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Giants vs. Patriots: Defensive players on the roster bubble

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Still many decisions to be made on defensive side of the ball

NFL: New York Giants at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As the preseason heads into the final game, roster spots more than starting jobs are up for grabs. The mid-preseason roster cutdown to 75 is long gone, so on Saturday — two days after the preseason finale — teams will make their cuts down to a 53-man roster.

Let’s look at a few New York Giants who will be playing for a roster spot Thursday night against the New England Patriots.

Avery Moss, EDGE

Cutting ties with a player after just one season would typically be a little drastic, especially when there were impressive flashes during his rookie season. But there haven’t been many players impacted more in the switch to a 3-4 base defense than Moss. While at edge rusher there’s not much difference in a 3-4 and 4-3 than whether or not the player is standing up or has his hand in the dirt, but Moss hasn’t been able to make much of an impact with a switch to linebacker. The quality of depth at the edge could be argued, but there’s a quantity at the moment. Moss finds himself behind Olivier Vernon, Kareem Martin, Connor Barwin, Lorenzo Carter, and Romeo Okwara. The 2017 fifth-round pick has four tackles, one for a loss, this preseason. He might be better off catching on with a team that could use him as a more traditional defensive end.

A.J. Francis, DT

Francis stood out — both on and off the field — early in training camp, but that hasn’t translated to preseason games. The Giants have stated their desire to have the ability to have a deep rotation along the defensive line, but that still might not leave room for two backups behind Damon Harrison. Other players in the backup interior battle such as Robert Thomas, Kerry Wynn, and Josh Mauro have all flashed more during the games. Francis saw just 13 snaps against the New York Jets in the third preseason game, the fewest among the defensive line.

All of the cornerbacks except Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple

We’ve talked about the cornerback competition in every preview this preseason. It’s kind of clearer — B.W. Webb does appear to be the favorite as the slot corner — but there’s still questions about who will fill out the depth chart. Donte Deayon returned to the lineup and played nearly half the game against the Jets. Chris Lewis-Harris was close behind in snaps. Leonard Johnson, who leads the team with three passes defensed this preseason, has also seen significant playing time since he was brought in earlier in August. The most interesting case might belong to undrafted free agent Grant Haley. The Giants spent a significant amount of their UDFA bonus money on Haley and he played the most snaps of any player in the second preseason game, but saw the field for just seven snaps against the Jets. Haley could easily make the roster — I think he’s been the most impressive of the group behind Webb — but the Giants could also try to slip him through waivers and on to the practice squad, which could lead to quite a bit of risk hoping he doesn’t get claimed.

The safeties, too

Curtis Riley has emerged as the favorite to start at free safety, but there’s little clarity after that. Every other player could potentially see time as a third safety on the field or just as easily be playing for another team in 2018. How the team feels about Darian Thompson could shape how the rest of the depth chart pans out. Thompson came into camp as the favorite for free safety, started against the Cleveland Browns, but injured himself early in the game and hasn’t played since. If the Giants still think highly enough of Thompson he would take a roster spot, but if the Giants like what they’ve seen from some other players. Thompson could surprising be on the outside looking in.

Andrew Adams appears to be the steady backup, who could fill in either spot should his services be needed. William Gay has battled injury and switched to more time at safety after it appeared he was losing come ground in the slot corner battle. A move to safety for an older defensive back is typically a sign of losing a step or two, which isn’t great news for Gay. Michael Thomas is likely guaranteed a roster spot on his special teams impact alone, regardless of how much he adds as safety depth.