EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Thursday night’s 17-9 preseason-ending victory by the New York Giants over the New England Patriots wasn’t about the score. It was about which roster bubble players would step up and pretty much force the Giants to keep them.
Here are five players who showed on Thursday night why they should be part of the 53-man roster after final cuts are made on Saturday.
Darkwa FINALLY got an opportunity to play significant snaps on offense. He carried nine times for 37 yards (4.1 yards per carry). His longest run was only 7 yards, but the third-year back from Tulane run hard, ran through arm tackles and consistently pushed piles to gain more yardage. He also made a touchdown-saving open-field tackle on a 34-yard punt return by Cyrus Jones.
I don’t know how the Giants figure out a spot for Darkwa. Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Paul Perkins will almost certainly make the team. The Giants have shown faith in Andre Williams, and veteran Bobby Rainey has been the team’s best offensive player not named Tavarres King this preseason. Darkwa, though, should have a spot on this team.
How do the Giants not keep this guy? He made plays all throughout training camp. Then, in the last two preseason games, brought that to live action with three touchdown catches in that span. Thursday, he had four catches for 80 yards, including a 59-yard catch-and-run on a perfectly-timed slant pattern from Ryan Nassib.
Roger Lewis (three catches, 30 yards, a 17-yard touchdown reception) has also made a strong bid for a spot. If the overall body of work is the decisive factor, though, King should make the roster.
“I still don’t know what is going to happen,” King said after the game. “Like I said, it is my job to keep playing at 110 percent and let the chips fall where they may.”
If Justin Tuck was watching the game Thursday, Okwara’s performance had to bring a smile. Tuck and Okwara are both from Notre Dame. Thursday, Okwara continued an impressive preseason with a pressure on Tom Brady and a sack of the Patriots’ star quarterback. When training camp began I wondered who would emerge as the ninth defensive lineman. For my money, that has to be Okwara. Stansley Maponga, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, had a sack and a pair of quarterback hits. He doesn’t, however, possess Okwara’s upside.
The Giants have Damon Harrison, Johnathan Hankins and Jay Bromley at defensive tackle. The fourth spot has been up for grabs. On Thursday, Cudjo, a 29-year-old journeyman who joined the Giants after training camp had already begun, made a serious bid for that spot.
Cudjo, 29, had three tackles, two for loss, and a pass defensed. Cudjo played for the St. Louis Rams from 2010-2013, was out of the league in 2014, and played seven games for the Detroit Lions last season.
There probably wasn’t any doubt that Wade, entering his fourth season, was going to make the 53-man roster. If there was, he erased it on the first defensive series of the game. On the first New England play, a quick pass to Julian Edelman, Wade tackled Edelman for a 3-yard loss. Four plays later, Wade jumped a slant pass for Aaron Dobson to intercept a Brady throw. Wade finished with four tackles, two passes defensed and an interception. He certainly is a nice insurance policy.
“It was really good to show everybody that I can play in this league and on this team,” Wade said. “That is what I tried to do today, is just go out there and play.”
A few more thoughts
I will post my final 53-man roster projection on Friday. You can be pretty sure all of the guys above will be part of that roster. One guy who might not is undrafted free agent cornerback Donte Deayon. As hard as he plays, and as much as I want to see him make it, the more his 5-foot-9, 158-pound frame comes into play ... At this point it won’t be a shocker if the Giants keep undrafted free agent safety Andrew Adams and cut 2015 fifth-round pick Mykkele Thompson. Adams forced a fumble Thursday, continuing an excellent preseason ... The Giants got long looks Thursday at offensive linemen like Adam Gettis, Brett Jones, Ryan Seymour and Emmett Cleary. It will be interesting to see who they keep from that group ... I don’t know what will happen at linebacker. I found it interesting that Jasper Brinkley was among the defensive guys who didn’t dress, while Kelvin Shepard played much of the first half. Does that mean Brinkley is in and Sheppard is out? We’ll find out.