The New York Giants roster was just infused with six new draft picks, as well as a few undrafted free agents. Additions to a team ultimately lead to subtractions from the previous squad. By the time the season starts, the Giants have to trim their 90-man roster to 53 active players.
The Giants added a wide receiver, two corners, two EDGE rushers, and a running back in the draft. Players that were on the field for significant snaps, on both the offense and defense, may be in trouble. Let’s see what players may be on the roster bubble heading into the 2021 training camp.
Isaac Yiadom, CB
Big Blue added Aaron Robinson and Rodairus Williams in the draft, and both players have significant experience playing press man coverage. New York was more of a zone-based, middle of the field closed, defense last year in part because the second cornerback position was a liability.
Defenses that run more man coverage can’t have a hole in the secondary - they’ll get targeted and picked on. Yiadom isn’t a man coverage cornerback. His transitions are marginal and he’s not great when he has to move laterally. He is a solid zone defender who uses his eyes well to read route combinations, and is good in run support.
Yiadom played 634 defensive snaps for New York last year and Pro Football Focus had him surrendering a team high six touchdowns. I ultimately think he may be the last roster spot in the secondary heading into Week 1, but it’s no sure thing. The postseason pay cut helped his odds; he was slated to earn $2.15 million (non-guaranteed), but he agreed to a pay cut down to $1.07 million with $100K guaranteed.
The Giants carried 10 secondary players into Week 1 last season. Say they do the same this year, it looks like: James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Logan Ryan, Julian Love, and then two spots that would be up for grabs between Yiadom, Williams, Sam Beal, Montre Hartage, Madre Harper, Quincy Wilson, and some other camp bodies. I think Yiadom may be safe, but I’m not as certain about the next player in the same position group.
Sam Beal, CB
In the 2018 supplemental draft, a draft that rarely nets a third-round selection, Dave Gettleman spent a future three on Beal - a very light press man cornerback out of Western Michigan.
Context is important; former Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher needed corners who could play man coverage and align in press - Beal fit the criteria. Gettleman failed to invest in the position group with his six selections after taking over a roster that was barren at several positions. Outside of Janoris Jenkins, Bettcher didn’t have much to work with, so Gettleman turned to the supplemental draft to add Beal.
Beal was injured his entire rookie season, was dinged up in 2019, then opted out of 2020. He’s virtually done nothing since arriving in New York, and he may have an uphill climb to crack this roster. Furthermore, he’s sub-180 pounds. Coming out of school, he was an aggressive tackler which will appeal to this coaching staff.
Unfortunate circumstances, and the opt-out, have led to Beal heading into his fourth season with only 289 defensive snaps played in the NFL. His college profile translates well to what Graham may want to do, but Beal will have to shine in camp and really prove himself to earn a roster spot over Williams or Yiadom.
Devante Downs, LB
The Giants experience at inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez when Tae Crowder was injured was less than desirable, to put it mildly. Downs played 233 snaps for the Giants defense and it was just not effective most of the time; David Mayo, who was recently released from the team, played 194 snaps - also, was ineffective.
Downs’ tender was not exercised by New York and the 25-year-old was briefly a free agent before the Giants decided to bring him back into the fold to compete for one of the last roster spots on this defense. He did play 251 special teams snaps which may lead to him making this roster in 2021.
The Giants value linebackers who also have EDGE tendencies and Downs is not one of them. The team will likely dress Martinez, Crowder, Reggie Ragland (who Downs could theoretically out-compete in training camp), and then one more traditional linebacker. The battle will come down to Downs and 2020 seventh-round pick T.J. Brunson. In order to really separate himself, Downs needs to try and become a special teams leader. Nevertheless, he’s on the bubble until he can prove that.
R.J. McIntosh, DL
The Giants lost Dalvin Tomlinson to free agency, brought back Austin Johnson, and signed Danny Shelton. McIntosh’s skill-set is far from Tomlinson’s, who is more of a two-gapping run stuffer (one of the best in the league). McIntosh is a long penetration style defensive lineman with quick hands.
He’s been on the roster since Dave Gettleman’s first draft as general manager, but has done little. McIntosh has dealt with injuries. Also, in his rookie season, McIntosh dealt with an illness that kept him out until the end of the season. He reportedly lost a lot of weight. We haven’t seen him on the field since Pat Shurmur was the coach in 2019 - he’s been buried on the depth chart and dinged up.
McIntosh’s spot on the roster is far from secure with players like Niko Lalos, Breeland Speaks, David Moa, and undrafted 2021 rookie Raymond Johnson III eyeing to secure possibly two spots. McIntosh has his size/length as an upfield penetration type of rusher to rely on (yet, we haven’t seen that in some time), but I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s released if these other players shine in camp.
C.J. Board, WR
Board suffered a concussion and a sprained neck against Washington in Week 6, yet found his way back onto the field after missing three games. Board played 12 games for the Giants with 169 offensive snaps played (with only 34 coming after his injury). Board played 79 total special teams snaps. His main value comes on kick and punt coverage.
Cody Core was in this role before suffering a season ending injury last year - we know the value Joe Judge puts on special teams gunners and special teams coverage units. Board does a very solid job avoiding outside blocking and sifting to his landmarks as a gunner. This may lead to him receiving the last roster spot at the wide receiver position, but it’s not certain.
David Sills was placed on the I.R. at the start of the season last year and he can potentially steal this special teams/wide receiver spot from Board. Austin Mack wasn’t on punt coverage and was rarely on kick coverage, so Board may have an inside track on Mack. Board was briefly a free agent this offseason and the Giants brought him back into the fold which is a good sign for his place on this roster.
Austin Mack, WR
I really like what the undrafted Ohio State receiver was able to do down the stretch of the season. Mack played 192 offensive snaps in 2020. He stole offensive snaps away from Board when Board returned from his injury. However, the lack of special teams appeal could doom Mack. The Giants added a star contested catch receiver in Kenny Golladay, a speedster in John Ross (who isn’t a lock to make the roster), and a uniquely skilled offensive weapon in Kadarius Toney. They also retained Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Dante Pettis (who may be released as well). I think Mack is primed for the practice squad in 2021, due to the additions and the lack of special teams value.