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Is New York Giants’ roster really better than when Dave Gettleman became GM?

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Let’s go position-by-position and compare

NFL: New York Giants at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

I have said a number of times in recent weeks that my belief is that the current New York Giants roster has improved while the play on the field has not followed suit. That the 2-8 Giants are, while not a complete team, under-performing their talent level.

Is that really the case? Has GM Dave Gettleman really upgraded the roster over the past two seasons? Let’s go position-by-position and find out. What we will do is compare the most common roster from 2017, the group Jerry Reese left the Giants with, and what they have now in 2019.

Quarterback

2017: Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb
2019: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney

The presence of Jones, the current starter and clear quarterback of the future, makes this a no-brainer. If we were talking about the Manning of his prime, that’s a different story. But, we aren’t.

EDGE: 2019

Running back

2017: Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Shane Smith
2019: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Elijhaa Penny

Barkley, even the limited one we have seen this season, again makes this an easy choice. Penny is also a more versatile player than Smith, making that an upgrade as well.

EDGE: 2019

Tight end

2017: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams
2019: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Kaden Smith

We could get into the nuance of whether Engram is a better player in 2019 than 2017 (he is), but I’m not going to split hairs here. It’s the same group, and until we learn more about Smith there isn’t a judgment to make.

EDGE: Even

Wide receiver

2017: Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Roger Lewis Jr., Dwayne Harris, Tavarres King
2019: Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Cody Core

As you will recall, the 2017 group was decimated by injuries that cost Beckham, Marshall and Harris more than half the season. To be fair, let’s assess the group Reese intended to have and not what the Giants ended up with by season’s end. Marshall was a bad signing by Reese, but his injury was still problematic. Shepard played only 11 games that year, and is going to play far less than that this season.

I do believe the Giants did the right thing under the circumstances by moving on from Beckham, but when we’re purely assessing the talent on the roster his presence on the 2017 team makes this one a no-brainer.

EDGE: 2017

Offensive line

2017: Ereck Flowers (LT), Justin Pugh (LG), Weston Richburg (C), John Jerry (RG), Bobby Hart (RT); Other players of note: D.J. Fluker, Brett Jones, John Greco
2019: Nate Solder (LT), Will Hernandez (LG), Jon Halapio (C), Kevin Zeitler (RG), Mike Remmers (RT); Other players of note: Spencer Pulley, Nick Gates

The 2017 group was a mess. Recall that Hart began the year as the starter, quickly played his way to the bench and was then the first casualty of the Gettleman rebuild — jettisoned before the season finale. Pugh ended up at right tackle, Fluker started a half-dozen games before landing on IR, and Jones ended up starting 13 games at center.

The 2019 group was together for all but one snap prior to Sunday’s debacle. As disappointing as Sunday was, and with the admission that the 2019 group isn’t great and has probably not met expectations, in my view it’s better at every position except center.

EDGE: 2019

Defensive line

2017: Jay Bromley, Damon Harrison, Avery Moss, Romeo Okwara, Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Thomas, Olivier Vernon, Dalvin Tomlinson, Kerry Wynn
2019: Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, Leonard Williams, Markus Golden, R.J. McIntosh

This is tricky because the Giants have transitioned from the base 4-3 to more of a 3-4 or hybrid front.

Vernon, Harrison and Pierre-Paul were a more accomplished, bigger name group than what the Giants have now. Tomlinson was the fourth starter. Wynn was always a good depth player. Though neither had great seasons, Vernon and JPP combined for 15 sacks. Harrison had his typical excellent run-stuffing season for which he got nothing in terms of post-season honors.

The current group of Lawrence, Tomlinson, Hill and Williams has terrific potential and the Giants have played the run pretty well most of the season, and while Lawrence looks like a terrific player we haven’t seen what was hoped for from the group as a whole. I included Golden as a defensive lineman because he seems to spend more time as a defensive end than as a stand-up outside linebacker. He’s having an excellent season.

EDGE: Even
By name recognition, I would give it to the 2017 group. By potential, 2019. They are different lines with different responsibilities based on scheme, so production is difficult to judge. I called it even because I can’t make a clear and obvious call.

Linebacker

2017: B.J. Goodson, Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, Kelvin Sheppard, Calvin Munson, Keenan Robinson
2019: Alec Ogletree, Lorenzo Carter, Ryan Connelly, David Mayo, Deone Buccanon, Oshane Ximines

What a mess! For both groups.

In 2017, Goodson, Casillas and Robinson ended the year on IR. Mark Herzlich spent the whole year there and never played again. This year, the Giants had Tae Davis as a Week 1 starter, benched him, then cut him. Connelly showed promise, then wrecked his knee and landed on IR. Ogletree is below average. Carter is fine, Mayo plays hard and is a pretty good run defender and Ximines has potential. I’m going to side with the 2019 group simply because it has some potential and seems like a bit more than a collection of bodies thrown together to fill the position.

EDGE: 2019

Cornerback

2017: Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, Ross Cockrell, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
2019: Janoris Jenkins, DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Grant Haley, Sam Beal

Oh, man. How to judge this position?

Jackrabbit is Jackrabbit. He didn’t play incredibly well in 2017, and he isn’t playing incredibly well this year. He made business decisions in both seasons. At least this year he has shown up every day and not gotten suspended. Of course, we are in the bye week so all bets are off.

Baker and Apple? At least Baker is giving effort and not going to the media to complain about his coach and his circumstances. Cockrell and DRC were veterans who had decent years, but DRC also served a suspension that year. I’m giving the edge to the 2019 roster for the simple reason that there is real potential for future growth.

EDGE: 2019

Safety

2017: Landon Collins, Darian Thompson, Andrew Adams
2019: Jabrill Peppers, Antoine Bethea, Michael Thomas, Julian Love

2017 was a Pro Bowl season for Collins, his second straight. He has never matched his All-Pro 2016 season, but he was really good. Peppers is good, but he isn’t playing at 2016-17 Collins level.

Thompson and Bethea? Please. Someday the Giants will find a quality free safety.

I’ll take Thomas over Adams. He’s a good player, though not a guy you want playing every down, terrific special teams player, and a locker room leader.

EDGE: Even

Special teams

2017: Zak DeOssie (LS), Aldrick Rosas (PK), Brad Wing (P), Dwayne Harris/Shane Vereen/Kalif Raymond (kick and punt returns)
2019: DeOssie (LS), Rosas (PK), Riley Dixon (P), Tate/Ballentine/Latimer (kick and punt returns)

Rosas was a mess in 2017 and Wing punted his way out of the league. Even the struggling 2019 Rosas is better than the 2017 version, and Dixon is having a terrific year. With excellent gunners like Antonio Hamilton and Cody Core, along with a quality special teamer like Thomas, the coverage units are excellent on the current team.

Neither team could solve its return issues, though Harris was always a good returner and both Latimer and Ballentine have had moments returning kickoffs this season.

EDGE: 2019

So, what’s the total?

By my scorecard, that’s five positions for the 2019 team, one for 2017 and four that I graded as even.

In all honesty, I feel much better about the 2019 roster that Gettleman has constructed than the one Reese left him with. There is a quarterback of the future if the Giants develop Jones properly, and a young core to go forward with. Neither of those things were present when he walked in the door.