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Why did the Giants add Jaylon Smith, Jarren Williams to the 53-man roster?

Both players are auditioning for future roles on the Giants’ defense

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Jarren Williams (34) prepares to make a tackle Sunday against Dallas.
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

When the New York Giants placed quarterback Daniel Jones and wide receiver Sterling Shepard on injured reserve Monday, they chose to add linebacker Jaylon Smith and cornerback Jarren Williams to the 53-man roster.

Why those two players? Head coach Joe Judge detailed what impressed him about both playters.

Jaylon Smith

The Giants are Smith’s third team this season. The Dallas Cowboys released their 2016 second-round pick after just four games. The Green Bay Packers picked him up and cut him less than a month later after he had played in only two games.

The Giants did not sign Smith until Friday. He participated in a walk-through on Saturday and was elevated to the active roster for Sunday’s game as a COVID-19 replacement.

“I thought Jaylon got in the game yesterday and obviously had about four to six hours of coaching to get him ready for the game. Had a walkthrough with the defense,” Judge said. “I really liked the way this guy responded and he’s been a pleasure to coach in the short window we’ve had. He went out there, he played fast, he’s able to go ahead and get his hat on a few people to make some plays.

Smith played 17 snaps. He made four tackles, three of them solo. In a small sample size, he had a 73.7 Pro Football Focus grade. He played with energy, which was to be expected against his former team, and showed on an open field tackle of Tony Pollard that he still has some athleticism. Reggie Ragland played only 10 snaps and had a 35.8 grade, and Benardrick McKinney played 20 with a 29.9 grade.

“Obviously, it’s very new to him in this system, but I liked the way he responded. I liked the temperament he plays with, I like the look in his eyes when you meet with him in terms of being locked in and engaged to what’s going on in the meetings,” Judge said. “He’s been a pleasure to have in the program so far. We’ll keep him involved as well and grow his role throughout this week.”

Valentine’s View: Absolutely no harm in giving Smith a full look over the final three games. There are concerns that Smith has lost some athleticism due to degeneration following his devastating 2018 Fiesta Bowl knee injury. He is, though, only 26 and likely still a better athlete than either McKinney or Ragland. When you have lost double-digit games in five straight seasons, you take help wherever you can find it. If Smith works his way into the plans for next season, great. If he doesn’t, no big deal.

Jarren Williams

We talked last week about how the Giants have been impressed by this former small school undrafted free agent signing him during 2020 training camp.

With injuries and COVID-19 leaving the Giants short-handed in the secondary, Williams was a COVID-19 roster replacement and made his first NFL start on Sunday. He held up exceptionally well.

Williams played 70 snaps and had a PFF grade of 82.0, second-highest on the defense behind Lorenzo Carter. He made five tackles, four solo, and did not miss any tackles. Williams was credited with two stops. In coverage, he surrendered three completions in five targets for only 16 yards. His passer rating against was 65.4.

“He’s a guy that was set back a little bit with injury early in the season and really kind of stunted some of his growth and development, but he’s done a good job since being back with us on making some strides and he’s done some things that have really grown within him,” Judge said. “I think he’s a guy that’s got a future that we can go ahead and keep on developing with, but I like the way Jarren works and I think there’s some upside with him as a player.”

Valentine’s View: As I have indicated, the Giants have been excited by Williams’ potential ability to help them for a while. In three games thus far, he has shown why. The Giants might have uncovered a player who can help them going forward.