EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants had their first open practice of the new league year last week, and everything had a chance to marinate over Memorial Day weekend. Aside from Odell Beckham Jr. being among three players who didn't attend organized team activities (more on that later this week), here’s what really had me thinking:
Marshall's smooth transition
Coach Ben McAdoo called Marshall a "breath of fresh air" and cited his work ethic. Long-snapper Zak DeOssie praised Marshall as well for showing up early and leaving late. DeOssie, one of the most respected individuals in the locker room, called Marshall a "consummate pro," while wide receiver Sterling Shepard noted that Marshall might not know the offense well yet, but he's providing tips on the side about technique.
These are positive signs. Marshall is on his fifth team. Six-time Pro Bowlers don't end up on five teams by accident. It will be interesting to monitor how Marshall handles a new environment where he is no longer the lead dog and isn't the focus of the offense, but at least the first few months have gone smoothly. He already has some of the most important figures in the organization semi-sold.
"He comes out, he works hard at football, you can see he loves football," McAdoo said. "It's refreshing to have a guy that's been as productive as he has over his career and has played as long as he's played, being out here working the way he works; you can really see he loves the game."
It’s OTAs and nobody is in full pads. Coaches will try different combinations and rotate players in and out at a frantic pace. Still, decisions about who gets the first crack at working with the first-team offense and defense aren't random.
With that being said ...
B.J. Goodson appears to have the inside track on the starting middle linebacker job. He was running with the first-team defense in base and even nickel situations. He looked fast and free, able to react rather than think. The Giants want last year's fourth-round pick to succeed.
The offensive line might be the same as last season, with Ereck Flowers at left tackle and Bobby Hart at right tackle. They handled first-team snaps last week, with John Jerry at right guard, Weston Richburg at center and Justin Pugh at left guard. If that unit starts the season, can it be better? Sure. It's a reasonable ask. But how much better -- a significant amount? There is reason for doubt.
The search for an interior pass-rusher
The Giants didn't get enough of a pass rush from the interior of their defensive line last season. They didn't exactly address the problem this offseason, either, especially if Johnathan Hankins was the best they had to offer. That's why it was noteworthy to see defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul working inside some in the Giants' nickel defense at OTAs. It shows that they're still searching for answers, and anything is on the table. Recently signed defensive end Devin Taylor could also be an option.
Expanded TE and RB roles
The Giants' offense was, by all accounts, fairly predictable last season. The expectation is that there will be some changes. My first impression is that the tight ends and running backs will be everywhere. The versatile Engram was all over the formations and some new wrinkles involved running back Paul Perkins. He lined up wide on one play and received the ball on a bubble screen (which was dropped). Still, it's a sign that the Giants are looking for something more and different out of those two positions.
Watch out for ...
These are three names who could factor into the equation more significantly this season. All three were on the roster last season.
CB Michael Hunter: He could provide cornerback depth. Hunter looks way more confident and comfortable after making the team as an undrafted rookie last season.
WR Tavarres King: His speed and route-running skills consistently stand out. It seems that the Giants realized late last year he should've received more playing time. This season it could happen.
QB Josh Johnson: He's likely the favorite to be Eli Manning's backup in his second year in the offense. Johnson can play. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see him beat out Geno Smith for the job.