Daniel Jones, Offensive Line Configuration, and Other Giants OTA Storylines

The off-season program moves to Phase 3, the OTAs, this week, and we have a list of storylines we'll be watching for at these voluntary workouts.
New York Giants players before a practice.
New York Giants players before a practice. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
In this story:

The New York Giants enter Phase 3 of their off-season program–better known as the OTAs (organized team activities)—with no shortage of storylines to set the stage for the team’s training camp, which will begin in late July.

The non-contact, voluntary OTAs will see the offense square off against the defense for the first time this spring. The looks and lineups shown aren’t necessarily what we will see come September.

However, as the coaches continue experimenting with different looks, they will at least provide some insight into how head coach Brian Daboll and his staff potentially see things unfolding.

The Giants will hold their OTAs May 20-21, May 23, May 28-29, May 31, June 3-4, June 6-7. They will conclude with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 11-13. 

The media will be permitted to view the entire practices for the May 23, May 30, and June 6 OTAs and the June 11 and 12 minicamp dates.

The Giants will also make the defensive assistants available on May 23 and the offensive assistants and assistant general manager Brandon Brown available on May 30.

The three coordinators will be available during the mandatory minicamp dates.

Daniel Jones’s Status

Giants head coach Brian Daboll was asked during the rookie minicamp a couple of weeks ago where various players who dealt with major injuries last season requiring surgery were in their respective rehabs.

As expected, he didn’t offer specifics, only saying that different guys were at different phases.

However, when it comes to quarterback Daniel Jones, he is in his own category. Jones, who is recovering from season-ending ACL surgery.

Jones has said he’s doing well in rehab, a sentiment echoed by Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen at various parts of the off-season. 

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8)
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

But actions speak louder than words. Will Jones, who is facing a very big year ahead, have progressed enough to be cleared to participate in team drills, or will he be limited to strictly individual drills? 

Jones would like to be cleared to do some team drills in the non-contact practices, but Daboll was taking a “wait and see” approach with him.

The Giants won’t clear Jones to take snaps if he isn't ready, no matter how much he pleads for them to do so.

But it will be interesting to see how well he moves around if he is indeed allowed to participate in the drills, just as it will be interesting to see what backup Drew Lock looks like after being here several weeks to learn the playbook.

Lock would get the call if Jones isn’t ready in Week 1. It’s also very likely that, during training camp and the preseason, Lock will get the call, as it’s unlikely the Giants will expose Jones to a setback in a meaningless preseason game if they truly feel he gives them their best chance of winning in the regular season.

Therein lies the basis for summer-long questions about the Giants' quarterback situation and whether it will be Jones, as both Daboll and Schoen have said would be the case once the incumbent is healthy, or if the Giants pivot to Plan B.   

The Offensive Line

All eyes are on the offensive line, which has a new position coach in Carmen Bricillo. While watching Briillo in action as he begins his quest to fix a historically bad unit last season, a greater interest will be in the unit's initial configuration.

Andrew Thomas (left tackle) and John Michael Schmitz (center) are set. Jon Runyan Jr, signed in the off-season as an unrestricted free agent, will also have a spot on the first-team offensive line, presumably at left guard. 

New York Giants offensive line
New York Giants offensive line / Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com /

Will Jermaine Eluemunor, also signed in the off-season as an unrestricted free agent, get the other starting spot at right guard? Or will the Giants shake things up and have Runyan at right guard and Aaron Stinnie at left guard?

The answer depends on Evan Neal, who is recovering from season-ending ankle surgery.

Daboll mentioned at the rookie minicamp that Neal was still working with the rehab group, so unless something has changed since then, it sure does sound like Neal may end up splitting snaps with Eluemunor at right tackle for the time being.

Cornerback 2

Daboll, who is normally tight-lipped about personnel plans, threw reporters a crumb about the team’s plans for the currently vacant CB2 spot across from second-year man Deonte Banks when he mentioned he had faith in Cor’Dale Flott. 

Last year, Flott was the team’s main slot cornerback, playing a team-leading 279 snaps

New York Giants cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (28)
New York Giants cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (28) / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants drafted Andru Phillips in the third round this year to potentially take over as the team’s leading slot cornerback, which frees Flott up to move to the outside.

The question is whether Flott is a good fit for the position. 

Flott is a natural football player who doesn’t hesitate to stick his nose into the action, and he’s an aggressive press corner with more than enough catch-up speed to match up with anyone. 

