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Giants’ position-by-position breakdown: Assessing the 90-man roster as cuts loom

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Let’s see where the toughest, most interesting decisions need to be made

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

I have been doing regular 53-man roster projections for the New York Giants dating back to the spring. One has been posted after each of the first two preseason games. I’m not posting another until Friday.

That is one day after the final preseason game next Thursday vs. the New England Patriots, and one day before the Giants have to set their initial 53-man roster.

Instead, let’s go position-by-position, summarize the roster, the position battles that are ongoing and the decisions the Giants may need to make.

Quarterback

On 90-man roster: Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta, Alex Tanney

Two quarterbacks or three on the 53-man roster? If it’s three, do they keep Alex Tanney and expose Kyle Lauletta to waivers in hopes of getting him to the practice squad?

The decision on how many quarterbacks to keep may end up having more to do with what the organizations feels the needs are across the rest of the roster than anything to do with the quarterbacks themselves.

“We’ll have to see how we do that. The rest of the roster is dependent on that as well,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I’ve said it all along, I’d keep four (quarterbacks). I’d keep five if the roster would allow for it, because I think quarterback development in our league is primary. You can only develop by playing and practicing. I’m fond of having lots of quarterbacks around. That’s just my feeling. But we’ll just have to see how it plays out when we get to the final 53 (man roster).”

Running back

On 90-man roster: Saquon Barkley, Elijhaa Penny, Wayne Gallman, Rod Smith, Paul Perkins, Jon Hilliman

The Giants can go a lot of ways here. Keep a fullback? Don’t keep a fullback? I think Elijhaa Penny stays. That probably leaves four players for two spots. Slide rookie Jon Hilliman (22 carries, 70 yards, 3.2 yards per carry in the preseason) to the practice squad and you are looking at three veteran players for two spots.

There are pros and cons to keeping each of Wayne Gallman, Rod Smith and Paul Perkins. I just wonder if a coaching staff that really didn’t know him has developed enough trust in Perkins to keep him around. I have my doubts, especially after a fumble and a drop in the preseason opener. Smith has special teams value, which helps his case.

Considering that as long as Barkley is healthy no backup is going to get a heavy workload, the Giants are probably OK no matter how they decide to do this.

Tight end

On 90-man roster: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson, Garrett Dickerson, C.J. Conrad, Jake Powell

I’m figuring the Giants keep four tight ends, and that means Simonson, Dickerson and Conrad are competing for two spots. The more I have thought about Conrad’s sparse playing time against the Cincinnati Bengals the more I think that was because the Giants have seen what they need to see and the undrafted free agent from Kentucky is making the roster.

That leaves a choice between Simonson and Dickerson. If the Giants want the known commodity they will choose Simonson. He is really, though, just a guy. If they want to take a chance on Dickerson’s upside, Simonson could be in jeopardy.

Offensive line

On 90-man roster: Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Kevin Zeitler, Mike Remmers, Spencer Pulley, Evan Brown, Chad Wheeler, Brian Mihalik, George Asafo-Adjei, Chad Slade, Nick Gates, Malcolm Bunche, James O’Hagan, Paul Adams

The starting offensive line has looked, for the most part, solid in pass protection. Run-blocking? Some good, some bad throughout preseason.

At this point I believe Pulley, Slade and Gates have earned backup spots. I wouldn’t be surprised if a backup tackle currently with another team finds his way to the Giants before Week 1.

Wide receiver

On 90-man roster: Golden Tate (suspended), Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, Darius Slayton, T.J. Jones, Reggie White Jr., Alex Wesley, Alonzo Russell

Shurmur said the other day that roster cuts from 90 to 53 players would be “much tougher” for him this year than last. Nowhere on the roster will that be more true than at wide receiver. Even with Golden Tate serving a four-game suspension, you can make an argument that the Giants have nine roster-worthy receivers right now.

For me, who earns the wide receiver roster spots will be fascinating.

Defensive line

On 90-man roster: Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, RJ McIntosh, Olsen Pierre, Chris Slayton, John Jenkins, Freedom Akinmoladun, Jake Ceresna, Terrence Fede

It was nice to see Lawrence make a couple of plays vs. the Bengals. As far as the 53-man roster, the only decision I see is between rookie seventh-round pick Chris Slayton and veteran nose tackle John Jenkins. I’m wondering if the Giants like Jenkins more than I’ve thought.

Edge

On 90-man roster: Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, Kareem Martin, Avery Moss, Keion Adams

If the Giants keep four, which I think they will, then Martin is likely the fourth guy. I just don’t think they can go with only three.

Linebacker

Alec Ogletree, Tae Davis, Ryan Connelly, Nate Stupar, B.J. Goodson, Jonathan Anderson, Josiah Tauaefa, Joey Alfieri

The Giants seem determined to start Davis next to Ogletree. I think Connelly eventually takes that spot away from Davis. The backups are anyone’s guess.

Stupar is a valued special teamer, but he’s a liability on defense. His 0-for-4 trying to tackle the other night was embarrassing. Goodson is a better defender than Stupar, but doesn’t seem to be a guy this coaching staff values. Tauaefa? Anderson? I really don’t know.

Cornerback

On 90-man roster: Janoris Jenkins, DeAndre Baker, Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, Antonio Hamilton, Sam Beal, Ronald Zamort, Henre’ Toliver, Terrell Sinkfield

The biggest decision here will be what to do with Beal, the 2018 Supplemental Draft selection who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury. He has missed nearly all of training camp with hamstring and groin injuries.

“I’m not going back on IR,” Beal said. “I’m not. I’ll be killed before I go back there.”

That, of course, is not up to Beal. At the beginning of camp he looked like the No. 3 outside corner. Now? The Giants haven’t seem him in full practice or a game in more than three weeks. How do they know what they are getting if they put him on the roster?

Shurmur would like to see Beal play Thursday night vs. the New England Patriots, but Beal may not be ready for that.

“I’d like to see them all play,” Shurmur said. “We’ll just have to see where he’s at. It would be good for him to play if he’s healthy enough. But we don’t want to put him out there too soon.”

Safety

On 90-man roster: Jabrill Peppers, Antoine Bethea, Michael Thomas, Julian Love, Sean Chandler, Kenny Ladler, Tenny Adewusi

One of the best things that has happened for the Giants throughout the spring and summer is the revelation that Love, drafted in the fourth round as a cornerback, can play free safety.

To get Sean Chandler or Kenny Ladler on the 53-man roster, the Giants will have to steal a spot from elsewhere.

Special teams

PK: Aldrick Rosas
LS: Zak DeOssie, Taybor Pepper
P: Riley Dixon, Johnny Townsend

By claiming Townsend off waivers from the Oakland Raiders the Giants made it fairly apparent they had not been thrilled with Dixon’s work throughout the spring and summer. Are they serious about replacing Dixon with Townsend? I doubt it. Are they serious about replacing Dixon with someone? Perhaps.

I’d venture a guess that Dixon remains a heavy favorite to open the season with the Giants. What happens at final cuts with the other 31 teams might, however, change that.