With the off-season, training camp, and preseason behind us, it’s time to look forward to the 2017 regular season. That means that it’s also time for us on the outside of the New York Giants organization to make our guesses at what the final roster might look like.
Both Ed Valentine and I are projecting our 53-man rosters, and neither of us has seen the other’s. Let’s see who gets closer to the truth — if they’re even different at all.
Like I said, I haven’t peeked.
Here’s my “final” roster.
Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb
Notes: Ben McAdoo likes to carry three quarterbacks -- it’s a “West Coast Offense” thing. Geno Smith can look like a viable starter, right up until he has an “oh no” moment. However, he has won games as a starting quarterback fairly recently and played nearly flawlessly against New England, so he gets the nod.
Wide Receiver (5)
Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Dwayne Harris, Travis Rudolph
Notes: For the first time in a long time I have the Giants going with five receivers. Roger Lewis Jr.’s inconsistency as a receiver (most notably having a couple opportunities for touchdowns pass him by) keep him off the roster. His abilities as a special teams player might yet get him in.
On a brighter note, Travis Rudolph makes the team. He has flashed ability as both a receiver and a return man, and showed good effort as a blocker on the perimeter. He’s also a fine young man who lost his father in a tragic accident just before the draft, so I would be happy to see him get to live his dream (though that isn’t a deciding factor).
Running Back (5)
Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman
Shane Smith (FB)
Yes, a fullback.
Notes: The Giants have used Smith early and often in this preseason. They have also put an emphasis on the running game. Smith reminds me a bit of Henry Hynoski when he signed with the Giants as a rookie free agent. He shows the upside of being a punishing blocker, but also has plays where he is hesitant. He wasn’t used much as a receiver in college, but he has gotten a couple looks as a safety valve in pre-season.
Tight End (4)
Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison
Jerell Adams, Matt LaCosse
Notes: Matt LaCosse hadn’t done much in games this preseason, but he burst onto the scene in the Giants’ final preseason game. Scoring a pair of touchdowns, facilitating a third, and being the driving force behind the offense being in position to win the game is awfully tough to ignore.
Offensive Line (8)
Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Brett Jones, Bobby Hart
John Jerry, D.J. Fluker, Adam Bisnowaty
Notes: Bisnowaty got the final spot here because he has experience playing left tackle in college and right tackle this spring and summer. However, if a better option lands on the market from elsewhere, I expect the Giants to pounce. I don’t know what will happen but I’m naming Brett Jones the starting right guard.
Final Offensive Notes: Yes, I went light on receiving options with just eight receivers and tight ends combined. However, Evan Engram has the ability to play receiver and Ben McAdoo has hinted that Ellison was underused as a receiving option in Minnesota.
Likewise all of the Giants’ running backs are capable receivers, particularly Shane Vereen who is also fully capable of flexing out to the slot. This isn’t the Giants’ “normal” offensive composition, but after the offense barely functioned in 2016, they need a new normal.
This is a “heavy” offensive roster, but the Giants want to rediscover the running game, and have already shown a much greater willingness to use tight ends and fullbacks than in 2016.
It’s also worth noting that wide receiver Darius Powe, who impressed throughout the offseason and into the preseason, will be eligible to be re-signed by the team at some point.
Defensive End (6)
Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon
Romeo Okwara, Kerry Wynn*
Avery Moss, Devin Taylor
Notes: This is a lot of defensive ends, but the Giants need players to rotate Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon off the field. They also showed a five-man line in the third preseason game, so that might be in the cards as well. Both Devin Taylor and Kerry Wynn can rotate inside as well as play defensive tackle. Also Taylor’s interception in zone coverage on a blitz against the Pittsburgh Steelers stands out in my mind -- it’s a play Steve Spagnuolo isn’t shy about running. Finally, I just can’t bring myself to cut Kerry Wynn. I think he would be a better fit in another defense, but as long as he’s here his motor, intensity, versatility, and ability to play the run mean he has a job.
Defensive Tackle (4)
Damon Harrison, Jay Bromley
Dalvin Tomlinson, Robert Thomas
Notes: Just four defensive tackles, but many all of the Giants’ defensive ends are powerful players who can rotate inside depending on down, distance, and situation. I wanted to listen to Jonathan Casillas and put Jordan Williams on the roster -- and he might yet make it -- but he seemed to fade down the stretch.
Devin Kennard, B.J. Goodson, Jonathan Casillas
Calvin Munson, J.T. Thomas
Notes: This is light -- I freely admit that. But, with both Keenan Robinson and Mark Herzlich injured, I’m forced here. I'm not going to put bodies at a position just to have more guys. Besides, the Giants are in a nickel package most of the time. On the brighter side, J.T. Thomas seems to be finding his footing. He played much of the final preseason game and was active and helped set up a touchdown.
Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Michael Hunter, Donte Deayon
Notes: Neither Hunter nor Deayon should feel particularly confident in their jobs. Both spots might yet be up for grabs depending on who is cut around the league.
Landon Collins, Darian Thompson
Nat Berhe, Eric Pinkins
Notes: Pinkins was the last guy on the roster. He makes the team based on his special teams acumen became a core special, which will be needed if Herzlich winds up on injured reserve. Fans like to talk about what players can do on offense or defense, but special teams matter, too, and they suffer when they don’t have enough good players.
Berhe’s play has been uneven at best this preseason, and he could find himself on the outside looking in as roster cuts are made around the league.
Final Defensive Notes: Like with the offense, the defense isn’t as balanced as I would prefer, and I’m leaving off a pair of linebackers I’d rather keep in Mark Herzlich and Keenan Robinson. But with the injuries to both, I can’t put them on the squad without knowing their status. Both could be brought back from the injured reserve later in the season if necessary.
To compensate I went heavy on the defensive line to protect the linebackers and (hopefully) pressure passers.
Special Teams (3)
Long Snapper - Zak DeOssie
Punter - Brad Wing
Kicker - Aldrick Rosas
No surprises here. Rosas wins the kicking competition because of his leg strength (considering the winds in the Meadowlands in November and December) and his youth means that he could be a long-term solution. Rosas showed his ability to kick under pressure as he made a game-winning field goal as time expired against the New England Patriots, and that’s what the Giants were hoping to see.
The Giants might wind up working a trade for Mike Nugent, who has been flawless as well this preseason.