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Giants depth chart 2020: New York’s projected Week 1 starters heading into OTAs, training camp

Giants depth chart 2020: New York's projected Week 1 starters heading into OTAs, training camp

The new-look Giants have arguably their best roster on paper since 2016

The New York Giants have embarked on the early stages of their virtual offseason organized team activities and the expectation is they will be back on the practice field by August for training camp. This is not a guarantee by any means, but with brand new coordinators on both sides of the ball implementing very different systems, the Giants will need all the time together on the practice field that they can get prior to September's Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For a third consecutive offseason, the Giants have also undergone significant roster turnover, albeit not as significant as in the past two seasons — they finally have a young core including a slew of players still on their rookie contracts.

Speaking of roster turnover, following the conclusion of free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft, the Giants will have a few new players likely to open training camp working with the starting first-team offense and defense, respectively. Although the lack of a rookie minicamp and a full-team minicamp have robbed us of reports and insights into which players are surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) working with the starters, we decided now is a better time than ever to project who will be working with the first team whenever the Giants finally do get back on the field.

For the purpose of this depth chart projection, we will be projecting up to the top-four at any given position. The Giants, like all 32 teams, have a bloated roster at the moment that is nearing the triple-digit mark but come September, that number will drop significantly when the coaches settle in on the 53-man roster.

Rookies will be denoted with a (*).

Without further ado, let's jump right into it.

Offense

Starter Backup Depth Depth
QB Daniel Jones Colt McCoy Alex Tanney Cooper Rush
RB Saquon Barkley Dion Lewis Wayne Gallman Eli Penny
LWR Darius Slayton Corey Coleman Austin Mack* Amba Etta-Tawo
RWR Golden Tate Cody Core Victor Binjimen* David Sills
SWR Sterling Shepard Da'Mari Scott Derrick Dillon* Alex Bachman
TE Evan Engram Kaden Smith Levine Toilolo Eric Tomlinson
LT Nate Solder Cameron Fleming Chad Slade
LG Will Hernandez Shane Lemieux*
C Spencer Pulley Kyle Murphy*
RG Kevin Zeitler Nick Gates
RT Andrew Thomas* Matt Peart* Eric Smith

For the first time since 2003, Eli Manning is not listed on the depth chart up top at quarterback. It's still kind of weird to see it. Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones sits atop the depth chart as the unquestioned starter, and despite the fact that he nearly broke the all-time rookie passing touchdowns record with 24 scores in just 12 games, his propensity to fumble the football as a rookie has many skeptical about his long-term upside. As someone who has seen every game from Jones twice on the All-22 coaches film, he passes the eye test. But that's not enough. CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso, who like me wasn't very high on Jones' projection from watching his Duke tape, broke down the key areas Jones has already surpassed his projection on and what he needs to improve on to take that second-year leap. Patience could be important for Giants fans when it comes to Jones considering the murderer's row of defenses to kick off the 2020 season (Steelers, Bears, 49ers) and the transition from a Pat Shurmur system that catered to Jones' strengths (quick game) and was quarterback-friendly (with plenty of half-field reads) to a more complex system (Jones' words — not ours) with Jason Garrett. Behind Jones, the Giants opted for safety with backup Colt McCoy and potential upside with former Cowboys backup Cooper Rush.

Knowing they had plenty of available room to add second and third-level defensive prospects via the draft (to fit a nickel-heavy NFL on defense), the Giants saved their draft picks in the last two drafts at running back. They opted to sign Lewis instead on the cheap and the former Patriots and Titans running back still has some juice left — specifically on passing downs. Gallman couldn't escape the injury bug last season, but he flashed in an early-season start against the Redskins. Don't count him out. A fully-healthy Barkley season should be enough to improve what they got from the position in 2019.

When going back and watching the Giants' 2019 season, one player stands out the most on the offensive side of the ball and it's Slayton. We knew Slayton was a burner with leaping ability coming into the NFL, but where he stood out most upon rewatching his game tape is as a route runner. Slayton seamlessly created separation on a variety of routes. I'm not sure there's a single player on the roster Giants fans should be more excited about from a progression standpoint. Outside of Slayton, carryovers Tate and Shepard offer much of the same (slot types, underneath fits for quick passing game). And while Garrett's system doesn't figure to feature anywhere close to as much of the quick passing game as Pat Shurmur's did, considering it is the strongest part of Jones' game, you can remain confident the former Cowboys head coach won't neglect it entirely.

Speaking of Garrett's system, Engram should be the main benefactor. That's why he was named one of three most likely breakout candidates for 2020. Here's an excerpt from that piece:

I know by this point you've likely tired of hearing Engram's name as a potential breakout candidate given his inability to stay on the field due to injuries, but now is not the time to give up on him. Now is actually the best time to buy in low. The addition of Garrett and the offensive system he is projected to bring with him is the best career news Engram could have received. Garrett is expected to bring over an offensive system with Coryell routes (a vertically-oriented passing attack). In the past, Garrett's offense has been described as tight end-friendly and the numbers support this. This is great news for Engram.

