritt indicated that the starting free safety position isn't automatically going to be awarded to Darian Thompson, who last year missed most of his rookie season with a foot injury. Thompson, Merritt said, will compete with Andrew Adams, who started in Thompson's place and played well.

"That second safety has been elusive for us," Merritt said. "To have two guys that can actually step in there and actually hold down the position. Hopefully, we will find that solid piece this year, but we need four good guys. If we can get four good guys, it's going to be great."

The Giants are also looking for a new starting defensive tackle after losing Johnathan Hankins via free agency.

Veterans Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas have been competing for the position, though rookie second-round draft pick Dalvin Tomlinson is expected to make a push.

Defensive line coach Patrick Graham noted that Tomlinson's biggest challenge right now is learning the playbook.

"Just like everyone else, he's working hard at it," Graham said. "He's definitely a smart guy, but we have other smart guys in the room too."

The other opening on the defense is at middle linebacker, where second-year man B.J. Goodson was supposed to be competing with veteran Keenan Robinson for the job. However, Goodson had a strong spring, impressing both his teammates and coaches with his voice in the huddle and his command of the playbook.

"He has been great," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "He has really taken this thing on, it is important to him and he takes it serious. I don't believe that he was the signal-caller at Clemson. At least that is what he told me, so this is a little bit new and yet I think that every day when we get out there, the guy is getting more and more confidence."

It all adds up to what promises to be an exciting and interesting training camp for the Giants, who before being dismissed by McAdoo, were reminded to be careful over the next six weeks to avoid situations that might not be favorable to them or the organization.

"We talked about being a pro. We have a lot of integrity in the locker room," McAdoo said. "We talked about it and we have to trust each other, but it is about being a pro and how we handle our business mentally, physically and spiritually.

"Six weeks goes by pretty quick. You just don't want any phone calls late at night, that is all. But I trust the players in the locker room, I trust the staff, we are going to put ourselves in good situations and we understand that that NYG never comes off."

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