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5 under-the-radar players to watch in 2015

Mr. P

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The highpoint of J.T. Thomas III’s season came at the Giants’ lowest in 2014. Sparking a big second-half comeback with a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown, the former Jaguars linebacker had a career-high 12 tackles in a Week 13 victory over the Giants, their seventh-straight loss at the time. Four months later, Thomas signed with the Giants as a free agent and could be their starting weakside linebacker in addition to being a key special teams contributor.


“Thomas played very well against us,” his new head coach Tom Coughlin said. “Quite frankly, there is no better info as you get ready looking into free agency than people that have done well against you.”


Meanwhile, linebackers coach Jim Herrmann liked what he saw in the spring, which included Thomas playing outside in the unit’s base defense as well as some in the middle in sub-packages.


“He is very athletic,” Herrmann said. “That is what I like about him. He will be a great addition to our teams. Special teams and athletically as a linebacker he can cover. He is tough. He is going to fill that role, both in base and in sub. We can do a lot of different things with him.”




As an undrafted rookie out of Richmond, Kerry Wynn flew under the radar into training camp last season for the Giants.


There he caught the eye of the coaches, and after two sacks in five preseason games, Wynn was named to the 53-man roster.


Then Wynn had to be patient. Not suiting up for the first 12 weeks, Wynn made his debut in Jacksonville and combined on a sack of Blake Bortles.


Three weeks after that in St. Louis, the 6-foot-5, 264-pounder hit the trifecta with a sack, interception, and fumble recovery in the Giants’ win over the Rams.


In all, Wynn played only five games, but his instant impact will make him a player to watch in the coming weeks and months.


“Kerry Wynn works hard and makes plays,” Coughlin said during organized team activities (OTAs). “He is very consistent.”




At this point, he might not even be considered under-the-radar, but then again, teammates like Eli Manning had never even heard of his alma mater, Newberry.


Catching five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown as an undrafted rookie last season, the 6-foot-4 wide receiver initially made a big splash in the preseason with a touchdown in each of the first four games, three of which were late in the fourth quarter and proved to be game-winners. Now in his second year, Washington is looking to become a reliable option and prove that he is more than a jump-ball receiver.


In the spring, he did just that. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz sidelined, Washington made the most of his increased reps with the first team during OTAs and minicamp, racking up catch after catch in practices.




When asked early in the offseason about the safety situation, Berhe said that he wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t play.


Unfortunately a calf injury put that thought on hold during spring practices while Cooper Taylor and rookie second-round pick Landon Collins lined up as the top safety tandem after the Giants returned no starters at the position from last season. But after proving himself on special teams last season, Berhe will look to make up for lost time.


“That hurts tremendously because all the reps that Cooper and Landon and Mykkele [Thompson] and some of the other guys have taken, Nat would have been right in there with all the other guys,” safeties coach David Merritt said.


“By him standing on the sideline and taking mental reps – I understand you are taking mental reps, but it is different. It is not the same as putting your body through the motions and making your body react to different movements that the receivers are stemming at you. It is going to definitely hurt him and set him back a little bit, but hopefully he can come back at training camp and be ready to fight for a starting job.”




After spending most of last season on the Giants’ practice squad -- he was elevated to the active roster in mid-December but has yet to appear in an NFL game -- Cunningham jumped into the mix in OTAs and minicamp while fellow tight end Larry Donnell dealt with Achilles tendinitis.


Along with Matt LaCosse and Will Tye, Cunningham will try to get his foot in the door this summer.


“What stands out is his effort,” tight end coach Kevin M. Gilbride said of Cunningham.


“He is going to give great effort, no matter what. Whether he knew what he was doing or not, he was going to be going 100 miles per hour, whether he knew what block he was supposed to make or not. He was going to be doing it as well as he could.


"That gives them a chance. It gives every person who plays this game a chance to be successful, or at least to be noticed as far as staying on the squad in some capacity, which certainly he did.”



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