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Giants’ 53-man roster projection: Final edition

How many will I get right?

NFL: New York Giants-Blue & White Scrimmage Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for our final New York Giants 53-man roster projection. Teams have to cut from 80 to 53 players on Saturday.

To be honest, I’m less confident in the projection I am about to make than in any final projection I have done in quite some time. First of all, while we know some of GM Dave Gettleman’s tendencies, rookie head coach Joe Judge is a wild-card when it comes to figuring out how he sees the 53 players he wants to work with.

There is also the fact that the Giants will likely scour the waiver wire/free agent list once other teams make their cuts. We have seen over the past few days that the Giants will aggressively churn the bottom of the roster looking for help.

So, here is my educated guess at what the roster ends up looking like.

Offense (25)

Quarterback (3)Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Cooper Rush
Out: Alex Tanney

Tanney’s hold on a roster spot finally slips away. With the expanded practice squad and loosening of restrictions on keeping experienced players there I wouldn’t be shocked if he lands there in the event of emergency.

For what it’s worth, Rush had the throw of the day in Thursday’s intra-squad scrimmage, a perfectly placed 25-yard pass to tight end Garrett Dickerson lofted just over safety Sean Chandler. Tanney? He got “sacked” on his first four plays. Never had a chance.

Running back (3)Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman
Out: Tavien Feaster, Sandro Platzgummer

The cut of Javon Leake made it pretty apparent that Wayne Gallman is making the 53-man roster.

Fullback (1)Elijhaa Penny

He is the only one on the roster, and he’s a good one. He is also a useful special teams player. I nearly left Penny off the roster, but I would be surprised to see a Jason Garrett offense without one.

Wide receiver (6)Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Corey Coleman, David Sills, Johnny Holton
Out: Alex Bachman, C.J. Board, Austin Mack, Derrick Dillon, Binjimen Victor

The Giants signed Holton to play the Cody Core role after Core, a tremendous punt gunner who really isn’t much of a wide receiver, was lost for the season to an Achilles tendon injury. That really leaves only one wide receiver spot for all of the young players who have been competing. I’m giving that spot to Sills.

Of course, Sills didn’t participate in Thursday’s scrimmage. Joe Judge would only tell us that Sills was with the training staff. If he has a significant injury, Bachman, Board or Mack could get that spot.

Tight end (3)Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo
Out: Garrett Dickerson, Eric Tomlinson

I really wanted four tight ends on this roster. I suspect the Giants will be using multiple tight ends a lot this season, maybe even three in power formations. I would like to have four on the roster. But, there is a saving grace.

Practice squad rules allow 16 players, six of whom can have unlimited NFL experience. Also, teams can activate two players from their practice squads each week, meaning they will actually carry 55 players and be allowed 48 active players on game days. I’m keeping one, or both, Tomlinson and Dickerson on the practice squad and calling one up if it’s a tight end heavy game plan.

Offensive line (9)Andrew Thomas, Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, Kevin Zeitler, Cam Fleming, Shane Lemieux, Matt Peart, Jon Halapio, Chad Slade
Out: Spencer Pulley, Kyle Murphy, Eric Smith, Tyler Haycraft

First of all, I cannot see the Giants using Halapio as their starting center and pushing Gates to the bench or out to right tackle. Not with Halapio having just shown up and the Giants having invested so much time in turning Gates into a center. I strongly believe that Halapio was signed because the Giants think he is better and more versatile than Pulley, and that Pulley will end up on the outside looking in on Saturday.

I really wanted to keep Eric Smith to give me two true interior and two true tackle reserves. After watching Smith struggle in Thursday’s scrimmage, though, I can’t do it. I’m not thrilled about keeping Slade, either, but he does have the ability to play both guard and tackle.

Defense (24)

Defensive line (5) — Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, Austin Johnson
Out: RJ McIntosh, Niko Lalos, Chris Slayton, Daylon Mack

I believe the Giants are going to primarily play a three-man front, and while you can make arguments for McIntosh and Mack I don’t see any reason to keep more than five down linemen. If the Giants want to go to a four-man front, we have seen Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines line up as a defensive end. I think Johnson stays because of his experience and his connection to defensive line coach Sean Spencer. One or both of McIntosh and Mack could land on the practice squad.

