The rest of the 2018 season for the New York Giants is really about 2019. It’s about figuring out which players they have who can be part of a future they hope will be brighter than their present, which has produced a 4-20 record over the past two seasons.
With that in mind, and having been intrigued by a similar question Patricia Traina and I received for what we had planned as our final episode of the ‘Locked on Giants’ podcast, I asked our Big Blue View contributors to offer their thoughts on the following question:
“Which players on the Giants’ current roster (or IR) do you see as “building block” players who absolutely have to be part of the roster in 2019?”
Below are the answers, beginning with mine.
Everyone will answer this question somewhat differently, applying different criteria. Some will look past 2019 at “long-term” building blocks. I am including those, but the question was really specific to next season so I’m going to try to focus only on that. Some of the veteran players I may list below are obviously short-term placeholders and not long-term answers, but ones I believe need to be part of the 2019 roster.
Offensive players: Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder
To me, Barkley, Beckham and Shepard are obvious. So, too, is rookie guard Will Hernandez. Some will argue about Engram because of his issue with dropped passes, but he’s still a talented second-year player who should get better. Solder? He is undoubtedly overpaid, and each time he makes a mistake that paycheck magnifies it. Still, though, he is basically an average NFL left tackle and should remain so for a couple more seasons.
Kyle Lauletta? Before his arrest on Tuesday I would have put him on this list, even though he has yet to play a snap. Whether his ceiling as a pro is as a starter or a backup, you would think the Giants would have hoped get him on the field and find out. Now, though, his status is in doubt.
During the final eight games we get to find out if players like Corey Coleman and newly-acquired guard Jamon Brown can join this list.
Defensive players: B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, R.J. McIntosh, Lorenzo Carter, Olivier Vernon, Sam Beal, Landon Collins
The Giants do have some young players to build around. The biggest issue they face is what to do about Collins, the defensive co-captain who can be a free agent at season’s end. There will be a market for Collins, so the Giants are likely to have to pay a premium to keep him.
Hill, Tomlinson and Carter are keepers. Beal, on IR with a shoulder injury, makes the list because he was really a 2019 draft pick. McIntosh makes the list because the Giants need to give him a real chance to show what he can do. That means a season that includes being able to participate in the offseason program and in training camp. Vernon? He is the best player the Giants have in their front seven.
Special teamers: PK Aldrick Rosas, P Riley Dixon
Rosas has rebounded from a rough rookie season and is displaying the talent the Giants thought he had. Riley Dixon has been fine and there isn’t any reason to look elsewhere in 2019. By season’s end, return specialist Quadree Henderson could be on this list, too.
Total players: 15
I was asked this question as part of the Twitter Tuesday (which actually ran on Thursday of this past week) episode of the LockedOn Giants podcast and for me, identifying a core came easy.
When thinking core, I’m thinking guys whom this team can build around for the next 3-5 years. So here is my list.
Offense: RB Saquon Barkley, WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, G Will Hernandez, TE Evan Engram.
For as much as I’ve expressed dismay over the roster building approach, I have to give props to Jerry Reese for finding some solid skill position players in OBJ, Shepard and Engram. Gettleman, meanwhile, added Barkley and Hernandez, bringing the list of core players to five.
I’m not including Nate Solder on my list because I believe he’s a stopgap (an expensive one at that) and I am thinking long-term future here.
Whoever the next quarterback of this team is, I think the players I’ve identified gives that guy a nice solid core group of talent as a supporting cast, which is what you want to do to ensure the transition to your future franchise quarterback goes smoothly.
Defense: OLBs Olivier Vernon and Lorenzo Carter, DL Dalvin Tomlinson, R.J. McIntosh and B.J. Hill, SS Landon Collins, and CB Sam Beal.
The strength of this Giants defense right now is its defensive line, where Tomlinson and Hill hare both having strong campaigns. Once McIntosh gets up to speed—this is the final week, I believe for his roster exemption—hopefully that gives the unit additional reinforcement.
