1. Odell is becoming a leader, not just a star
We get it. Odell Beckham Jr. can catch passes. He’s done it better over his first two NFL seasons than anyone ever has. But now, as he enters his third campaign, the Giants would like to see him become more than a superstar. They want him to become a leader.
“Odell is, as you know, a special, special player, a dynamic receiver,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “Just by that talent guys are going to look up to him. But then you see some of the interactions, particularly with some of the younger receivers, even with some of the other players, from an encouraging standpoint and pulling them aside to give them a few pointers.”
Beckham hasn’t always exhibited leadership qualities. He’s been known to fly off the handle, as he did last year against the Panthers and Josh Norman. This minicamp, though, he made a conscious decision to focus on the team before his own development. That has included dialing back the eye-popping plays and sideshow skills during practices to avoid an injury that could affect him during the upcoming season.
“I’m trying to embrace this leadership role,” Beckham said. “It’s hard because I’m not a very vocal leader — I kind of lead by action — so if you’re not really out there leading by action, there’s days where I have to grow up myself and still get something out of it. Whether I’m helping a younger guy out, or just talking more amongst the group, I’m really just focusing on doing as much as I can each and every day.”
Perhaps the player Beckham has taken under his wing the most is second-round pick Sterling Shepard. Beckham has been in Shepard’s ear this offseason not only about techniques and routes but about how great they can be together.
“I just feel like I really know what he’s capable of,” Beckham said, “and I’d rather let him shock the world than spill his secrets.”
2, The new defensive pieces are jelling
The Giants spent a lot of money to bring in three key additions to their defense this offseason: DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison and CB Janoris Jenkins. Besides seeing how they are adjusting to the new schemes, the Giants also have been watching closely to see how they mesh with their new teammates. So far, it’s been a good fit.
“I kind of watch the interaction of how they are and what they are saying on the sideline and I think that all three of those guys — Damon, OV and Jackrabbit [Jenkins’ nickname] — all have just come in, fit in really well, have run with it,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “They haven’t been afraid to voice their opinion, which is a good thing. I think the transition for them has been pretty smooth, it has been good.”
3. Darian Thompson is earning a starting job
The third-round pick from Boise State has spent most of the offseason program as the starting free safety, and as Spagnuolo noted: “That says a lot.”
Thompson came to the Giants knowing he would have a chance to compete for the job, but each passing day he seems to entrench himself into the role a bit more. It makes it a little easier for him to stay with the first team with Nat Berhe missing some of the practices due to injury, Mykkele Thompson and Cooper Taylor sidelined until training camp, and Bennett Jackson playing a variety of roles besides safety. But Thompson’s play and leadership have been the biggest reasons why he has kept the spot.
“He is assertive, he is vocal, he is not afraid to make a mistake,” Spagnuolo said. “I think the first thing that you need to do at that position when we ask you to make calls is not to be afraid of making a mistake and to be vocal. If he continues to do that, he will learn the defense. He is smart enough, and then it is just a matter of when you get out there, where is his skill level? I think we will find out a lot when we get to those preseason games.”
4. The Giants don’t have a slot corner . . . yet
This minicamp was a time for Spagnuolo to experiment at the position and see which combination of cornerbacks works best. At various times he worked projected outside starters Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie into the role, along with first-round pick Eli Apple.
“They have been great, all of those guys,” Spagnuolo said of their willingness to play the important and difficult position. “I think they like the challenge of learning something new and playing a different position, so I think it has been new and refreshing to them.”
Perhaps the truest slot corner on the roster is Trevin Wade, who has lined up there with the starters and played well this spring. The Giants also like the skills of undrafted rookie Dante Deayon out of Boise State. They also could add a veteran corner before the start of camp to fill the spot.
“We’ve played a lot of guys in there in the OTAs,” Spagnuolo said. “Tim Walton has done a great job and we decided to do that right from the beginning. Let’s find out which guy plays best in there and then go from there because we know they can all pretty much play outside and have played outside.”
5. There will be some serious roster battles in training camp that could send veterans packing
The Giants have a number of positions in which they appear to have more capable bodies than they will be able to carry once they trim their roster to 53 players in early September. Among those groups are the tight ends with Will Tye, Larry Donnell, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Malleck competing, as well as at middle linebacker with Jasper Brinkley, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard splitting reps. The Giants would love to have Beckham, Shepard and a healthy Victor Cruz as their starting receivers, but the next three spots on the depth chart could be up for grabs with Dwayne Harris, Geremy Davis, Myles White and undrafted rookie Roger Lewis fighting for reps and jobs. Don’t be shocked if the Giants add another veteran to that group before camp as well.
And then there is running back, in which the Giants have five players who could make a case for starting, including Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa and rookie Paul Perkins (not to mention free-agent pickup Bobby Rainey). The Giants’ backfield by committee never worked out last year, so figure on Ben McAdoo going into the season with a clearer picture of the position . . . and maybe one or two fewer bodies than he currently has.