Training camp surprises & top plays

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Rookie cornerback Tre Hawkins III has been the surprise player of camp so far.

John Schmeelk: Fact – I know there was some positive noise about his level of play in the spring, but I didn’t think that meant he would fight himself into consistent first-team reps before the first preseason game was even played. Hawkins has earned it, getting his hands on the football and staying close to receivers. If he can continue that level of play throughout practice against Detroit next week, in the preseason games, and against the Giants starters during the rest of camp, he could have a prominent role to start the season.

Dan Salomone: Fact – When a sixth-round pick gets first-team reps because of merit and not injury, you’re onto something. “Oh, he’s had a great camp,” defensive coordinator Wink Martindale saido f the Old Dominion product. “He’s had a great camp. It’s amazing to me as you go back and you think about the different guys and where they come from. It doesn’t matter where you come from once you get here because the resources and people that they have to work with at this level and the guys that are productive, you can see the confidence just build in them. I really think he’s done a nice job, but he’s got a lot of things to work on, just like we all do.”

Lance Medow: Fact – I’m not sure Tre Hawkins receiving some first team reps early in camp was high on most prediction lists this offseason, so from that standpoint, he’s absolutely been the surprise player. He’s now on everyone’s radar as a potential defensive option, as opposed to just special teams. Hawkins has the length to make a case as an intriguing prospect, but the fact that he’s been thrown out there immediately bodes well for his opportunities this season since he’s already caught the eye of the coaching staff. The sixth-round pick out of Old Dominion is making some noise with his work ethic and play, and you can’t ask for anything more at this stage of camp.

Matt Citak: Fact – While Hyatt has been perhaps the biggest standout on offense, Hawkins gets that honor on the defensive side of the ball. The sixth-round pick has made plays in almost every practice, which has earned him some snaps on the first team defense. It’s not often you see a rookie selected with the 209th overall pick step in and immediately look comfortable in the NFL, but such has been the case with the cornerback from Old Dominion. The next step for the rookie will be continuing his strong play next week in Detroit, first in joint practices and then in the first preseason game.

The defensive line is asserting itself as the strongest position on the team.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – It’s too soon to tell. We have had one padded practice. I thought the offensive line actually did a pretty good job in the 1-on-1 pass blocking drills and 9-on-7. Do I still think the defensive line is the most talented group on the roster? Yes, but it is also important to remember that A’Shawn Robinson is not practicing yet. Ask this question again when we return from Detroit and I might have a different answer.

Dan Salomone: Fact – It’s not just about the individual parts. The defensive front has built and continues to build something special in terms of cohesion and culture. You can tell they legitimately like playing with each other, which goes a long way.  

Lance Medow: Fiction – Given there’s only been one-padded practice, it’s way too premature to crown the defensive line. That’s why I’m going with the position I think is the deepest and has proven that on the field in the first week of camp: wide receiver. Every day, several players at that spot are making their presences felt. Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Collin Johnson, and Cole Beasley have all stood out for various reasons, and no matter the drill or team activity, at least one of them continues to produce. When you look at the versatility of that group and playmaking potential, at this point in camp, it’s hard to put another position ahead of receiver.

Matt Citak: Fact – Even before training camp, the defensive line was seen as the strongest position on the team. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams form perhaps the top interior defensive linemen duo in the NFL, with Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson providing some solid depth. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari flashed their potential at times last season. Both young edge rushers could take a big step in their developments this year, not to mention veteran Jihad Ward right behind them. With all of the depth both on the interior and exterior, it’s easy to see how the defensive line could quickly emerge as the strength of the Giants defense.

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