I know people want to dump Vernon, but when healthy, he can be a difference maker (yeah, I know, he’s never healthy). I have to believe though that defensive coordinator James Bettcher is probably itching to see what a pass-rushing tandem of Vernon and Carter might bring to the field (and if he isn’t, well, I know I am).
Beal was clearly drafted to be a starter down the line and barring a set back, he will be a starting cornerback next year. I also think they’ll hang on to Collins, even though there were reports they tried to trade him.
Collins is a young leader on that team and with the defensive secondary facing a rebuild, it would be a big help if they have at least one piece from the rubble back there to serve as a cornerstone.
Special Teams: P Riley Dixon, K Aldrick Rosas, PR/KR Quadree Henderson.
At the start of the year, people were questioning the Giants’ wisdom in retaining Rosas after his poor rookie year, but here he is, part of a kickoff team that’s third int he NFL and a kicker who’s missed just one field goal all year.
Dixon also started out shaky, but he’s settled down in his role and has been steady, especially as a directional kicker. And in Henderson, I think this team finally has a return specialist it can be excited about for the first time since Dwayne Harris’ first season with the team in the return man role.
How do you build a roster? How do you decide which players are your core, cornerstone players, which are the mortar, and which are the ones who just fill out the roster?
I think for any player to be considered a cornerstone piece of the franchise, they should both be good, and going to stick around for a while. The mortar guys don't have the ceiling that the cornerstone pieces have, but they're the consistent performers who show up and make those routine plays that don't make the highlight reel, but need to be made.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR)
Saquon Barkley (RB)
Will Hernandez (OG)
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)
B.J. Hill (DT)
Olivier Vernon (EDGE)
Aldrick Rosas (K)
Zak DeOssie (LS)
There are more guys who COULD be in this category. Landon Collins, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard, chief among them. However, Collins and Shepard would need to be signed long term to make the count, and not only does Engram need to become more consistent catching the ball, Shurmur and Shula need to use him better. Rather than running constant shallow crossing routes, his speed needs to be used to attack seams and stretch the field. I am not counting Nate Solder as a building block for the team. Not only has he largely failed to be the upgrade over Ereck Flowers that he was billed to be, his cost for level of play makes him more likely to he a cap casualty as soon as is convenient.
It might seem odd to include Rosas and DeOssie, but Rosa's has become a very consistent and strong-legged kicker, and you don't just get rid of those. DeOssie remains a reliable long-snapper and core special teamer, and should be one for a while yet.
Wayne Gallman (RB)
Rhett Ellison (TE)
Kerry Wynn (DL)
Alec Ogletree (LB)
B.J Goodson (LB)
Lorenzo Carter (EDGE)
Michael Thomas (S)
As with the cornerstone pieces, there are guys who could be here, but aren't. The Giants need Tony Lippett and Sam Beal to make their way into this category, at least, but it is hard to count on them, allthings considered. New guard Jamon Brown could find his way here as well, but he needs to get on the field first. As well, I don't think it is bad to reserve judgement on him, considering he was released by a team who has been very shrewd of late. There aren't 64 starting guards in the NFL, so it is surprising that a smart team would let a young one go easily.
EDGE Lorenzo Carter could find his way into being a cornerstone piece, but he will need to continue to build on the flashes we have seen. Finally, returner Quadree Henderson could be a "Glue Guy", but he just needs more time before a judgement can be made.
Do the Giants have enough of a foundation to turn things around any time soon? Well, it is NOT encouraging that they only have one OL they cam reasonably count on and no quarterbacks. Those two positions have been notoriously hard to fill league-wide. They not only need the investment of resources, but they need smart scouting, good situations, and good coaching to prosper.
The team is well stocked at the offensive skill positions, the defensive front seven (though they still could use better linebacker play and another pass rusher) and have a solid core of special teamers. The secondary, however, is bordering on being utterly frightening, and not in a good way. Again, finding players who can play in the secondary in James Bettcher's scheme is not easy and demands resources, particularly finding a true free safety.
This is a sad question when it came to find out an answer. It also can test the different definitions between “building block players” and those who “need to be on the 2019 roster.” Does Nate Solder need to be on the 2019 roster? Yes, for multiple reasons, but he’s not a “building block.” So I’m going to keep this answer to those guys, the ones who if I were a new general manager coming in, I’d be excited about. Unfortunately, that leaves me with a pretty small list.
