As we count down to the start of training camp, here is a look at seven players who were on last year’s New York Giants roster, but whose place on this year’s roster is far from being guaranteed.
TE Jerell Adams
When a young player experiences a drop in his playing snaps from season to season despite being healthy, that’s not a positive sign.
Such is the case of tight end Jerell Adams, the team’s sixth-round draft pick in 2016, who saw his snaps in the offense drop from 204 in 2016 to 173 last year.
While the difference of 31 snaps doesn't seem like a big deal, when you consider that the Giants needed all hands on deck following the Week 5 wipe out of the wide receivers, an event that bolstered the tight ends’ role in the offense, that’s not a good sign for the second-year player.
It’s also not a good sign that the Giants currently have eight tight ends on their 90-man roster, a number that clearly suggests that beyond Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison, spots are up for grabs.
Can Adams, who last year caught eight out of 11 pass targets for 92 yards, survive the cut?
If he does, he’s going to need to show that he can put his 6-5, 254-pound frame to good use as a run blocker, an area last year in which he showed some flashes, but not enough to necessarily guarantee him a spot on this year’s roster.
WR Roger Lewis
One player from last year’s roster who didn’t receive many, if any, first-team reps in the spring is receiver Roger Lewis.
Lewis has been blessed with wonderful straight-ahead speed, but his inconsistent performances in his first two seasons have been maddening.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Giants quarterbacks had a 48.8 passer rating when they targeted Lewis, a team low for wide receivers targeted on at least 25 percent of the passing game snaps.
Lewis also led the Giants receivers in pass targets that ended up as interceptions (5) and it wasn’t even close.
While Lewis has been a solid special teams contributor, if he’s to justify holding onto a roster spot this year, he is going to need to be more consistent in the passing game to where he boosts his 47.8 percent career reception rate.
It would also behoove him to boost his yards after the catch—in two seasons, just 80 of his 513 receiving yards came after the catch which would suggest he’s not doing as good of a job separating.
LB Calvin Munson
The Giants made over most of their linebacker unit in the offseason, partially a result of the unit under-performing last year and partially due to the change to a 3-4 base under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
Barring injury, the starters will be Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin on the outside and B.J. Goodson and Alec Ogletree on the inside.
The depth behind the projected starters is where it gets a little tricky. Third-round draft pick Lorenzo Carter figures to rotate into the mix on the outside after showing intrigue and ability in the spring.
The inside linebacker depth should end up consisting of a battle between long-time veteran Mark Herzlich, Ray-Ray Armstrong, and Calvin Munson.
Herzlich and Armstrong appear to have the edge for roster spots given their abilities to play both inside and outside linebackers plus their contributions on special teams.
Munson, meanwhile, not only had his share of struggles as a rookie, especially in coverage, he also didn’t stand out on special teams last year, recording two tackles while missing two others.
That’s not to say that Munson won’t come back in Year 2 much improved. However, if the Giants prefer experience and versatility as well as guys who can contribute on special teams, it looks as though Munson might be one of the odd men out barring a significant jump in his performance from last year.
TE/FB Shane Smith
Shane Smith’s NFL journey with the Giants thus far has been, shall we say, odd.
Smith was initially listed as a fullback coming out of college, yet the Giants have always listed him as a tight end.
However, according to Pro Football Focus, Smith’s 51 total snaps played last year saw him take zero snaps from the tight end spot.
Thus raises the question about where the 6-1, 241-pound Smith, who spent part of last year on the practice squad, fits into the current offense.
The Giants, remember, signed Rhett Ellison last offseason, a player who can serve as both a fullback and an in-line tight end.
Ellison figures to be asked to deliver the goods on most of the heavy lifting in the run game as he’s clearly well suited to handle defensive ends plus he can run a pattern and come down with the ball if asked.
Smith? To be fair, he didn’t get any rushing or receiving opportunities last year so it’s probably too soon to question whether he is capable of doing one or both.
