EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Little by little, Ben McAdoo's first depth chart is shaping up and the starters for the preseason opener this Friday against Miami are becoming clear. The Giants coach won't confirm much, of course, and a lot could change when the preseason games actually begin. But a lot of the same players are either working with the first team or part of a rotation.
That isn't an accident at this stage of training camp, or just part of some experiment. By now, McAdoo has the players in the places he wants them.
That makes things easier to analyze and to watch. Here are the three things I was watching on Monday, and what I learned:
1. Is Eli Apple beginning to make his move for playing time?
Even he admitted to wondering a little how he can do that and where he can fit in, but one thing is clear: the Giants are sure taking a long look at him with the first-team defense. Though it's a tight squeeze with veterans Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside and now veteran Leon Hall in the slot, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done a lot of rotating. It's mostly been with Apple coming in for DRC, or with DRC moving to the slot in place of Hall so Apple can work on the outside. But whatever it is, Apple isn't lacking first-team reps. And he also said he's worked some in the slot, though that has been minimal work at best. We'll see how this all works out in the long run, but if he keeps playing as well as he's played in camp, it looks like the Giants will find a place for him somehow.
2. With the first game approaching, is anything stabilizing at safety or middle linebacker?
It absolutely is stabilizing at safety, where Ben McAdoo earlier declared rookie Darian Thompson the favorite to win the starting free safety job alongside Landon Collins. That's been pretty evident, especially since Thompson has been getting most of the first-team reps this summer, and a good share of the second-team reps too. Things are a little more murky at middle linebacker where it looks like a two-man battle between Jasper Brinkley and Keenan Robinson. On Monday, at least, Brinkley got most of the first-team reps - though to be fair, the Giants spent a lot of time (really, most of their time) in their nickel defense with only two linebackers. Robinson did sub in for him a little, but given how much rotating the Giants have done from practice to practice at this position it was hard to tell how much any of that meant. Maybe things will clear up a little Friday night when the starting lineup for the preseason opener is announced.
3. How is everybody feeling?
So far, so good. After the most physical practice of camp on Saturday, it looked like everyone was back on the field on Monday. The only two players off to the side were the two players on PUP - LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring) and DT Jay Bromley (ankle). That was particularly great news for the rehabbing Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham, who was out or limited most of last week. Why are they so healthy considering how banged up they've been in recent years? It's possible McAdoo has found the magic formula of the right schedule, a new strength and conditioning program, and enough recovery time after practices. It could also be an overdue change in luck (and the fact that nobody got hurt playing with fireworks this summer). Or it could be the fact that training camp is not even two weeks old and the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions. Whatever it is, don't try and overanalyze it. Just accept it. That seems to be the approach McAdoo is taking, along with a lot of knocking on wood.