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Giants’ roster bubble: Eight players who face challenges to remain on 53-man roster

Second-year quarterback Kyle Lauletta tops the list

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Kyle Lauletta
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For every NFL team in every NFL season there are a few surprise moves when it comes to finalizing a season-opening 53-man roster. The New York Giants are not an exception. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the players on the roster bubble as the Giants prepare to open training camp.

Keep in mind that I’m only considering players who were part of the roster a season ago and could lose their spots.

QB Kyle Lauletta

A year ago, Lauletta was a fourth-round pick the Giants liked enough to keep and jettison the previous year’s (and regime’s) third-round pick Davis Webb.

A year later, after he played only one quarter — plus one weird snap at wide receiver — and went 0-for-5, got himself arrested for a traffic incident while foolishly running late to practice, and watched the Giants draft Daniel Jones No. 6 overall, Lauletta finds himself desperately trying to cling to a roster spot.

To keep one, he is going to have to not only outperform Alex Tanney, but show the Giants that he learned from last season and can be relied upon to do the right things. Coming off knee surgery, Lauletta worked as the No. 4 quarterback most of the spring.

If he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, he could land on the practice squad. Of course, he would have to clear waivers first.

RB Wayne Gallman

Backing up Saquon Barkley isn’t a glorious job. It is filled with a lot of sitting, watching, waiting for a limited opportunity and then trying to make the most of it. That duty fell to Gallman a season ago, and the guess here is that Gallman has some work to do in order to keep the role, and his spot on the 53-man roster.

Gallman carried only 51 times for 176 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and caught just 14 passes a season ago. He also fumbled twice and now has five fumbles in 210 career touches, one every 42 touches. For comparison, Barkley had no fumbles in 352 touches.

Paul Perkins, who opened the 2017 season as the starting running back, returns from IR. The Giants also signed 235-pound free agent running back Rod Smith. If they keep Elijhaa Penny as a fullback there won’t be room for Gallman, Perkins and Smith.

TEs Rhett Ellison & Scott Simonson

The excellent spring enjoyed by undrafted free agent C.J. Conrad, a player compared by his college position coach to future Hall of Famer Jason Witten, calls into question how secure the roster spots of Ellison and Simonson might be entering training camp.

If Conrad is as good in training camp and the preseason as he was during offseason practices, perhaps one of these veterans could end up on the outside looking in.

Putting Ellison on this list might raise some eyebrows. Simonson is a journeyman who made nine of his 10 career catches a season ago. He doesn’t have Ellison’s resume or experience, but he does carry a similar skill set. He is an inline blocking tight end who can be functional an an underneath safety valve type receiver.

The difference is that Ellison carries a $5.75 million cap hit this season and a $6.25 million cap hit next season. The Giants could save $4.5 million against this year’s cap by cutting him.

Simonson is playing on a one-year, $895,000 contract.

WRs Russell Shepard & Bennie Fowler

The Giants may not have a superstar at the position, but they would appear to have more roster-worthy wide receivers than they can possibly keep. That puts these two veteran players, both of whom were useful players for the Giants a season ago, on the bubble.

Shepard, a 28-year-old entering his seventh season, was of minimal value to the offense a season ago. He had 10 catches in 19 targets for 188 yards, and now has 57 receptions in six NFL seasons. His real value is on special teams, where he has excelled throughout his career.

Fowler, a midseason pickup, caught 16 passes in 10 games (five starts). He ended up playing 369 offensive snaps, double the number Shepard played. In the season’s final three games, Fowler was targeted 11 times with six catches for 90 yards (15.0 yards per catch).

Fowler had 29 catches for the Denver Broncos in 2017 and has 72 receptions (six for touchdowns) in five NFL seasons.

With fifth-round pick Darius Slayton a lock for a roster spot, and undrafted free agents Alex Wesley and Reggie White Jr. competing to make the team, one or both of these veterans could be in trouble.

CBs Antonio Hamilton & Tony Lippett

Will there be room for one or both of these experienced cornerbacks among all of the diaper dandies the Giants have collected at the position?

Lippett would seem to be the most vulnerable. A 13-game starter for the Miami Dolphins in 2016, he missed all of 2017 with a torn Achilles tendon, and appeared in just three games for the Giants a season ago, totaling just 24 defensive and 11 special teams snaps.

Complicating Lippett’s chances, he played in Miami for defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo, who was in that role with the Giants a year ago. Anarumo is now defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamilton’s situation is different. The 26-year-old appeared in 13 games for the, but did not play a single snap on defense. He played 236 special teams snaps, fifth on the roster. He had six tackles, third among special teamers, and was excellent as a gunner on the punt team.

Since Dave Gettleman became GM the Giants have emphasized finding quality special teams players. It follows that if they can find roster space for Hamilton they will.