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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – There was no let-in period for Kayvon Thibodeaux and Evan Neal, the New York Giants’ first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Thibodeaux, a linebacker selected as number five overall, worked alongside starting defensive lineman Leonard Williams and in front of linebacker Blake Martinez during drills at Thursday’s OTA practice. Neal, an offensive tackle taken on an overall seventh-place finish, protected for quarterback Daniel Jones and blocked for returning Saquon Barkley.
The Giants’ top selection has quickly made their presence known.
“Evan has looked great so far and you can see he really wants to learn that,” Jones said. “It’s important to him.”
Williams of the Giants’ latest pass-rusher said: “It’s only been a few drills so far, but you can still see [Thibodeaux’s] qualities, and in the three training sessions we have had so far, he has shown great speed. “
Coach Brian Daboll apparently has no qualms about throwing his top picks right into the mix, for the Giants expect a lot from them this season.
Thibodeaux and Neal are not alone. General manager Joe Schoen was limited this offseason by an unwanted pay-ceiling situation, so the Giants could not make any splash signing in free agency (their biggest move was for guard Mark Glowinski and backup QB Tyrod Taylor). It adds pressure to get production from their 11-player draft class.
Here’s a look at what the Giants can expect from their picks this season after seeing them at rookie minicamp and OTAs:
Thibodeaux: He’s going to play a lot. It is clear after just a few weeks. Thibodeaux moved around on the defensive front during OTAs and fell in cover on a game as the ball was completed in the right flat to Barkley (not sure if Thibodeaux would have made the tackle). Whatever he adds, this defense has been lacking with his explosive first steps and personality. “He comes with a little bit of juice,” Daboll said recently.
Neal: He’s the replacement for Nate Solder at right tackle, and looks that part. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds, Neal should not have much trouble making the NFL transition physically. He made most of the Giants’ other linemen look small on OTAs. The focus is on getting him acclimatized to the right side after playing left tackle last season in Alabama. “Really just moving everything back,” he said. The Giants will get him as many reps as possible. Neal will face the Titans ‘pass-rushers Bud Dupree (42.5 sacks) and Harold Landry (12 sacks last season) in Week 1, and the Panthers’ Brian Burns (9.0 sacks last season) in Week 2. Welcome to the NFL!
WR Wan’Dale Robinson, second round, No. 43 overall: He will immediately be included in the receiver rotation. Daboll suggested during the draft a lot of sets with four and five recipients, which would allow Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, Robinson and Darius Slayton to get plenty of work done. “I think when you put together an attack, you try to build it around the strengths of the players you have,” Daboll said during the draft. “And if it’s a bunch of recipients, it’s a bunch of recipients.” Robinson could also get snaps out of the backfield along with Barkley. That’s something he did in college.
Take a look back at the best plays by WR Wan’Dale Robinson in his time in Nebraska and Kentucky.
G Joshua Ezeudu, Third Round, No. 67: He was the second team left guard starting OTAs. Shane Lemieux, now healthy after missing almost the entire last year with a knee injury, gets the first crack at the starting spot. But it is an open competition and Ezeudu will get his chances. “Compete to start, probably within [at guard]”Schoen said during the draft of the North Carolina product. Ezeudu could crack the starting lineup at some point this season.
CB Cor’Dale Great, Third Round, No. 81: He will compete for a starting job. It looks like it will be at the slot cornerback, not on the outside, where last year’s third round, Aaron Robinson, took first team photos the first week with OTAs. “Ideally [Flott’s] inside, “Schoen said during the draft. Third-year cornerback Darnay Holmes has tracked down the track, but given his inconsistent first two seasons, he’s hardly a lock to start Week 1. Flott is extremely slim (6-1, 165) ) for the NFL, but not lacking in confidence. “I’m ready,” he said at the rookie minicamp about getting a starting job.
TE Daniel Bellinger, fourth round, no. 112: Bellinger should play right away, in part because of the Giants’ lack of depth in position. He worked with the starters for most of Thursday’s training, though that could be because veteran Ricky Seals-Jones was dealing with a personal case. Bellinger can provide value that blocks, but is more of a project that receives. He only had 31 receptions as a senior at San Diego State, but has an upside that can flash this season. “I think I have a lot to show, and of course a lot to improve,” he said. “I want to go out and show that I can be a recipient and not just a blocker.”
S Dane Belton, fourth round, No. 114: The starting securities are Xavier McKinney and Julian Love. Belton and converted cornerback Jarren Williams emerge as the next in line. But if the Giants sign a veteran this summer, it could limit Belton’s contribution to the defense as a rookie unless he convinces them he’s ready. Either way, he should contribute right away as a core special teams.
LB Micah McFadden, Fifth Round, No. 146: The Indiana product is reminiscent of a slightly smaller version of Blake Martinez on the field and should be Martinez’s caddy this season. Maybe he will fit in some specific packages for his coverage in zone or as a blitzer. McFadden’s role may increase depending on how Martinez, returning from a torn left ACL, is holding up.
DT DJ Davidson, Fifth Round, No. 147: He has a chance to be a part of the inner defensive line rotation as the Giants are thin on that spot. Expect Davidson to play some right away.
Olympics Marcus McKethan, Fifth Round, No. 173: McKethan (6-7, 335) will start as a guard, but the plan seems to be for him to add tackling flexibility. This makes him a potential backup on a crowded line as a rookie.
LB Darrian Beavers, Sixth Round, No. 182: The inside linebacker from Cincinnati worked with McFadden on the second-team defense under the OTAs. He should fit into special teams and specific defensive packages, probably as a pass-rusher with his experience playing on the edge of college.