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Uncertainty governs Giants’ outlook without any rookie QB offering future promise at minicamp

When an NFL team picks a new franchise quarterback in the first round, and that rookie puts on his uniform for the first time and takes the field, his presence creates a new and refreshing optimism for that organization’s outlook and its fan base.

No one wins games in May. And that optimism often is not validated, since plenty highly drafted quarterbacks never pan out as elite or respectable starters.

But the sights of Chicago’s Caleb Williams, Washington’s Jayden Daniels, New England’s Drake Maye, Atlanta’s Michael Penix Jr. and Minnesota’s J.J. McCarthy slinging the ball at their respective rookie minicamps injected some hope and excitement into their situations.

That went especially for Williams, the draft’s top pick; Daniels, who is literally shepherding the Commanders into a new era; and Penix Jr., who is in a strange situation behind Kirk Cousins but nevertheless was throwing rockets to the Falcons’ rookie receivers.

There was no such feeling on Friday and Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., however. The Giants had only three rookie tryout QBs on the field and no one in a red, non-contact jersey standing out as the promising future face of this landmark franchise.

The image of head coach Brian Daboll sending the offensive plays into the huddle during a 7-on-7 period received a lot less attention because it wasn’t a first-round quarterback like Maye receiving the call.

That reality shifted the focus of this minicamp, instead, away from any abstract future promise to the urgency of the Giants’ present:

Can No. 6 overall pick Malik Nabers mature as a pro and player quickly enough to be a Year 1 game-changer?

Is Daniel Jones going to be able to take 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 reps with Nabers any time before the start of training camp in July?

How much pressure is there on other rookies to help the Giants immediately in 2024?

What does waiver claim Nathan Rourke mean for the quarterback room and Tommy DeVito?

Is Drew Lock ultimately going to be the QB that Nabers builds more chemistry with during May and June?

Even veteran receiver Allen Robinson II’s signing provided a subtle reminder that the Giants are focused on the now.

It was similar to the signings of guys like safety Jalen Mills, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, guard Aaron Stinnie and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie: an effort to plug a hole on a leaky roster affordably with an undervalued veteran.

Along with GM Joe Schoen’s expensive and desperately aggressive trade and signing of pass rusher Brian Burns, the Giants’ actions reinforce the pressure this regime is under to get this back on track in the fall.

And without a first-round quarterback in the building being groomed for a brand new day, it’s difficult to focus any hope on the happy unknowns of the distant future.

There is promise, though, in some of the Giants’ other rookies.

Fourth-round tight end Theo Johnson, for example, is going to play on this team as a rookie.

The 6-6, 259-pound Penn State product was an angry blocker during his first practices as a Giant. Doing that capably in a game would provide an upgrade over incumbent Daniel Bellinger, Schoen’s 2022 fourth-round pick.

“I do enjoy it,” Johnson said of blocking. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in. It can be coached, but some people just have that switch that you can’t coach or teach.”

Second-round safety Tyler Nubin said he will not shy away from trying to lead his teammates as a rookie, demonstrating encouraging maturity and motivation for a projected starter.

“Everybody can be a leader on a football team no matter who you are,” he said.

Third-round slot corner Dru Phillips is eager to hit.

“I don’t want to shy away from anything and that’s from anybody or any circumstance,” he said.

Fifth-round running back Tyrone Tracy Jr. said the NFL’s kickoff rule change “added a little bit more value to me” as a prospect. He knows he can use his explosiveness there to help the team.

“I was pretty happy to say the least,” he said with a smile.

Still, there is only so much a team can realistically expect from its rookies. It is not easy to earn playing time in the first year, let alone make a major impact on any game, let alone make a consistent difference throughout a season.

When Daboll said he’s got “a lot of confidence” in veteran Cor’Dale Flott as a starting outside corner, for example, it indicated the Giants’ initial plan for their secondary may include Phillips starting in Week 1 — unless the versatile Mills serves as an early stop-gap.

That would be an exciting opportunity for Phillips. But that solution also invites more questions than answers about how the Giants will be able to defend players like the Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb, the Ravens’ Zay Flowers, the Seahawks’ Jaxon Smith-Njigba and others this fall.

A rookie first-round quarterback, at least, would allow the Giants to dream about building something brighter and definable in the future no matter how 2024 played out. Without one, the focus is much more clearly on how Schoen and Daboll can build a team that simply gets them to 2025.


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