His game is underscored by instinct and toughness, and his 2023 stat line was a respectable 36 tackles, five passes defensed, one interception, and one forced fumble in 14 games. The problem with Flott is if he can hold up to the physical demands of the position. 

Last year, he missed three games due to various bumps and bruises. We’re not sure how much more room he has on his listed 6-1, 175-pound frame to add bulk, but Flott’s stick-like build would be among the concerns in his game, especially in run support.  

The New “Batman and Robin”

New Giants defensive coordinator Shane Bowen is no doubt licking his chops over the potential pairing of edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Brian Burns, who give the Giants their best pass-rushing duo since the team had Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul.

NY Giants #0 Brian Burns and #5 Kayvon Thibodeaux
NY Giants #0 Brian Burns and #5 Kayvon Thibodeaux / Michael Karas / USA TODAY NETWORK

Remember, Bowen doesn’t typically do much blitzing within his scheme, preferring for the front seven to get home. 

If he has a healthy Burns and Thibodeaux to pair up with defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, then good luck to opposing offensive lines in figuring out how to allocate resources to slow down that rush.

Who’s Calling Plays on Offense?

Daboll hasn’t ruled out possibly taking over the play calling on offense this year, the role previously held by offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.

Kafka received a promotion to assistant head coach, but it’s unknown what the promotion will entail regarding game-day responsibilities. 

Meanwhile, Daboll, who has said that he genuinely enjoys the challenge of calling plays, refrained from taking on that role in his first two seasons while settling into his new role as head coach.

New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, left
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, left / Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com /

In this, his third season, Daboll might feel more comfortable taking back the reins. At the rookie minicamp, he appeared to be the one calling the plays for the quarterbacks. Will he continue to do so with the veterans, or will he split the role with Kafka? 

Ideally, one man serves as the voice in the quarterback’s ear, and right now, it sure does seem as though Daboll will end up being that voice this year.

Will Darren Waller Have Reached a Decision?

The longer tight end Darren Waller stays away while contemplating retirement, the more likely he will decide to hang up his cleats.

Yet, as of this writing, Waller hasn’t made up his mind–and if he has, that announcement and decision probably won’t be revealed until after June 1, when the Giants stand to save $11.625 million on the transaction instead of $6.707 million. 

If the Giants can get the larger savings in the deal, that should be enough to carry them through the summer and into the season without restructuring any other contracts, such as left tackle Andrew Thomas’s deal.

Darren Waller
Darren Waller / Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA

But what happens then if Waller does decide to return instead of retire? That’s where things potentially get interesting.

The Giants would no doubt like to get fourth-round draft pick Theo Johnson some quality snaps in the coming days and weeks while also working to help third-year man Daniel Bellinger improve his game as a blocker and receiver to the next level.

From a financial perspective, if Waller does return, the Giants will have to restructure Thomas’s contract, if not others, given that they currently have just $1.126 million in cap space, the lowest amount among the 32 NFL teams.

Will Darius Slayton Show Up?

Slayton, the Giants’ de facto No. 1 receiver the last few years (and team receiving yardage leader in four of the last five seasons), has stayed away from the voluntary off-season program while he lobbies for a contract extension. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to see him getting what he wants, not with the arrival of first-round draft pick Malik Nabers, who becomes the team’s No. 1 receiver and who is likely to siphon off some of the targets that others like Slayton were previously getting. 

New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Schoen was asked about Slayton’s situation after the draft, he didn’t sound enthused about working out an extension, noting that they had just signed the new deal a year ago. 

The OTAs are voluntary, so Slayton has the right to skip them. However, as he is under contract, he will be subjected to fines if he skips the mandatory minicamp, which is why we think he will show up for the mandatory camp but skip the OTAs.

Rookie Integration

The rookies have already been integrating with their veteran teammates, but this will be an opportunity to watch first-round pick Malik Nabers go against Deonte Banks. 

It might also be a chance to see if Tyrone Tracy Jr. and/or Dante “Turbo” Miller get a chance to test inside linebackers Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden in the run game. 

Giants Class of 2024
Giants Class of 2024 / New York Football Giants

Remember, there is no contact in these practices, but we can certainly gauge the speed and shiftiness of these players in the team drills.



Published
Patricia Traina

PATRICIA TRAINA

Patricia Traina has covered the New York Giants for over three decades for various media outlets. She is the host of the Locked On Giants podcast and the author of "The Big 50: New York Giants: The Men and Moments that Made the New York Giants" (Triumph Books, September 2020). View Patricia's full bio.