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Valentine’s Views: Five Returning Giants On The Roster Bubble

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Nat Berhe specializes in delivering big hits like this one, but he often pays the price himself.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

We still have a month to go before New York Giants players report to training camp. The best parts of training camp and the preseason can be watching position battles to see who emerges with spots on the 53-man roster. With that in mind, here are five guys who will be on the bubble when practice begins on July 28.

Nat Berhe

The Missile is a good player who hasn’t had much good luck the past couple of seasons. When a starting job was his for the taking in 2015 a serious calf injury kept him from getting to the starting line and he missed the whole season. When Darian Thompson went down after two games last season, the Giants turned to Berhe. He suffered a concussion, the first of two he sustained last season, in his first start. He ended up playing in only seven games and watched Andrew Adams emerge as a solid player.

Now, the 2014 fifth-round pick finds the position crowded. If all are healthy, Landon Collins, Darian Thompson and Adams will occupy three spots. No matter how many ways I shuffle 53-man roster projections it seems unlikely in my view that the Giants keep more than four safeties. That puts Berhe in competition with Duke Ihenacho, who started 10 games for the Washington Redskins last season, undrafted free agent Jadar Johnson and perhaps even Ryan Murphy for the final safety spot.

Berhe can certainly win that spot, and is perhaps even the favorite to do so, but there’s no question his ultimate presence on the final 53-man roster isn’t guaranteed right now.

Mark Herzlich

The fact that I would view Herzlich as being on the bubble would be no surprise to the veteran linebacker. He knows it.

“I’m always trying to make the team every single year, there’s never a locked roster spot for me,” he told me during a phone interview this spring.

Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson and Keenan Robinson seem like the linebackers with locks on roster spots. The status of J.T. Thomas is still uncertain as he rehabs from knee surgery. Herzlich’s primary competition right now comes from a group of youg unproven players that includes undrafted free agent Calvin Muson, Deontae Skinner and Curtis Grant.

Herzlich has, of course, been doing some work at tight end to increase his value. Herzlich always seems to find a way to stick around, and he probably will once again.

Will Tye

In 2015, Tye looked like the latest in a recent string of unheralded tight ends (Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard, briefly Larry Donnell) to be headed for surprising NFL success. He caught 42 passes in 13 games and seven starts that season, 36 of those over his final nine games. Last season, though, he seemed to plateau. He caught only 48 passes while playing in 16 games with 10 starts. His yards per catch dropped 11.0 to 8.2, and he caught only one touchdown pass. His blocking also did not seem to improve.

Now, Tye finds himself not only in a competition for playing time — but perhaps even to keep a roster spot. The Giants added first-round pick Evan Engram and free-agent tight end/fullback Rhett Ellison. Last season’s sixth-round pick, Jerell Adams, seems more comfortable this time around. Matt LaCosse had another outstanding spring, and it seems that staying healthy is probably the only thing standing between LaCosse and a roster spot.

How many tight ends can the Giants keep? Five would be a lot, but it’s not unheard of. If all five stay healthy, though, someone might draw the short straw.

Roger Lewis Jr.

Lewis’s hold on a roster spot was tenuous even before his arrest in the spring for OVI. Whatever happens there, in either the criminal or NFL investigations, could impact whether Lewis remains part of the football team.

Purely on the field, though, Lewis was already facing heavy competition for a spot as a reserve wide receiver and special teams player. Tavarres King (profile), Darius Powe and undrafted free agent Travis Rudolph are making serious bids to take a job away from Lewis.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa

This is an easy one. Forget the fact that Odighizuwa vastly under-performed his third-round draft slot in his first two NFL seasons. Whatever is going on in Odighizuwa’s life that is keeping him away from football has certainly clouded his future with the Giants, and made his presence on a list like this a must.

Odighizuwa issued a cryptic tweet a few months back about needing to step away from football. He did not participate in OTAs. We don’t know if the Giants expect him for training camp. They won’t talk about him — sort of like he doesn’t exist.

With Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara, fifth-round pick Avery Moss and free-agent signee Devin Taylor the Giants can certainly withstand the loss of Odighizuwa. He might not even win a roster spot if he does show up.