The work of building the 90-man roster the New York Giants will bring to training camp in a few months is mostly done. The primary work of free agency has come and gone, although a few roster moves could still be made. The Giants 2015 draft class has been selected. A handful of undrafted free agents have been added.
With all of that having been done, let's take a way-too-early stab at predicting the 53-man roster the Giants will bring to Texas when they open the 2015 NFL season against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 13.
By the way, when I did this a year ago I hit 44 of the 53 roster spots. That's pretty good for a projection four months before the season begins. Even if I did foolishly have Josh Freeman making the final roster. Oh well, we can't all be perfect.
Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib
Did anyone really think the Giants were going to sign Rutgers' Gary Nova after rookie mini-camp? And does anyone really think Ricky Stanzi, the third quarterback on current 90-man roster, has even the slightest chance of unseating Nassib for the backup job? I doubt even Stanzi does. Unless something really bad happens, Manning/Nassib is your quarterback duo once again.
Running Back (4)
Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa
When I originally went through this I kept only three running backs. I didn't like that, however, and felt I had to keep a spot for a fourth back. That came down to Darkwa or undrafted free agent Akeem Hunt. You know the Giants like Darkwa, otherwise he wouldn't have been getting snaps at the end of the last season. Maybe Hunt beats him out in training camp, but until I see that happen the fourth spot belongs to Darkwa.
I have to admit that a year ago I was surprised the Giants even re-signed Hynoski and brought him to training camp. John Conner did an excellent job for the Giants when Hynoski was injured in 2013, and with Conner under contract I figured Hynoski's Giants days were done. He won the job, however, and had an excellent year. There are still those who believe the Giants would like to move away from using the fullback at all. The Giants clearly ran the ball better with Hynoski in the game tinstead of on the sideline last year. There is still a place for Hynoski on this roster, and in this offense.
Tight End (3)
Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson, Matt LaCosse
Before seeing these guys on the field in training camp I am really conflicted here. Coming out of rookie mini-camp the feeling is that LaCosse is the undrafted free agent with the best chance of making the roster. So, for the sake of argument, I have gone ahead and given him a spot on the 53-man roster. That is a complete flier, since we have only seen the kid in shorts and t-shirts during a tryout camp. The Giants really like Jerome Cunningham, who spent part of last season on the practice squad and was added to the roster for the final two games. They added Stony Brook's Will Tye after the rookie tryout. Maybe one of those guys grabs a roster spot. I just have a feeling that the Donnell-Robinson-Daniel Fells troika from a year ago sees at least one change.
Leaving Fells off the roster was not an easy call. He is a six-year veteran, caught 16 passes a year ago, four for touchdowns, and was a good blocker in a reserve role. When push comes to shove, though, GM Jerry Reese will try to protect his draft choices, which means Robinson gets the upper hand over Fells, who turns 32 in September.
Wide Receiver (6)
Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Marcus Harris, Geremy Davis
You see two obvious omissions here -- Preston Parker and Corey Washington. I honestly hate cutting both of them, but feel like I have to. Parker is an NFL-caliber player with the ability to be a decent backup receiver, as well as a punt and kickoff returner. He showed all of that last season with 36 catches, and by averaging 24.2 yards on kickoff returns and 6.6 yards on punt returns. Dwayne Harris, though, makes him expendable. Now, about Washington. I know that everyone was fired up by what he did last preseason. Fact is, though, reserve players in the NFL must be able to contribute on special teams. Washington doesn't do that. And reserve players who come from Division II schools and get into the league as undrafted free agents should be grateful for the opportunity and willing to do anything to stay in the league. They should keep their unhappiness about their roles to themselves. Washington didn't help the Giants on special teams, and didn't keep his mouth shut. Marcus Harris showed last preseason he can be a valuable special teams player and has receiving potential. Davis, the sixth-round pick, is a big-bodied wide receiver like Washington with a special teams mentality.
Offensive Line (9)
Starters -- Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, Ereck Flowers
I don't know for certain what configuration these guys will be in. I believe Pugh will be at left guard and Flowers at right tackle, but the Giants won't commit to that yet. They won't commit to Flowers starting, either, but he was the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and it would be a huge surprise if he doesn't.
Reserves -- John Jerry, Marshall Newhouse, Brett Jones, Brandon Mosley
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jerry is an awful run blocker. How a 340-350 pound man can be so bad at run blocking is unfathomable. Jerry, though, is still a guy who has started every game he has played in the past three seasons and a capable pass blocker. Which makes him valuable insurance. Nobody wants to see Newhouse start, but he can play either tackle and has starting experience. He played with the Green Bay Packers when Ben McAdoo was an assistant there. Former CFL Offensive Lineman of the Year Brett Jones seems likely to win a spot. He might even end up as a starting guard down the line. Not this year, but in 2016.
