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Special Report

Sent: 06-21-18

E-GIANTS
Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: AFTER MINI-CAMP,
WHAT ARE THE BURNING QUESTIONS?

By Aaron Klein

Here we are in the in-between, the weigh station that is the last light of the off-season before the Giants and the rest of the NFL start the full-time work with training camp, beginning in just over a month.

For the record, the Giants will kick off camp with the rookies on July 22 and the veterans on July 25. The team's first pre-season game is set for Aug. 9, at home against the Cleveland Browns.

So where are we? What are the biggest storylines swirling about with camp a little over a month away? What are the positions of strength and weakness?

Let's take a bird's eye view of the 2018 Giants in this calm before the season.

IS ELI MANNING REALLY FACING HIS TWILIGHT?

While we can't know how he'll hold up during camp, the pre-season and the 17-week regular season, Eli Manning showed no signs of slowing down or an inability to do everything necessary. Of course, he has some competition pushing him a more than in past years. That's not to say that second-year quarterback Davis Webb is ready to take over or will ever out-play Manning, but he's got some swagger and his hard work over the last year, which includes guidance and tutelage from Manning, who seems to relish healthy competition, might be paying off. Webb looked strong and finished mini-camp taking all the first-team reps on the last day.

While it's just mini-camp, Webb might be showing signs of having a future with the Giants ... long term.

The most likely scenario, despite the selection of Kyle Lauletta in the April draft, is that Manning will start the season and play all year, barring injury, while Webb settles firmly into the No. 2 job; Lauletta is too talented to pass through waivers to put him on the practice squad. He is the No. 3.

DO THEY HAVE A RUNNING GAME?

So far, the answer is most certainly yes. In fact, between first-round pick Saquon Barkley, free agent veteran Jonathan Stewart and not-to-be-forgotten Wayne Gallman, the Giants may just have the backfield they need to open the passing game that much more. Right, Barkley does that, too.

HAS THE TEAM FINALLY BUILT A SOLID OFFENSIVE LINE?

It sure seems that the offensive line is not only rebuilt but is better because of it. Of course, there is no way to know for sure until the defensive units they face are enemies.

Yes, the Giants made veteran free agent Nate Solder the highest-paid left tackle in the league and they probably know they overpaid. However, there wasn't going to be a chance they wouldn't overpay if they wanted to find a legitimate cornerstone. Signing Solder pushed would-be bust Ereck Flowers to right tackle, and the former first-rounder seems to have taken to the new role.

The guard spots will also see new faces, with second-round pick Will Hernandez already locking up the left guard job and free agent Patrick Omameh seemingly secure at right tackle.

Center? Well, despite the re-signing of Brett Jones to start at the position, former reserve guard/center Jon Halapio took nearly all the first-team snaps at center, which makes it appears he and not Jones will start in 2018. Jones, it is assumed, would be the swing guard and backup center instead, bringing talent and versatility ... unless he wins the job back in training camp.

One major concern: Chad Wheeler appears to be the best reserve tackle and that's not saying much.

IS THERE A PROBLEM AT CORNERBACK?

At this stage, the Giants' cornerbacks group has some question marks despite the level of pure talent. The team hopes that Janoris Jenkins returns to his 2016 form, when he was one of the best in the league, and that Eli Apple will finally pay off as a former first-rounder. Jenkins and Apple are the starters now and most likely for the year, regardless of how they perform.

Letting Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie go during free agency might come back to haunt the Giants, unless they find a way to bring him back. The door, as they say, is not closed. In his place, the Giants need to find a top slot corner and will hope that one of three players (William Gay, Donte Deayon, Grant Haley) can take over. There are plenty of corners on the roster, but most are inexperienced and are more prospects than anything else.

HEY, WHAT ABOUT THE SPECIAL TEAMS?

Besides bringing in free agent kicker Marshall Koehn to compete with Aldrick Rosas (Rosas needs better competition than Koehn), and cutting punter Brad Wing and acquiring punters Riley Dixon and Taylor Symmank, the Giants also made Zak DeOssie the highest-paid long snapper in the league. The Giants also brought in a bevy of linebackers, defensive backs, receivers and other athletes to rebuild the coverage and return units.

One under-the-radar question on special teams is: Who will return kicks and punts? The Giants had to let Dwayne Harris go for many reasons this off-season and are possibly looking at Sterling Shepard as the lead kick returner and free agent Kalif Raymond on punt returns. However, they will surely try just about any fast and capable back, receiver or even defensive back in order to keep Shepard out of the picture as he's the solid No. 2 wide receiver and the team can ill afford to lose him to injury while returning kicks.

HOW DO THE ROOKIES LOOK?

First of all, Barkley appears to be as good as advertised and much more. Hernandez is a starter at left guard. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter shows promise and may start out on the bench but should contribute. Lauletta is firmly entrenched as the No. 3 and it would be a surprise if he did not remain in that spot all season. If rookie defensive lineman B.J. Hill gets back on the field before second-year lineman Avery Moss (both are injured), he could find a spot. Defensive end B.J. McIntosh has looked like a guy with a future. Undrafted free agents Haley and Chris Lewis-Harris should find jobs in the secondary, too. Do not rule out any surprises, but the are probably the best of the rookies.

Questions? Comments? Something to say?
Send it all over to aklein22@verizon.net
and follow me on Twitter @-AaronKlein-
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @E-Giants

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- Team Giants

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