Offensive players: Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez, Sterling Shepard
These are pretty self explanatory. Beckham is one of the best receivers in the league and Shepard on the last year of his rookie deal is a steal for a solid No. 2. Hernandez is the one building block on the offensive line and any offseason roster management has to focus on getting more talent next to Hernandez and in front of Barkley. I come back and forth on the inclusion of Evan Engram. As used now, I wouldn’t say he’s a necessity — he’s in his second season of being among the least-efficient tight ends in the league by DVOA thanks to an infuriating amount of short crossing routes. If there’s an offer for him in the offseason, maybe see what’s out there. But if I’m sticking to my “if I’m the new GM” reasoning, I’m really excited about having someone like Engram and I’d be doing everything to make sure my staff is on the same page for figuring out the best way to use him.
Defensive players: Landon Collins, B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, Sam Beal, Lorenzo Carter
First order of business, extend Landon Collins. Worst case, get him on the franchise tag. He is a must for 2019. B.J. Hill is showing he can be an impact player on the interior and getting him next to Tomlinson could create a dominant duo at defensive tackle. Carter isn’t someone I’d peg as a star pass rusher in the making, but young edge depth is not something to throw away early. Sam Beal is someone I liked a lot before the Supplemental Draft and he has the talent superior to the third-round pick used on him, so he could have the brightest future at cornerback.
Total players: 9.5
Offensive players: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman, Evan Engram, Will Hernandez
Looking at some of the young, talented assets of this offense, there are some really intriguing pieces for the future of this franchise. The obvious core of weapons that are Barkley, Beckham, Shepard, and Engram will be what pushes this offense to the next level in the coming years. With the expected move to bring in a young — and likely dumb — rookie quarterback at some point, this arsenal will feed their development.
The offensive line needs to be completely scrapped with the exception of Hernandez. While he has not been consistent, Hernandez is a key piece for rebuilding this line.
Players like Gallman and and Coleman are not as obvious for their lack of outstanding production. Gallman can be a refreshing change of pace for Barkley over the next few seasons if they use him right. When this team turns around, the Giants could have a T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette type backfield. Coleman, on the other hand, is new to the team, and his future with the Giants is up in the air after 2018. Despite this, he is still a first round talent, and if they can tap into that potential the Giants can posses an elite receiving corps.
Defensive players: B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, Lorenzo Carter, Sam Beal, Landon Collins
There are not as many players on the defensive side of the ball to build around, but there is an abundance of potential. Hill and Tomlinson have both outplayed their draft value, and will be the reason this defense becomes elite. If the Giants are smart in the 2019 draft and take one of the many elite defensive linemen, this defense can be scary good. Additionally, Lorenzo Carter has flashed his pass rush ability.
Collins has proven himself to be a top five player at his position since his second year in the league. Moving him at the deadline could have been the worst mistake this front office could have made. Still very young, Collins can be the leader of a defense on the rise. The last—and most vital—Beal might just be the biggest addition David Gettleman made in his first year. After being taken in the supplemental draft, Beal has all of the traits to be a lock down cornerback if he stays healthy.
Special teamers: PK Aldrick Rosas, P Riley Dixon
Rosas has developed nicely in his second year, and strung together a long streak of made field goals. He has easily proven to be reliable when needed, but most importantly been able to bounce back after missing. Dixon was another move that has already paid its dividends. With plenty of years left in him, Dixon has been able to drive his punts with excellent hang time for coverage.
It is very important to point out the need to bring in a new long snapper going forward. DeOssie has had a tremendous career for the Giants, but appears to have hit the end of his days. His snap velocity is no longer what it used to be, but most importantly his athleticism has faltered. You can tell he knows he is at a disadvantage when blocking. Because he is so desperate to narrowly complete blocks, his snaps have been all over the place, even bouncing some in key moments. Even his coverage ability has diminished, which has been his strongest attribute his whole career.
Total Players: 14