Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, and so is the reality that some players get themselves in trouble away from the field. That means roster depth is critical to any team's success. The New York Giants found out the hard way last season that they simply didn't have enough quality backups, and GM Jerry Reese spent much of the offseason trying to change that.
How deep are the Giants entering the 2014 NFL season? Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports recently listed 13 categories in which he felt teams need a solid player on their bench in order to qualify as having solid roster depth. One of those is backup quarterback, and earlier this week we addressed the idea of whether or not Ryan Nassib or Curtis Painter could be considered a quality backup. Most of you seem to believe the answer is no, regardless of which guy wins the job.
Let's look at the other 12 categories Kirwan lists. I will give you each category, along with the player or players who would fill that role for the Giants, and my thoughts on whether or not the Giants the player qualifies as a "solid" reserve at that spot.
1. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
The Giants signed Charles Brown, who had 22 starts (14 at left tackle, eight at right tackle) for the New Orleans Saints over four seasons to fill this role. Brown was a second-round pick by the Saints in 2010, and his career has been something of a disappointment, which is why he was available as a free agent this offseason. Brown is probably a better right tackle than left tackle. In 14 starts at left tackle last season, Brown surrendered seven sacks and had a -10.2 Pro Football Focus rating. To be fair, he was -5.4 in one game against the St. Louis Rams, so he was only sightly below average the remainder of the time. As a right tackle, Brown was +1.0 in 124 snaps in 2012 and -3.5 in 409 snaps in 2011.
Brown, 27, filled in at left tackle throughout the spring as Will Beatty continued his recovery from a broken leg. The Giants are hopeful that coming to a new team will unlock the potential that made Brown a second-round pick. I doubt anyone would be thrilled with the idea of Brown starting full-time at left tackle, but as an occasional fill-in Brown should be serviceable.
By Kirwan's criteria, I think you would call the Giants 'solid' here, provided Beatty is healthy and Brown is backing up.
2. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
The name that immediately comes to mind is Weston Richburg, the rookie second-round pick who worked at both of those positions during OTAs and mini-camp. The other player the Giants have with experience at both guard and center is Dallas Reynolds, who started 14 games at center for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 and played in three games at guard and center for the Giants last year.
How you answer this questions depends on whether or not you believe Richburg, an untested rookie, can be considered solid as a reserve interior lineman. As much as I called for, and approved of, the selection of Richburg by the Giants in the 2014 NFL Draft I have to be comfortable with the idea of him playing either position at some point. I say 'solid' here.
3. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
Rashad Jennings was signed to be the starter, and with Peyton Hillis, fourth-round pick Andre Williams and potentially 2012 first-round pick David Wilson is reserve it seems like the Giants have some depth at the position. Do they, however, have a guy who can give them a 100-yard game? Hillis had one 100-yard game in each 2011 and 2012. Wilson has one (an even 100 yards vs. the Washington Redskins in 2012) in 21 games. Williams has yet to carry the ball in an NFL game. I want to answer 'solid' here, but I can't. Not until I see Williams or Wilson producing regularly in regular-season games.
4. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
Better question: Is there a good first tight end on the roster? Maybe all of the tight ends on the Giants' roster would be solid tight ends, but there is no way to say the Giants have a solid backup when we aren't sure they have a solid starter.
5. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?
Well, who do you consider the third wide receiver to be? Is it Reuben Randle? First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr.? Jerrel Jernigan? Everyone wants to believe that Randle and Beckham can be weapons on the outside for Eli Manning, and that the three terrific games Jernigan had at the end of last season were more than an aberration, but just like with the running backs I think we have to see it proven on the field before we can call the Giants 'solid' here.
6. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
The most likely candidate to slide into this role would be second-year man Damontre Moore. There is a ton on play-making potential there, but Moore had no impact as a rookie and has much to prove before he can be considered 'solid' in this role.
7. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?
The third defensive tackle for the Giants behind Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins is veteran Mike Patterson. Entering his 10th year in the league, there is little doubt that Patterson has been a good player in the NFL for a long time. The question is how much can Patterson, 31 when the season starts, play? The most snaps he played in a game last season was 42, and he has not played 50 or more snaps in a game since 2011. I am going to say 'solid' here, but in the back of my mind I have that nagging question about stamina with Patterson.
8. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?
Walter Thurmond might not be the best in the league in this role -- although he will tell you he is -- but he is among the best. No doubt you have to give the Giants a 'solid' here.
9. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?
If there is one thing we know the Giants have it is depth at cornerback. Beyond Thurmond, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara the Giants have veterans Zack Bowman and Trumaine McBride, along with Charles James, Jayron Hosley and sixth-round draft pick Bennett Jackson. No doubt the Giants the 'solid' here.
10. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?
Yes. Obviously, everyone would feel better about the talent level at safety if Will Hill was playing for the Giants instead of in the Arena Football League. That isn't the case, but the Giants do have a trio of experienced, capable safeties in Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps. Rookie Nat Berhe and second-year man Cooper Taylor also show promise. The Giants are 'solid' here, even if they may no longer be spectacular.
11. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?
Yes. The Giants have Trindon Holliday, dangerous as both a kickoff and punt return man. They also have Demps, one of the league's best kickoff returners and a guy with lots of experience as a safety. David Wilson, if healthy, and Reuben Randle fit the category of guys who can contribute as returns and position players. The Giants are 'solid' here.
12. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?
That would be Mark Herzlich. The Giants might only want him to play middle linebacker in a pinch, but he was their best player on the kick coverage units a season ago. If Herzlich doesn't make the team, Spencer Paysinger probably also fits this description. While Paysinger isn't looked at as a middle linebacker, he could do it if he had to and is definitely a good player on special teams. The Giants are 'solid' here.
If you consider the Giants' backup quarterbacks a question mark, and for this discussion I will put them in that category, that means I am considering the Giants to be 'solid' in eight of the 13 areas on Kirwan's list. Kirwan says to be considered as having good roster depth a team should be solid in at least nine of the 13 areas.
Technically, the Giants come up a little short here. There are three 'prove-it' areas -- wide receiver, running back and pass-rush specialist -- where the Giants could easily be upgraded to 'solid' once the games begin. To be honest, that isn't bad.
How would you grade the Giants' depth. Which of my choices do you agree, or disagree, with?