However, with the Giants having added a lot of tight ends for the summer such as Kyle Carter (who was with Shurmur in Minnesota last year), and with Ellison able to do both roles, carrying Smith might be a luxury for the Giants who may or may not be able to afford it, depending on their injury situation.
OL John Jerry
It’s probably not a good sign when the new general manager comes in and chops the final year of your contract off the team’s books. It’s also probably not a good sign when, after starting for the team since 2014, you don’t earn any first-team reps from the new coaching staff during the spring.
Welcome to offensive lineman John Jerry’s world, where both scenarios happened. In what is a sure sign that the team plans to move on from Jerry sooner than later, Gettleman lopped off the final year of Jerry’s contract (2019) in which he was due to count for a $4.125 million cap hit.
The result is that Jerry’s remaining prorated signing bonus of $800K accelerated into the 2018 cap. If he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, the team will save $1.075 million on his $3.6 million cap hit, according to Over the Cap.
The other factor is the Giants have improved their depth at guard. They resigned John Greco for the veteran minimum and one of Jon Halapio or Brett Jones, both of whom are competing for the starting center job, will end up as a reserve guard behind projected starters Will Hernandez and Patrick Omameh.
All of these factors, combined with pedestrian play from Jerry as a starter, have the 31-year-old offensive lineman on the bubble.
DT Robert Thomas
One of the Giants offseason goals this year was to build a bigger and better defensive front.
To do that, they added a pair of draft picks in B.J. Hill and R.J. McIntosh, as well as veteran A.J. Francis, formerly with Washington.
The question is whether Robert Thomas, who checks in at 6-1 and 331 pounds, will be a part of that bigger and better defensive front.
Thomas, who was waived by general manager Dave Gettleman when the two were in Carolina, saw a career-high 236 defensive snaps last season as part of a rotation with now former defensive tackle Jay Bromley.
Thomas finished with four quarterback pressures and 16 tackles (five solo). with two missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus—not exactly inspiring numbers given the uptick in opportunities.
Interestingly, Thomas saw some late-season snaps—seven to be exact—on the offensive side of the ball as a fullback. While that’s not enough of a sample size to determine if Thomas has a future as a fullback, that move appears to now be retired with the arrival of the new coaching staff.
While there is no official depth chart established just yet, it spoke volumes that Francis, the veteran, received the first-team snaps at nose tackle when Damon Harrison wasn’t present.
The bottom line is that barring a rash of injuries at the position, it seems as though Thomas has an uphill battle to snag a spot on the 53-man roster this year.
S Darian Thompson
If we’ve learned nothing else about the new management regime, it’s that just because the previous regime invested a draft pick in you doesn’t mean you’re a lock for a roster spot.
Such is the case for safety Darian Thompson, the Giants third-round pick in 2016 who has unfortunately been snake-bit over his career.
Thompson, who came to the Giants with a reputation as being a ball hawk, never got a chance to live up to that thanks to a foot ailment that ended his rookie season early.
In Thompson’s second season, the “competition” between Thompson and Andrew Adams, the man who had filled in for Thompson in 2016, was short-lived, with Thompson being returned to his starting free-safety role almost instantly.
However, Thompson’s performance didn’t measure up. According to Pro Football Focus, Thompson not only led the Giants defenders in missed tackles with 13, he only managed to come up with one interception and three passes defensed—hardly numbers one might expect from a college ball hawk.
While it’s certainly fair to wonder if perhaps Thompson’s surgically repaired foot wasn’t 100 percent last year (a factor that would have contributed to him looking like he was a step too late in coverage), the fact remains that Thompson—who by the way spent the mandatory minicamp sidelined with an undisclosed injury—is not a lock to regain his starting job this year.
With the Giants having added some veterans to the position like Curtis Riley, who received a lot of first-team reps in the spring, and Michael Thomas, who also brings value on special teams, Thompson’s hold on a roster spot doesn’t appear to be a lock either.