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5 Giants who need to take a big step during Daboll’s spring program
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5 Giants who need to take a big step during Daboll’s spring program

It goes without saying that the Giants’ quarterbacks and their two biggest offseason investments, veteran pass rusher Brian Burns and first-round wide receiver Malik Nabers, need to hit the ground running this spring.

But there are other, less obvious players who must take a big step during this offseason program to set Brian Daboll’s team up for success in the fall.

Here are the Daily News’ top five Giants position players who need to assert themselves during OTA practices and minicamp to set a strong foundation for training camp and the season:

5. Tyler Nubin, safety

Nubin’s second-round selection appeared to send a clear message that the Giants intend to start him, and not Dane Belton, alongside Jason Pinnock. Veteran free agent signing Jalen Mills can serve as the early stop-gap if necessary or an experienced third safety with corner flex.

Nubin, 22, was a four-year starter with 13 interceptions and consistent tackling production in 55 games and 43 starts for Minnesota. It will be important for him to demonstrate that same steadiness early and learn the playbook in new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen’s system.

4. Jalin Hyatt, wide receiver

Hyatt, 22, showed flashes of explosiveness in his rookie season, including a five-catch, 109-yard game in a late-season win over the New England Patriots. But he only had one game with more than three catches. He didn’t have a touchdown catch. And he had a total of six catches for 43 yards, combined, in the Giants’ final five games.

No one’s stats on Daboll’s 2022 offense were acceptable, but with Nabers on the field and a year of experience under Hyatt’s belt, Schoen’s third-round pick from 2022 needs to assert himself as a down-in, down-out threat in Year 2. This is especially important given the unknowns surrounding Darius Slayton’s contract and future with the team.

Putting on some healthy weight and continuing to hone his route tree are two ways Hyatt can elevate his game in the spring.

3. Cor’Dale Flott, corner

The best version of the Giants’ secondary this fall would feature Flott, 22, on the field in a prominent role. So far, he has been the most encouragingly developed Schoen draft pick. The 2022 third-rounder from LSU stayed healthier last season, played 518 snaps to his 335 rookie load, and made his first interception along with five passes defended.

Whether Flott wins the outside corner battle against Nick McCloud or starts in the slot, the Giants need him to provide value at a young and thin corner position paced by 2023 first-round Deonte Banks on the outside. Third-round pick Dru Phillips from Kentucky is a slot corner the Giants like, too, but stepping immediately and capably into that position as a rookie is extremely difficult.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, edge

Thibodeaux was Schoen’s No. 5 overall pick and first-ever Giants draft pick as GM in 2022. He played a mostly solid all-around game as a rookie, highlighted by game-changing forced fumbles (and one touchdown) against Baltimore and Washington. But he only finished with four sacks and wasn’t much of a factor in the playoffs.

He improved his pass rush production in Year 2, racking up 11.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 16 QB hits, three forced fumbles and one recovery. But he only managed one sack in his last six games. And although it wore on the defense that the Giants’ offense couldn’t score, Thibodeaux’s all-around game dipped a bit, including his edge-setting against the run.

Burns’ addition should help create more one-on-one pass rush opportunities for Thibodeaux. But the Burns trade and contract also sent a clear message that the Giants still felt they needed to shell out in a big way to acquire a high-end pass rusher.

Did Burns land the contract that was ticketed initially for Thibodeaux when Schoen picked him? Or will a rising tide lift all boats on the defensive line? Thibodeaux, 23, can have a big spring by blocking out the noise, getting in peak physical shape and adapting quickly to the new defense.

1. Evan Neal, right tackle

Neal, Schoen’s No. 7 overall pick in 2022, is coming off late-season surgery to address a left foot fracture that was initially misdiagnosed as a sprain. He never had a chance to get back on the field after his Week 9 injury, therefore, and played in only seven games. Nevertheless, he is entering a make-or-break training camp and season.

What the Giants ideally need is for Neal, 23, to beat out free agent signing Jermaine Eluemunor to remain the team’s starting right tackle. That would improve the team’s talent and depth at both tackle and guard on an O-line the organization annually struggles to get right.

If Neal can’t be a capable starting right tackle, it’s still possible he could provide value in a position switch to guard or as a swing tackle behind the two starters. Being a relative non-factor as such a premium asset, however, would damage the Giants’ bottom line.

All eyes are on Neal this spring to get healthy, grab this job with both hands and refuse to let go.

SCHEDULE RELEASE SET

The NFL’s full schedule is slated to be released next Wednesday, May 15 at 8 p.m., according to the Sports Business Journal. Teams were expecting the schedule to come out later this week, but the full announcement has been delayed.

The league still is expected to announce its international matchups and dates earlier, though. That news could impact the Giants. They are one of the potential opponents for the Carolina Panthers’ upcoming home game at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.