The final spot comes down to Mosley, third-year man Eric Herman, veteran Dallas Reynolds and rookie seventh-round pick Bobby Hart. I still don't know exactly what Mosley is, and I still don't understand why or how he faded into oblivion last season, but based on the idea that he can play both guard and tackle I'm giving him this spot. Hart ends up on the practice squad. Would I be shocked to be wrong here? Absolutely not. The wild-card in the competition for backup spots might be the 6-foot-8, 340-pound Michael Bamiro, who played collegiately at Stony Brook.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Jay Bromley, Kenrick Ellis
Sorry, Markus Kuhn, there is no room at the inn. Steve Spagnuolo loves his defensive ends, and loves to move them inside, which means fewer snaps for defensive tackles. As you will see, I'm already not keeping as many defensive ends as I might like to.
Defensive End (5)
Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, George Selvie, Damontre Moore, Owamagbe Odighizuwa
I know. I don't have Kerry Wynn on this version of the roster. Go ahead and scream at me. I don't like it, either. Just tell me how I fit him in. And don't tell me by cutting Selvie. The Giants need somebody opposite Pierre-Paul who is an all-around player, and right now that appears to be Selvie. Moore and Ayers are pass-rushers first who have in the past struggled to defend the run. Odighizuwa is a promising third-round pick, but has a lot to prove before he gets on the field. Maybe Ayers, rehabbing from a torn pectoral, winds up on PUP. Maybe the Giants do cut Selvie and gamble with the young guys, I just see it as unlikely. I don't want to cut Wynn. I know someone will pick him up if the Giants do. I just don't see how to avoid it.
Jon Beason, Devon Kennard, J.T. Thomas III, Jonathan Casillas, Jameel McClain, Mark Herzlich
If everyone is healthy I think this is pretty clear-cut. Maybe you could argue that McClain could be in jeopardy if the Giants only want to keep five linebackers. If they do that, though, who is the insurance policy for the fragile Beason? Or maybe Herzlich if the Giants decide they have other guys who can play special teams, but I doubt they would have given him a two-year deal if his roster spot was in question.
Prince Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trumaine McBride, Mike Harris, Chykie Brown
The depth of this group is highly questionable. Amukamara and DRC are outstanding, and McBride and Harris should be OK. I am not thrilled at all with the options beyond those two, and it shows in the fact that I only have five guys making the roster. I would prefer to keep six corners, but I'm cheating just a bit. GM Jerry Reese said he considers Josh Gordy a safety, so I have listed him there. He has more experience as a corner, though. Also, rookie Mykkele Thompson has played both inside and outside as a corner, so might be able to fill in there in a pinch. Also, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if the Giants look to add a veteran with starting experience at some point.
I found it significant that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo never mentioned the name of 2012 third-round pick Jayron Hosley when discussing his options for the slot cornerback role.
Landon Collins, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Josh Gordy, Mykkele Thompson
I would, truthfully, prefer to keep four safeties. The Giants have actually gone into some seasons with only three on the roster. I look at Gordy as sort of a 'swing' player, a guy who could be used at either corner or safety depending injuries and the performance of others. I don't have 2014 sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson listed here. He is converting from corner to safety and I have no idea what he is or can be as a safety. I can't hand him a roster spot until gets on the field and shows whether or not he can actually play the position.
Special Teams (3)
Placekicker -- Josh Brown
Punter -- Steve Weatherford
Long snapper -- Zak DeOssie
The status quo here. I know several of the contributors here at Big Blue View were expecting competition for long snapper Zak DeOssie, possibly even a draft pick. That was never going to happen. This is a Tom Coughlin-coached team. DeOssie has been a solid veteran for a long time. I know that only two of 1,200 special teams players graded worse than DeOssie (-12.0) a year ago. I have no idea how that grade was arrived at. I can remember all of one awful snap in DeOssie's entire career. Brown had an excellent 2014 season. Weatherford deserves to stay despite an up-and-down 2014 season, during which he played through torn ankle ligaments and a back injury.
I usually think of this as a fun, if completely pointless, exercise since it comes four months before the beginning of the season. In all honesty, though, I found this to be incredibly hard. There are soooo many difficult choices here. Could I get away with keeping three running backs? Which NFL-caliber wide receivers do I cut loose? How do I find a roster spot for Kerry Wynn, who deserves one? I still didn't answer that question. Could I gamble and keep just five linebackers? Who are the backups at cornerback and safety? Who will win the last spot or two among reserve offensive linemen?
Reese always says his aim is to provide competition at every position. Trying to cobble together this projection showed me that there is, whether for starting or reserve spots, competition almost everywhere on the roster. That should make for an incredibly interesting training camp and preseason.