October 15, 2020 | 6:23pm
Saquon Barkley is not the only Penn State alum on the Giants who could sign a major contract extension one day.
Rookie sixth-round pick Cam Brown — who has played 77 special teams snaps and zero defensive snaps through the first five games — could be in line for a bigger role Sunday against the Washington Football Team because injuries sidelined fellow linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. Too much to ask?
“The kid has a big upside,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “I tell him all the time I think he has $70 million walking around inside of him. It’s up to him to tap it.”
That’s the kind of money thrown at elite pass rushers. Only five NFL linebackers have contracts in excess of $70 million.
“Cam stands out to me in terms of kickoff,” defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. “That’s really the first play of a defensive possession. I’ve seen him split double teams making a tackle. All right thanks, you just saved us a first down.”
The Giants have a notoriously poor draft record in the middle and late rounds over the last 12 years. Wide receiver Darius Slayton — a fifth-rounder in 2019 — is one exception. If Brown develops into another for a team whose proud linebacker tradition has gone by the wayside, that is a major coup.
“Cam is a guy who’s really coming into his own in the kicking game,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “The one thing about special teams for young players is that it allows them to learn and adjust to the speed of the game and the physicality. That transfers to offense and defense as well.”
McGaughey has seen this before: As a rookie becomes more valuable, his special teams role decreases. He expects to soon lose the 6-foot-5, 233-pound Brown.
“Just having that size and length and being physical, then couple it with being able to run like he can, that’s just God-given,” McGaughey said. “The more plays he makes, the more confident he’ll get.”
Alabama football coach Nick Saban — who gave Judge his first big break in 2009 — tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
“He’ll probably beat COVID. He’s got a pretty good record against every other opponent,” Judge quipped.
Judge said the Giants are conscious of the revised tightened protocols stemming from outbreaks happening around the NFL, especially if and when it affects an opponent with whom they crossed paths.
“The biggest thing is reminding each other, ‘If you see something, say something,’” Judge said. “When I stand in front of the team — they all have these [contact] tracers on — if I’m seeing blinking red lights I might stop what I’m doing in terms of football and say, ‘Hey, you two, spread out.’”
On injured reserve since Week 3, WR Sterling Shepard (turf toe) worked individually with trainers on a side field during practice for the first time. He still is not activated and all but ruled out for Sunday against Washington, however he is progressing toward a possible return next Thursday against the Eagles.
Slayton (foot), DT Dexter Lawrence (knee), SS Jabrill Peppers (ankle) and OLB Kyler Fackrell (ankle) all were limited.
Evan Engram’s acting performance on the fake field goal against the Cowboys — pretending to head to the sideline after a third-down incompletion but lingering on the numbers to catch a wide-open pass — was worthy of an Academy Award in McGaughey’s estimation.
The Giants’ frustration with wasting the play call — a touchdown was taken off the board because of a penalty on right tackle Cam Fleming — stems from calling attention to a secret. Now that it has been shown, opponents will be on high alert and that particular fake goes back under wraps for at least 1 ½ seasons, McGaughey said.