Giants Bubble Candidate Gets off to Strong Start at OTAs: Report

New York Giants wide receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski impressed during Week 1 of OTAs.

Getty New York Giants wide receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski impressed during Week 1 of OTAs.

The New York Giants begin week two of practices amid Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on May 28, and we’ll start to see a few roster battles take shape as the spring and summer rage on.

Perhaps the most interesting 2024 competition is at wide receiver. Big Blue has done a great job building upon their depth in this area, leaving nothing to chance this time around.

Among the challengers is bubble candidate wide receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski, a returnee that will likely be vying for a roster spot alongside staff favorite Isaiah Hodgins, newcomers Isaiah McKenzie, Miles Boykin and Chase Cota, and special teamers Dennis Houston and Bryce Ford-Wheaton, as well as undrafted rookies Ayir Asante and John Jiles.

The Athletic’s Dan Duggan reported on Olszewski’s strong start during an article recapping the first media-available practice on May 23.

“WR Gunner Olszewski was the busiest receiver on the day, catching at least one pass from all four quarterbacks during team periods,” Duggan noted. He added that Olszewski was also getting reps as one of the potential kickoff returners alongside wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, Asante and running back Devin Singletary. And as a punt returner alongside Robinson, Asante and rookie running back Dante Miller.

If Olszewski does make the Week 1 roster, it will be because of his ability as a returner. The former All-Pro special teamer returned 23 punts for the Giants in 2023 — although kickoffs were entrusted to alternative playmakers.

Olszewski’s punt return average was only 11.9 yards per return a season ago, but he did bring one back for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. He started with the second-team offense on May 23, according to Duggan.

Is UDFA Ayir Asante a Threat to Gunner Olszewski & Isaiah McKenzie?

After free agency, McKenzie seemed like the greatest threat to Olszewski because of his similar skillset and his long history as a returner. McKenzie was absent from OTAs while the media was in attendance, so that could still be the case.

A fresh face has also emerged in this wide receiver/returner race, however, with Asante getting burn on both kickoffs and punts.

NFL Draft Diamonds called Asante a “dynamic playmaker” with valuable versatility and special teams ability. At Wyoming, he returned eight kickoffs for an average of 20.8 yards per attempt.

Before that, the rookie also returned kicks for Holy Cross, posting a career average of 18.7 yards per attempt. For reference, Olszewski holds a career kick return average of 22.0 yards per attempt at the NFL level, while McKenzie’s career average is a 22.6.

Asante only returned three punts throughout his collegiate career and was not very successful in doing so, with just two yards to his name in that regard.

It feels like there could easily end up being one roster spot available between these three players — or an extra running back like Miller who has experience as a returner.

Giants OTA Notes at WR During Week 1

Circling back to Duggan’s article, there were a few interesting tidbits at wide receiver.

Along with McKenzie, veteran Darius Slayton was not in attendance after requesting a new contract earlier this offseason. Duggan stated this as the reason for Slayton’s absence.

First rounder Malik Nabers had the highlight of the day on a seam route that went for a touchdown — a sign of things to come, perhaps. While Hodgins developed chemistry with backup quarterback Drew Lock, registering multiple receptions. Third-string QB Tommy DeVito also “hit wide receiver Jalin Hyatt with a pretty deep ball on a slot fade.”

As for the early depth chart — which Duggan stressed was fluid and far from finalized at wide receiver — the Giants lined up in the following groups to kick off OTAs.

First-team offense at WR (Lock at QB): Hodgins, Nabers and Wan’Dale Robinson.

Second-team offense at WR (DeVito at QB): Hyatt, Allen Robinson and Olszewski.

Third-team offense at WR (Nathan Rourke at QB): Houston, Cota and Boykin.

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