Edge (5) — Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, Kyler Fackrell, Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown
Out: Carter Coughlin

I didn’t want to drop Coughlin, I just can’t see how the Giants can keep both Coughlin and Cam Brown on the 53-man roster. I’m guessing Brown would get the last spot here, but that’s probably a 50-50 proposition.

Inside linebacker (5)Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly, Devante Downs, Tae Crowder, David Mayo [T.J. Brunson promoted once Mayo goes to IR]
Out: Josiah Tauaefa

Mayo probably winds up on IR. Rules for 2020 stipulate that teams can return an unlimited number of players from IR after three weeks. After that time a player can return to practice, beginning a 21-day window for a team to add him to the active roster. Reported estimates have put Mayo’s timetable for recovery at just a few weeks, so he is an easy IR return candidate. I chose Crowder over Brunson because, quite honestly, every time I have been in attendance Crowder has outplayed his fellow seventh-round pick. Brunson ends on the 53, anyway, because I’m giving him Mayo’s spot once the veteran linebacker goes on IR.

Cornerback (5)James Bradberry, Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, Brandon Williams, Isaac Yiadom
Out: Prince Smith, Grant Haley, Jarren Williams, KeiVarae Russell, Dravon Askew-Henry

“We’re still building corners. We’re still building that part of the back end.” That was something GM Dave Gettleman said during his Wednesday videoconference. The Giants have made their desire for upgrades obvious in recent days, adding Yiadom, Brandon Williams and Russell. Logan Ryan, too, though I am listing him as a safety. Brandon Williams is an experienced special teams player who offers some depth. Yiadom is a 2018 third-round pick who started eight games a season ago for the Denver Broncos. Russell has NFL experience and, if he is dropped from the 53, could earn practice squad consideration. Jarren Williams, an undrafted free agent out of UAlbany intrigues the Giants and could be ticketed for the practice squad.

Safety (4) — Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney [Chris Williamson promoted once McKinney goes to IR]
Out: Sean Chandler, Montre Hartage

By rule, McKinney has to make the 53-man roster before being placed on IR in order to be eligible to return at some point this season. So, he has to be part of the original 53.

Who gets the spot when McKinney is placed on IR? I thought about Hartage. He played for Patrick Graham in Miami, knows the defense and is dependable if unspectacular. I thought about Sean Chandler. I even thought about Grant Haley because he could go into the slot if needed and he tackles well enough that he might be able to learn the free safety position.

In the end, though, I’m settling on Williamson. I keep coming back to Judge talking about not filling your roster with “pacifiers,” guys who are on the roster simply because they know what to do. That would perhaps describe Hartage, I think. Judge talks about knowing where you’re going, being able to project what players will be. The Giants have been using Williamson, a collegiate cornerback, at safety. He’s been behind because of injuries early in camp, but I’m just guessing here that Williamson might be one of those projectable players Judge wants to work with.

Special teams (4)

Placekicker — Graham Gano
PunterRiley Dixon
Long-snapperCasey Kreiter
Specialist — Nate Ebner
Out: Long-snapper Carson Tinker

The signing of Tinker a couple of days ago might have raised some eyebrows. Remember, though, what Judge said Wednesday about constructing a practice squad. Due to COVID-19, some consideration needs to be given to having practice squad coverage at critical positions you might not be able to fill from within your regular roster. Long-snapper would be one of those.

Practice squad

I’m going to take a stab at this, though my guess is I will end up being way off. Here are the practice squad rules.

LS Carson Tinker
RB Tavien Feaster
TE Eric Tomlinson
TE Garrett Dickerson
OL Kyle Murphy
OL Tyler Haycraft
WR Austin Mack
WR C.J. Board
DL Daylon Mack
EDGE Carter Coughlin
LB Josiah Tauaefa
CB Jarren Williams
CB Grant Haley
S Montre Hartage
S Sean Chandler
QB Alex Tanney