Specifically, tight ends in Garrett's offense are asked to do a little bit more in the vertical passing game up the seams. This is a key aspect of Engram's game that has oddly been underutilized during the first three seasons of his career with multiple coordinators. At the 2017 combine, Engram ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at 234 pounds. He also had a 36-inch vertical jump. More importantly, Engram hit on several long touchdowns up the seam during his career at Ole Miss.

Engram displayed a strong early rapport with Daniel Jones on a limited basis (due to injuries) in 2019 and the new offensive system combined with a little injury luck (for once) could be exactly what he needs to finally become the player the franchise hoped they were getting when they use a first-round pick on him in 2017.

In addition to Engram, Toilolo should improve the team's strength at the point of attack in the run game and Smith flashed big-time receiving chops down the stretch run in 2019 when Engram was hurt.

The play of the offensive line will prove consequential for the Giants in 2020 after the team used two of their first three draft picks on offensive tackles and a later pick on an offensive guard (who could end up converting to center). No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas will be an immediate starter (he's the most NFL-ready tackle in the class), but the better question is where. The assumption is he'll start his NFL career like he started his collegiate career (at right tackle). However, if incumbent left tackle Nate Solder shows no improvement from his devastatingly poor play (a good portion of Jones' late-season fumbles were on Solder), then it's possible Thomas starts on the left side and Fleming at right tackle.

Another major question looms at center. Pulley is the incumbent, Halapio is uncertain given the Achilles injury, and neither of the two projects to fit well Garrett's system that should feature more power and gap blocking concepts. The highest-upside play would be the rookie — Lemieux — but he will have to learn how to play center without a normal offseason after logging thousands (literally) of snaps at left guard during his stint at a Power-5 school (Oregon).

Speaking of players expect to take a massive leap forward in 2020 under Garret — throw in Hernandez. The former second-round pick thrived in Utep's power and gap-heavy blocking scheme. He'll welcome and thrive in the new offense that doesn't feature (almost exclusively) inside-zone blocking concepts in the run game.

Defense

Starter Backup Depth
DE Leonard Williams B.J. Hill RJ McIntosh
NT Dalvin Tomlinson Chris Slayton
DE Dexter Lawrence Austin Johnson
OLB Kyler Fackrell Oshane Ximines
ILB Blake Martinez David Mayo Tae Crowder*
ILB Ryan Connelly TJ Brunson*
OLB Lorenzo Carter Carter Coughlin* Cam Brown*
LCB James Bradberry Corey Ballentine
RCB Deandre Baker Sam Beal Chris Williamson*
SCB Darnay Holmes* Grant Haley Dravon Askem-Henry
FS Xavier McKinney* Julian Love Chris Williamson*
SS Jabrill Peppers Sean Chandler

The Giants invested heavily to revamp their interior defensive line from the very first day Dave Gettleman took the general manager job. It was a pleasant surprise to see him bypass tempting interior defensive line prospects in the 2020 class while understanding just how strong the incumbent group can be. Williams, Tomlinson, and Lawrence are a lot better than people realize, a lot better than most teams have on the defensive line, and they are going to make a significant difference in the Giants becoming a physical football team in 2020.

Fackrell was signed to a one-year prove-it deal after being buried on the Packers depth chart in spite of a breakout 2018 season (10.5 sacks). It wasn't Fackrell's fault the Packers signed two edge pass rushers to massive contracts and used their first-round draft pick last offseason at the same position. In fact, Fackrell's pressure per pass rush snap rate actually improved in 2019. He could be an absolute steal.

On the interior, the Giants couldn't stop the run when teams sent it right at them thanks to Alec Ogletree's almost impressive (for how unimpressive it was) ability to misread interior runs. Signing Blake Martinez will improve that immediately. If Ryan Connelly can return healthy for Week 1, this could be a much-improved unit on the interior.

More important than any other defensive acquisition this offseason was the decision to draft Xavier McKinney. The Alabama defensive back will immediately provide an improvement in the deep half over 2019 free safety Antoine Bethea. McKinney may also be the best option immediately as a the nickel defender (against the slot receiver) on passing downs. He was a first-round talent that only fell to Day 2 because the NFL asked combine participants to run drills close to midnight — for whatever reason.

The pending court case surrounding second-year corner DeAndre Baker will have a massive impact on the 2020 season. Baker was No. 3 of my top-three breakout candidates. If he's on the field, he should take an immediate leap forward simply by moving to man-coverage heavy defensive system that will be simplified compared to Bettcher's 2019 defense (a great thing for Baker). Bradberry will travel with No. 1 receivers often in 2020.

Special teams

Starter Backup
K Aldrick Rosas
P Riley Dixon
LS Casey Kreiter
KR Cody Core Corey Ballentine
PR Derrick Dillon* Darius Slayton

A lot remains to be decided in the return game, but I think UDFA Derrick Dillon (and his 4.29 speed) can crack the roster if he impresses as expected in the return game in training camp. Rosas needs a bounce-back season after finishing 2018 as a First Team All-Pro and 2019 as arguably the NFC's least reliable field goal kicker.

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