The New York Giants report for training camp on Monday, with the first practice of the 2014 season set for Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. The Giants will bring 90 players to camp, and only 53 will make the final roster. Which 53? Here is an educated guess. It's a pre-training camp 53-man roster prediction. Have fun picking it apart.
Yes, I have the Giants going with only two quarterbacks. The Giants have a bunch of roster issues with a long-snapping specialist in Zak DeOssie [player profile] on the roster, trying to find space for a return specialist with limited offensive ability in Trindon Holliday [player profile], the likelihood they will carry a fullback and the depth they have at cornerback and safety. All of that makes it very difficult for the Giants to carry a third quarterback, and it means Curtis Painter [player profile] is out of a job. The Giants showed their hand in offseason workouts, giving Nassib tons of reps and Painter very few. They drafted Nassib to become the backup, and in this projection he gets the job.
Running Back (4)
This is pretty much clear-cut. If Wilson is cleared to play and Jennings, Hillis and Williams are all healthy second-year man Michael Cox [player profile] is the odd man out. There is a slim chance Cox could oust Hillis, but the Giants didn't give Hillis a two-year contract just to cut him prior to the first year of the deal.
The Giants have two NFL-caliber fullbacks in Conner and Henry Hynoski [player profile]. It seems extremely unlikely that they keep both players, and I'm choosing Conner in this early projection. Once again, it is insightful that when the Giants signed Conner last season they gave him a two-year contract. Also, fact is that all other skills aside a fullback's primary job is to block. Hynoski is a good blocker. Conner is a great one.
Tight End (3)
The tight end spot, of course, is one of the biggest question marks for the Giants entering the season. Robinson and Donnell seem like locks if both make it through the preseason healthy, with Robinson the favorite to be the de facto starting tight end. Davis, the veteran blocking tight end who played for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last season, seems like the likely replacement for Bear Pascoe. That means undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble [player profile] is likely headed to the practice squad. Honestly, though, anything can happen at this position.
Wide Receiver (6)
Manningham's status clearly complicates figuring out the roster picture at this position. Manningham tore his ACL and PCL with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012, and has not been the same explosive receiver Giants fans remember since. He finished each of the past two seasons on IR, played only six games with nine receptions last season, and missed all of the offseason program as his knee remains troublesome. The Giants have said they expect Manningham to be a participant in training camp, but seeing will be believing. If he is able to go, just how healthy will he be and how long will he hold up? If he holds up, how much quickness and explosion -- the things that made him special -- has he lost? If he is healthy enough, he makes the team. If not, the Giants might be scanning the waiver wire for veteran wide receiver help. As for Holliday, he seems likely to make the team due to his return skills -- especially with punts. The Giants experimented with Holliday at receiver during offseason work, but how much can they really get offensively from a 5-foot-5, 166-pound player who has two career catches in 31 games? Holliday played with Peyton Manning the last two years, and if Manning couldn't find a way to use him does anyone really believe the Giants can?
Offensive Line (9)
Look at those names. Yes, there is a HUGE omission there. The name Chris Snee [player profile] is missing. As Giants fans know, Snee is seeking an 11th season with the Giants despite really seeing his body break down the past two seasons. Snee has two surgically-repaired hips now, and missed most of OTAs when the elbow he also had surgery on wouldn't hold up. No one who respects what Snee has given the Giants over the past decade, and he has given them a ton, wants to see Snee shoved out the door. He shouldn't be counted out, but the fact that Snee couldn't make it through non-contact practices in shorts and t-shirts does not inspire confidence. I am going with my gut here, and saying the 32-year-old does not make it to the season opener vs. the Detroit Lions. Brandon Mosley seems like the favorite to wind up with that job should Snee not answer the bell. As for backups, I am not at all convinced at this time that I have the backups beyond Richburg correct. Jerry and Brown have to earn their roster spots. The Giants might value Dallas Reynolds' [player profile] ability to play both center and guard enough to keep him. Maybe the Giants are tired of Brewer not reaching his potential. Maybe 2013 seventh-round pick Eric Herman [player profile] earns a spot. We'll see.
Defensive Tackle (4)
It would have been really nice to keep a fifth defensive tackle, but no matter how I figured this roster I kept coming up with 54 players, which meant that even with carrying only two quarterbacks another position needed to get the short end of the stick. In this projection, it is defensive tackle. That means the Giants part ways with third-year player Markus Kuhn [player profile]. It also means undrafted free agent Kelcy Quarles [player profile] ends up on the practice squad. That should comfort those of you who see four defensive tackles as one too few. As an aside, if I had room for five defensive tackles Quarles would have been the pick over Kuhn.
Defensive End (4)
This pretty much cut-and-dried. Unless there are injuries, it seems pretty unlikely that guys like Kendrick Adams [player profile], Emmanuel Dieke [player profile], Jordan Stanton [player profile] or Kerry Wynn can crack this group.
There is another big, familiar, name missing from this group -- Mark Herrzlich [player profile]. Tom Coughlin did the forward to Herzlich's recently-released book and it is obvious how much respect the coach has for the former Boston College star who won a battle with a rare form of cancer to reach the NFL. Respect for the person is one thing. It has to be separated from performance on the field, and if you are honest with yourself -- and the Giants are honest with themselves -- Herzlich's on-field performance has not measured up. Three times in three seasons the Giants have given Herzlich the opportunity to earn a starting nod. Each time they have found him wanting. When Jon Beason was injured it was telling that Coughlin did not mention Herzlich's name when asked what the team's options were at middle linebacker. He said there were two -- veteran Jameel McClain and rookie Devon Kennard. Herzlich, of course, is a middle linebacker. In his three seasons, Herzlich has been an excellent special teams player. Gut instinct, however, is that if Fox or another of the linebackers the Giants have in camp gives the team a reason to move on from Herzlich they will do just that. In this projection, I have Fox edging him out.
Here you see that sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson did not make this version of the final 53. Quite honestly, unless Jackson absolutely wows in training camp and the five preseason games there is no one among the six on the list who deserves to be replaced. As I opined on Monday, James should be ahead of the currently suspended Jayron Hosley [player profile], as well.
Maybe five safeties is a lot, but fifth-round pick Berhe was impressive during offseason workouts and trying to sneak him to the practice squad seems like a big risk. So, he stays on the 53-man roster. Berhe comes with the reputation of being an excellent special teams player, so he should earn his keep there.
There is really little debate about anything here. Brandon McManus [player profile] is in camp as, in theory, competition at placekicker for Josh Brown. McManus also has significant collegiate experience as a punter. In reality, though, Brown and punter Steve Weatherford are both good at their jobs, signed to multi-year contracts, and not going anywhere.
[E-mail Ed at email@example.com]