By Ernie Palladino
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Offseason training programs usually don’t generate a lot of heat, and the predictions that come out of them generally bear the accuracy of a presidential tweet.
But as the Giants and Jets head into Tuesday‘s first day of their mandatory three-day minicamps, the last bit of the pajama game before the pads go on in training camp, it at least looks like one team will pursue the art of winning, while the other will chase its quarterback of the future.
That means it’s kind of nice to be a Giants fan right now. But to be a Jets fan? Not so much.
Whether by design or dubious management, the Jets spent the offseason reducing an already suspect roster, most recently by jettisoning reliable receiver Eric Decker. They had already let Brandon Marshall go to the Giants, allowing Big Blue to create an Odell Beckham-Sterling Shepard-Marshall triumvirate that could turn into the NFL’s most elite receiving corps.
Getting rid of a great red zone/third-down receiver like Decker, even despite his 2016 season-ending shoulder injury, should just about seal the Jets’ doom in a passing game that offered no evidence of life, anyway, during the Offseason Team Activities portion of the offseason.
With the starting quarterback competition slogging on among Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg, and a defense that just handed team leader and top tackler David Harris his walking papers, the term “Suck for Sam” has moved more to concrete than conceptual meaning.
The problem with the Jets is that, knowing them, they’ll win five games again and wind up just far enough down the draft track to miss out on USC’s Sam Darnold, the darling of the talent-packed quarterback class of 2018.
Their problems are serious and many going into minicamp, a period where little outside of a team-wide introduction to the playbook gets accomplished.
The Giants, meanwhile, don’t appear too concerned with the “S” word. Their biggest problem — Beckham — has said he’ll attend the mandatory camp after blowing off the voluntary OTAs to party hearty with his celebrity BFFs. As optically challenged as Beckham appears, he’s not going to lose $90,000 in fine money.
It’s obvious Beckham’s me-first attitude will never make him a real leader. But if missing the most dynamic receiver in the league for a handful of voluntary practices is the biggest problem the Giants face, they’re in pretty good shape.
There are issues, of course. They will continue to work hard with Ereck Flowers, the No. 1 pick of 2015 who slid backwards at left tackle last year. Since they did not draft one of the top tackles this year, it is obvious they’re committed to keeping Flowers where he is. The minicamp will simply continue a maturation process that teammates and coaches have praised.
Defensively, one of the bigger question marks involves finding a free safety to play next to All-World strong safety Landon Collins. Last year’s third-rounder Darian Thompson was thought to be that man before a foot injury curtailed his season. He still could be the guy if he beats out replacement Andrew Adams and veteran Leon Hall.
The Giants will also continue to figure out how to work in first-round tight end Evan Engram into the offense. At 6-foot-3 and 236 pounds, Engram looks like another big wide receiver. But the Giants need him to block, too, and have been working with him as an in-line tight end.
Going into minicamp, the Giants have added while the Jets have subtracted.
During minicamp, the Giants will deal with the usual positional issues that face any team as it prepares for training camp.
The Jets will try to straighten out the philosophical and tactical mess they have created for themselves.
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