The first round of cuts are in the books -- and one signing as well. With the New York Giants having trimmed their roster down to 75 players, it's time for me to take another stab at predicting what their final roster will look like.
Starter - Eli Manning
Backup - Ryan Nassib
Notes: Barring something surprising, there won't be any surprises here (covered my bases here, I think). With the injury to Teddy Bridgewater, perhaps the Giants could find a trade market for Nassib, but his play this pre-season hasn't exactly been inspiring.
Offensive Line (8)
Starters - Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry, Marshall Newhouse*
Backups - Will Beatty*, Brett Jones, Bobby Hart
Note: I'm predicting that Newhouse will open the season as the starter, possibly even through week two. It's a calculated risk, but Beatty needs time to bet up to speed and into football shape. Newhouse will revert to the swing tackle position he was originally signed to play soon enough. I'm only keeping eight linemen, but I could certainly see the Giants picking up a veteran G/C if the right one is cut.
Running Back (4)
Starter - Rashad Jennings
Backups - Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
Notes: I like Orleans Darkwa, but every time it looks as though he was about to step forward and claim a bigger role in the offense, he would leave the field with a ding. It continued this offseason with a fractured tibia which held him out of mini-camp. The special teams gaffes he had in the Giants' preseason game against the New York Jets didn't help either.
Jennings is going to open as the starter, but I wouldn't be surprised if the leaner, more explosive, Williams makes a case for a more equitable role in the offense. Perkins will get his carries too, but for all his talent, he needs to prove that he knows, and can execute, the blocking schemes (both run and pass) well enough for the offense to function.
Wide Receiver (6)
Starters - Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard
Slot Receivers - Dwayne Harris, Victor Cruz
Backups - Geremy Davis, Tavarres King
Notes: I think the Giants wind up platooning Harris and Cruz in the slot. Harris is too valuable to the special teams to play too many reps there, but a good -- and dependable -- enough weapon that he still should see time on the offense. Also, they will move tight ends into the slot as well.
As far as backups go, Davis will certainly have a role in the offense, probably locking down the Z position when they need his size and dependable hands in three or four wide receiver sets. I really wanted to keep Roger Lewis and/or Darius Powe on the final roster, but King's play in preseason game against the Jets is just too good to ignore. Turning an off-target checkdown into a touchdown scamper was particularly impressive.
Tight End/H-Back (4)
Starters - Will Tye, Will Johnson
Backups - Larry Donnell, Jerell Adams
Notes: I have the 'Wills' starting at TE/H-Back, but Donnell's receiving prowess will earn him plenty of snaps. Hopefull,y it will be split out as an industrial-sized receiver or releasing into a route if he's an in-line or in the backfield.
Defensive End (5)
Starters - Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon
Rotation - Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara
Notes: The only surprise here is how well Okwara has played in preseason. I had him pegged as a practice squad player as he learns how to use his tools at an NFL level, but his hustle and play over the three preseason games we've seen has earned him a roster spot. He's even seen time with the 1's.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Starters - John Hankins, Damon Harrison
Rotation - Jay Bromley, Louis Nix III
Notes: I've liked what I've seen from Nix since dropping weight and moving to 3-technique. He has flashed to me and spent a lot of time in opponent's backfields. That being said, the Giants could replace him with a waiver claim or even add a fifth. Keeping a strong and active defensive line rotation is key to Steve Spagnuolo's defense, and interior pressure can absolutely wreck an offense.
I'm keeping an eye on Stephen Paea who was drafted by Chicago and was in Washington's first round of cuts. We don't know if he's healthy or not, but the Giants LOVE powerful linemen, and Paea is an absolute bunker-buster of a 3-technique.
Starters - Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard, J.T. Thomas III
Backups - Keenan Robinson, B.J. Goodson, Jonathan Casillas, Mark Herzlich
Notes: Thomas was called one of the "Alpha Dogs" of the defense back in the preseason, but has largely been forgotten about as the player to spend the most time on the PUP list. He was everywhere on the field in his first preseason game against the Jets, the highlight being blowing up a screen pass which turned into a pick six for Kerry Wynn. Casillas has played well as well. Jasper Brinkley is a surprise cut, especially considering how many turnovers he helped create in 2015. I'm going with the younger player, and one that Spags made a point of praising for his vocal leadership and energy, but this could still go either way..
I'm keeping Herzlich on the roster mostly for his special teams play. No, he's not a highlight special teamer, but a big part of special teams is discipline and making the play when it's yours to make. It isn't flashy, doesn't get replays, but Herz is very good at it. He's also a competant backup SAM linebacker, and capable against the run. He's probably the only outside linebacker besides Devon Kennard who can reliably set an edge as well as stack and shed lineman. Might not be flashy, but you need these guys on your team.
Starters - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, Leon Hall (Slot)
Backups - Eli Apple, Trevin Wade, Donte Deayon
Notes: After his performance in offseason and preseason, I just couldn't leave Donte Deayon off the roster. He might be undersized, but his football IQ, instincts, quickness and vertical leap let him defend the ball rather than the player, which he is plenty big enough to do. Also, you have to love his toughness; To paraphrase The Bard 'Though he be but little, he is fierce'.
Starters - Landon Collins (SS), Darian Thompson (FS)
Backups - Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson
Notes: I think the Giants would really like to find a way to keep Andrew Adams and/or Justin Currie, but with Hall getting some work to free safety, that gives a third backup.
Long Snapper - Zak DeOssie
Punter - Brad Wing
Kicker - Randy Bullock
Notes: The only question here is if Bullock will do enough to be the Giants kicker past Week 1. The Giants could also scan the waiver wire and add another kicker if a better option comes along.