Good news, everyone! Training camp is just a week away, so that means we're getting close to have new football things to talk about.
But, the bad news is that camp doesn't open until next week (A whole week!? But Ren, what'll we do 'till then?). So, rather than make another list to fill the time, I wanted to take the opportunity to lay down my projected 53-man roster. I took a couple pages from Ed's "Prep-Cation Roster Projection," but of course I've got my own ideas...
Quarterback (2): Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib*
Raptor's Thoughts - There's nothing to back this up, but I get a sneaking suspicion that the Giants may be looking to get some kind of return on Nassib before he leaves for maybe a compensatory pick. They have been very active in the backup quarterback market, bringing in a number of potential back-up quarterbacks (Logan Thomas being the most recent), and even put in a claim on Zach Mettenberger.
While that could simply be an attempt to create competition for Nassib, this is the last year of his rookie deal and he has starter upside. If Nassib wants even a shot at a starting job, it won't be with the Giants in 2017. In my opinion, an ideal world would see the Giants trading Nassib to the San Francisco 49ers for an un-retired Anthony Davis.
Offensive Line (9):
Starters - Ereck Flowers (LT), Justin Pugh (LG), Weston Richburg (OC), John Jerry (RG), Marshall Newhouse (RT)*
Backups - Bobby Hart (OT/OG), Brett Jones (OC/OG), Byron Stingily (OT), VETERAN TO BE NAMED LATER
Raptor's Thoughts - I'm taking a page out of Ed's prediction here, and to paraphrase Ben McAdoo, I don't think the story of the right side of the line has been written yet. I think the Giants will give the offensive tackles in-house a chance to compete and un-seat Newhouse -- and they might yet. After all, two years ago at this time, Johnathan Hankins was listed as a backup to a badly aging Mike Patterson. But if none of them show that they are a clear upgrade, then the Giants will make a move, much as they did last year, cutting Steve Weatherford and trading for Brad Wing. (See the above note on Nassib in an ideal world)
Running back (4): Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, Paul Perkins (r)
Raptor's Thoughts: In truth, the only two running backs that I have as "locks" to make the squad are Veree and Perkins. Vereen is a tremendously useful (when they remember to use him) weapon for the offense, and Perkins is a high-upside rookie. Jennings is a solid lead back, but he has had his dings, and while he insists that he's entering his prime, time is certainly not on his side. Orleans Darkwa is fun to watch, but he always seemed to be coming off the field grabbing something in pain, and missed this summer with a fractured leg. Bobby Rainey is an unknown here. Finally, McAdoo has insisted that fans have given up on Andre Williams too soon (we'll get into that in particular before camp starts), so I'll err to what the coach says and keep him on the roster.
Tight End (2): Matt LaCosse, Jerell Adams (r)
H-Back (2): Will Tye, Will Johnson
Raptor's Thoughts: Even though I'm mentally breaking the TEs and H-Backs into separate positions, I want to offer my thoughts on them, and the fullback, as a single position. I'm rooting for Nikita Whitlock, and hopefully he can once again force his way onto the team. But for now, while he does a bit of everything, none of it is enough to make my roster. He isn't a good enough fullback, more than a gadget as a defensive tackle, and unless he adds another trick to his bag and learns how to long snap (well), special teams isn't enough.
Tye is a no-brainer for me, despite being a UDFA from Stony Brook who only started half the season, he was still the top rookie tight end in the NFL. Will Johnson has experience at everything the Giants ask their tight ends/H-backs to do, is a good blocker, and is an offensive weapon. Jerrell Adams might be lost in the offense for now, but he is a Height/Weight/Speed specimen who comes into the league with the mentality of a willing blocker and eager special teams player. I don't think the Giants will risk him going through waivers. Finally, I have LaCosse beating out Larry Donnell. Both have injury questions, but we have seen neck injuries end or significantly alter careers. Donnell is going to have to prove that he's a better option than LaCosse at this point.
