McAdoo says New York Giants won't hesitate to use rookies
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. >> It's only a couple of days into the New York Giants training camp and one thing is sticking out.
New coach Ben McAdoo isn't going to be limited by the belief that rookies need time to adjust to the NFL before playing.
Cornerback Eli Apple, receiver Sterling Shepard and safety Darian Thompson — the team's first, second and third-round draft picks, respectively, — were working with the first-team units Saturday as the Giants held their first outdoor practice since reporting to training camp.
This isn't something that is happening because a veteran is hurt.
Apple is rotating at cornerback with veterans Janoris Jenkins and Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie. There is no doubt that he will play when opponents use formations with three receivers, whether he is on the outside or in the slot.
Shepard has replaced the departed Rueben Randle as the No. 2 receiver. Thompson has taken over the spot that opened when Brandon Meriweather was not re-signed.
"I trust them right now," McAdoo said. "We're not going to be afraid to play young players."
The Giants didn't start many rookies in Tom Coughlin's 12 seasons; even Eli Manning had to wait half the season in 2004. Safety Landon Collins last year became the first rookie to start on defense to play all 16 games since tackle Barry Cofield in 2006.
McAdoo told his rookies from the start he expected them to produce.
Apple, who played at Ohio State, was the 10th pick overall. Shepard was the 40th pick overall and Thompson the 71st.
"We are really close," Apple said of the rookie trio. "We always talk about what we can do to help this team out. We are talented and we know that, so we are just trying to push each other every day."
Shepard understands that nothing will be given to him. Victor Cruz is trying to return to the starting lineup after missing most of the last two seasons with knee and calf injuries. Dwayne Harris and second-year pro Geremy Davis are looking for playing time, among others.
"Being drafted in the second round, you're expected to play," said Shepard, who had 233 catches for 3,482 yards and 26 touchdowns at Oklahoma. "Along with the other rookies, I think we all understand that if you make plays, you're going to be out there playing on Sundays, so that's what we're all striving for."
Thompson came to the Giants from Boise State, where he had 19 career interceptions. Meriweather led Giants safeties with two last season.
Collins definitely will start at one safety. Thompson will be challenged by a group of young players coming off injuries: Mykkele Thompson, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor and Bennett Jackson.
The veterans have been stepping in to help the rookies. Shepard has been schooled by Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. and Manning. Apple has been helped by Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins, and Collins is the leading voice among the young safeties.
Apple, who has a reputation of using his hands a little too much for NFL standards, is impressed with Shepard.
"I see a competitor," Apple said of Shepard. "He is someone who does not like to lose a rep. He does not let you get hands on him, he is quick off the line and does not like to lose. You can tell by his reaction if he does lose.
"He's a great receiver and I expect big things out of him."
Shepard noted the lanky Apple has a lot of range.
"You have to try and knock his arms down because if he gets his hands on you, it's going to be difficult to deal with him," Shepard said. "He's got good feet, so you have a combination of both of those together, and you have a pretty good corner."
Tight end Larry Donnell called Shepard "lighting in a bottle." He said he has gone against Thompson a couple of times.
"He's fast, a lot faster than me," Donnell said. "I think he is going to be an awesome player."
After two consecutive 6-10 seasons and four straight years out of the playoffs, it's not going to be a surprise if the Giants go with the young players.
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