The New York Giants are surrounded by tons of uncertainty right now, to say the least.
The average age of the team is younger than it has been in over a decade. They hired a young, rookie head coach in Joe Judge to take over as the third new head coach in five years, and now he and the team are forced to learn entirely new offensive and defensive systems before the start of the season. And if that wasn’t tough enough to navigate, the COVID-19 pandemic forced all offseason preparations online. Best case scenario, the team will have their first on-field practice on July 28.
Those aren’t exactly ideal conditions if you’re trying to turn a franchise around.
So now, the G-Men need players who can elevate at their positions and become consistently reliable. It’s much easier said than done to fill those spots properly, which the team learned the hard way in recent years. But with a healthy infusion of high draft picks and free agent signings, the key to getting back on track may already be somewhere on this Giants roster.
That brings us to the next piece of the rebuilding puzzle. Which new additions have the best chance of stepping up into their roles? Here are three rookie standouts who have the potential to become the next breakout stars.
1. OT Andrew Thomas
This one is probably the most obvious. The Georgia product was the No. 4 overall pick and the first player New York took off the board in this year’s draft, so he’s going to get some extra attention. General manager Dave Gettleman has been focused on fixing the offensive line since replacing Jerry Reese in 2018, and they’re hoping Andrew Thomas is part of that solution. At 6’5″, his large size and long arms make him the top candidate to compete with left tackle Nate Solder, who allowed 11 sacks in the 2019 season. The biggest question is whether the young tackle can make the on-field transition to the professional level, and the answer may be found in offensive line coach Marc Colombo. Colombo’s experience as a 10-year NFL veteran who bullied defenders with his 6’8″ stature and toughness, plus four years coaching the Dallas Cowboys offensive line, gives the NFL-caliber Thomas an advantage. It’s also possible that Solder bounces back in 2020, but Thomas on the O-line gets the Giants closer to keeping quarterback Daniel Jones upright and off the ground.
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2. S Xavier McKinney
There are a lot of things that can be said about Xavier McKinney. Some will take his inconsistent combine performance as an indication of his future NFL career. His 4.63 40-yard-dash time was underwhelming at best, and if you add in the fact that he couldn’t have a pro day to improve his numbers due to COVID-19, it’s no wonder why the Alabama safety slid to the G-Men in the second round. But what New York’s front office saw was McKinney’s versatility on the field. In college he pass rushed, covered everyone from tight ends, to receivers in the slot and running backs out of the backfield, and did his best work in deep coverage. The latter is what Gettleman drafted him for, and McKinney’s skills paired with fellow new safety Jabrill Peppers‘ ability to play closer to the line of scrimmage could be the perfect fit the Giants are looking for in their defensive scheme.
3. LB Tae Crowder
He was “Mr. Irrelevant” in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he’s far from irrelevant to the Giants. The last player chosen usually doesn’t amount to much in the league, but the hype surrounding this year’s 255th pick is starting to turn some heads. Members of the organization are really high on the former running back. Tae Crowder is being praised by Judge and Gettleman for his speed, physical versatility and potential on special teams, which are all areas that could use some improvement. He did switch positions during his time at Georgia, so how well he adjusts to playing linebacker in the pros still remains to be seen. But his perceived athleticism and upside is enough to justify the value Big Blue sees in him, and all that’s left is to see if he makes the most of this chance.