Wide Receiver (6): Odell Beckham Jr., Dwayne Harris, Sterling Shepard (r), Victor Cruz, Geremy Davis, Roger Lewis (r)*
Raptor's Thoughts: I'm going to go ahead and play the optimist and have Cruz making his long-anticipated return. I don't know what kind of player he'll be, and that could knock him off the roster. Geremy Davis seems to have made strides this offseason, and is improving his route running and using it along with his frame to get separation. Add that to his special teams ability and I think his spot is fairly secure. The real battle is for the last receiver spot. Myles White can play inside and outside and knows the system, but he wasn't very good when given the opportunity. Right now I have Roger Lewis making the team because he's made the most waves thus far in camp. His talent far outstrips his position as a UDFA, and when the Giants take a chance on a player with character concerns, the talent is usually immense, so he could be the one to watch.
If the Giants, like their fans, want more size at the receiver position, they could opt for Anthony Dable or Darius Powe, but I'm leaning toward Lewis for now.
Defensive Tackle: Johnathan Hankins, Damon Harrison, Jay Bromley, Greg Milhouse (r), Louis Nix III/Montori Hughes
Raptor's Thoughts: Hankins and Snacks (Snackins?) are the starters, with Jay Bromley likely getting heavy rotation. I think that once pads go on, Milhouse proves to be too good to risk cutting, but the Giants need a second veteran for the DT rotation. Louis Nix is slimming down to be a 3-technique, and if he proves disruptive, he could finally punch his way onto a consistent roster spot. If not, Hughes could become Harrison's backup as the massive man in the middle. Only one gets the spot, I'm just not sure exactly which until the pads go on.
Defensive End (4): Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn
Raptor's Thoughts: To me, this depth chart is pretty much set. Romeo Okwara could crash the party and either unseat Kerry Wynn or make the roster outright, but I feel like he could use a year on the practice squad while he learns how to use his tools in a base 4-3 defense. Wynn's strength against the run and high motor should keep him on the squad. The Giants NEED Owa to step up and unleash his prodigious physical talents on the offense, otherwise the Giants could see a repeat of the defense faltering down the stretch with just Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka to pressure the passer.
Linebacker (7): Devon Kennard, Jasper Brinkley, J.T. Thomas, Keenan Robinson, Jon Casillas, Mark Herzlich, B.J. Goodson (r)
Raptor's Thoughts: This is more linebackers than I thought they'd carry. Once again, Mark Herzlich survives the final cuts. He has become a stalwart on a good special teams unit (who would have thought we could say that?), and is a suitable back-up SAM. Beyond Kennard, no other outside linebackers have shown they can set an edge or stack and shed like Herzlich. If he picks up the defense quickly enough, Kelvin Sheppard could beat out Brinkley or Herzlich.
Safety: Landon Collins, Darian Thompson (r) , Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson
Raptor's Thoughts: This was a tough one. I really wanted to include Mykkele Thompson in the mix, but I need to see him move on the surgically repaired ankle before I put him on the roster. Cooper Taylor could get the nod as well, as he looked good in limited action before a concussion ended his 2015 campaign, but Bennett Jackson looked excellent in preseason before his torn ACL. That he had two different injuries different knees gives me just enough confidence that he'll retain enough athleticism to be an asset as a free safety.
Cornerback (5): Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple (r), Trevin Wade, Donte Deayon (r)
Raptor's Thoughts: That last roster spot, which I gave to either Nix or Hughes, could go to a veteran slot corner if the Giants believe they need one. However, Trevin Wade was actually pretty not-bad in the slot last year, and with the "Big - 3" of DRC, Jenkins, and Apple, that might be enough. And finally thus far it sounds as though, size-challenged or not, Deayon simply won't let the coaches cut him.
Special Teams (3)
Zak DeOssie (LS)
Josh Brown (K)
Brad Wing (P)