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Sent: 07-27-20

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: TRAINING CAMP TO BEGIN WITHOUT PRESEASON GAMES
AND PLENTY OF UNKNOWNS; PLENTY OF PLAYERS TO WATCH

By Aaron Klein
Here we go.

In the last few days, the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) hashed out details, made concessions, smoothed out the rough spots and came to an agreement on exactly how and when to open training camps and get this show on the road.

So, beginning this week, if it hasn't already happened around the league, players will arrive, be tested for the COVID-19 virus, be given physicals and take in the processes and procedures for Training Camp 2020 (The Pandemic Edition). For now, there is a blueprint for how things will work, as long as the virus doesn't take over and shut it all down. There is little doubt that there are alternate blueprints in a room someplace that consider a slowdown or even a shutdown of the season if problems arise.

Here are some of the key details

1. No preseason games.

2. There will be a 20-day ramp-up before a maximum of 14 padded practices can begin. Camp will start slowly and build to OTA-style sessions before real practice starts.

3. The 90-man rosters will be cut to 80 by August 16.

4. Lost revenue will be applied to the salary cap in 2021 and for the next three years, but not the current season's limit. Next year, for example, the cap is expected to be at least $175 million, down from the current $198 million.

5. Each team must submit a plan for handling the virus and its risks for approval. The Giants' plan has been accepted.

6. There will be a 16-man practice squad limit (an increase of six players) to give each team more flexibility in case of any positive cases.

7. No more than 80 players will be allowed in the building at one time, forcing teams to utilize a shift-like system.

8. Many teams, including the Giants, will play their regular season home games without fans in the stands, at least for now.

While players have been working out on their own or even holding small-group workouts, none of that has been happening with the coaching staff, another reason for the ramp up. In the case of the Giants, the team has a new head coach, Joe Judge, and largely a new staff on offense and defense and the team has not been together yet this year.

In a year without a preseason, there will be more impact to the roster that has been taken for granted in seasons past.

Firstly, no one will see game action, however slow and scripted, until the regular season. Secondly, players at the bottom third of the roster will feel even more pressure to make an impression in practice since they won't have a chance to have a breakout preseason game. Those players won't have any tape for other teams to study after they are cut and looking for a new job.

Even players who are not at risk of losing a roster spot still benefited from the preseason games in terms of the depth chart slots, playing time and, yes, shaking off the rust, especially those players coming back from injury. Rookies, even high-round rookies, will not see the increase in the speed of the game until Week 1, something that will certainly hamper their progress.

Of course, all teams will be working at the same level, so it will be up to those 32 head coaches and their staffs to find a way to replicate, mimic or ad-lib in the face of four preseason games.

Regardless, the league is ready to go. Giants players have already begun showing up in New Jersey and by mid-week, will have undergone testing and physicals and contract signings and try, somehow, to get ready for what will likely be an interesting and tumultuous season.

***

How about a short list of players to watch as thing open up in East Rutherford?

For one, keep your eyes on tight end Evan Engram. Coming off foot surgery, the tight end is seen by many as a key cog in the offense, maybe the most important in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's new, tight end friendly system.

Watch the battles at the interior defensive line, especially backups like B.J. Hill, R.J. McIntosh, Chris Slayton and Austin Johnson.

Pay plenty of attention to the secondary, where the cornerbacks are still completely unsettled, especially with the current legal problems for DeAndre Baker and the battle among free agent James Bradberry, rookie Darnay Holmes and second-year veteran Julian Love, and rookie safety Xavier McKinney will push for the starting job opposite Jabrill Peppers.

Watch the offensive line, especially incoming rookie tackle Andrew Thomas, who most surely will start this year but at left tackle or right? Also, the center spot might just be up for grabs with Spencer Pulley as the incumbent and a selection of other players (Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Casey Kreiter) jockeying for position. In fact, the entire second tier of the line should see a big makeover.

You also want to look at how the wide receivers unit shakes out, especially Darius Slayton's trajectory, Sterling Shepard's health (concussions) and Golden Tate's targets.

Will Saquon Barkley return to his rookie year's greatness? Coming off a high-ankle sprain last season, he was closing in on playing at 100 percent health, but the offensive line's run blocking, for the most part, let him down. If the offensive line can come together on rushing downs, Barkley should have a big year. His season doesn't just rely on the offensive line, but on Engram, too.

We have a new roster hot spot to consider: The Giants have released kicker Aldrick Rosas and signed former NY Jets kicker Chandler Catanzaro. Rosas was recently charged with reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and hit-and-run with property damage. The license suspension stemmed from a previous DUI conviction. Catanzaro has also done time with Arizona, Carolina and Tampa Bay. He retired shortly before the 2019 season began after signing with the Jets in March.

Finally -- and this goes without saying -- Daniel Jones.

Questions? Comments?
Send it all over to aklein22@verizon.net
and follow me on Twitter @_AaronKlein_
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter @E_Giants

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

NOW - Send a request to davesklein@aol.com for a free week's worth of news!

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