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Giants preseason Week 2 53-man roster projection

Who’s in, who’s out in our latest prediction?

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Roster shuffling, injuries, and performance over the past week have all changed the potential 53-man roster for the New York Giants. Here is my latest educated guess on what the initial 53 will look like.

Offense

Quarterbacks (2)

Current roster: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, Brian Lewerke

In: Jones, Glennon
Out: Lewerke (PS)

Lewerke replaces Clayton Thorson. And before you ask, I don’t see the Giants making a play for Josh Rosen.

Running back (3)

Current roster: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, Gary Brightwell, Sandro Platzgummer

In: Barkley, Booker, Clement
Out: Brightwell (PS), Platzgummer (PS)

I was, to be honest, caught off guard by the cut of Alfred Morris. Why did the Giants bring him back during training camp if they were going to jettison him in the first round of cuts? I thought about adding Brightwell to the 53-man roster, but I think the Giants can use Elijhaa Penny as an additional running back.

Read the fullback section for more thoughts on this.

Before getting to that, though, I asked offensive coordinator Jason Garrett recently why the Giants are so high on Booker, the veteran who is replacing Wayne Gallman as Saquon Barkley’s primary backup.

“We think he’s a good player,” Garrett said. “When he’s gotten opportunities as a runner, as a pass receiver, as a protector during his career he’s done a good job ... He’s just one of those guys you want to see play, and we’re comfortable putting him in any situation right now.”

Fullback (1)

Current roster: Elijhaa Penny, Cullen Gillaspia

In (1): Penny
Out: Gillaspia

Here is an off-the-wall possibility. What if the Giants keep two fullbacks? Yes, two fullbacks! I don’t think they will in the end, but GM Dave Gettleman did remind everyone this week that special teams are “near and dear to Joe’s (Judge’s) heart.” Penny and Gillaspia are both excellent special teams players.

Under Pat Shurmur, the Giants occasionally used Penny at tailback. Last year, they handed him the ball on occasion from the fullback alignment. Saturday, after Corey Clement fumbled against the New York Jets, Penny took a series as the lone running back. Would they, could they keep both fullbacks and use Penny as the extra back?

“Those guys are football players regardless of position and they’re two really good football players,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said of Penny and Gillaspia. “They provide good team value and depth, but they’re football players first. That’s how we see them and they’re doing a heck of a job, both of them.”

Tight end (4)

Current roster: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Rysen John, Cole Hikutini, Jake Hausmann

In: Engram, Rudolph, Smith, Hikutini
Out: Griffin-Stewart, John (PS), Hausmann

I’m adding Hikutini here. The health of Kyle Rudolph is in question right now. He still isn’t practicing. He isn’t even dressing for practice and working with trainers. He is just standing on the sideline watching. I’m not sure the Giants can count on him to open the season.

Why Hikutini over John? Blocking. Hikutini offers some versatility, meaning he can play inline, do some of the blocking work and catch an occasional pass. John is a pure receiver, more of a flex tight end. He’s probably not Tim Tebow-level bad as a blocker, but I’m not trusting him to clear holes for running backs right now. Hikutini’s skill set is closer to Rudolph’s.

Here is what Garrett said about John after Saturday’s preseason game vs. the Jets:

“He’s learning to play the tight end position and all the things that are involved with it. It’s a complicated position. You gotta be able to run block and pass protect and run routes at all different levels. We ask our tight ends to do a lot and he’s most natural doing the stuff that relate to receiving and we saw that the other night. He just has to grow in the other areas.”

One note: Hikutini suffered an injury of unknown severity on Thursday during practice against the Cleveland Browns. That could change things.

Wide receiver (7)

Current roster: Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Dante Pettis, Austin Mack, C.J. Board, Alex Bachman, David Sills V, Matt Cole, Damion Willis

In: Golladay, Shepard, Slayton, Toney, Ross, Sills, Board
Out: Pettis, Mack (PS), Cole (PS), Willis, Bachman (PS)

I am sticking with seven wide receivers for now. To be honest, I built this entire projection and left wide receiver until the end to see how many spots were available. The Giants could easily decide to keep fewer than this, because seven is admittedly a heavy number and they could choose to add depth elsewhere. As good as he has been, keeping fewer than seven might make it difficult for Sills to make the roster. Bluntly, Board and Ross have more special teams value. For now, I’m continuing to reward him for two years of quality work.

Offensive line (8)

Current roster: Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, Matt Peart, Jonotthan Harrison, Nate Solder, Chad Slade, Ted Larsen, Kenny Wiggins, Jackson Barton, Brett Heggie, Jake Burton.

In: Thomas, Lemieux, Gates, Hernandez, Peart, Solder, Wiggins, Larsen
Out: Harrison, Slade (PS), Barton, Heggie (PS), Burton (PS)

Let’s be honest. Beyond the top six — the starters and Solder — the backup linemen are anybody’s guess. The Giants could keep eight linemen. Maybe they keep nine with center Jonotthan Harrison included. I have Wiggins and Larsen as placeholders, because that is really what they are. If the Giants can find players they think are better, they will bring them in.

Defense (25)

Defensive line (5)

Current roster: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill, Danny Shelton, Austin Johnson, David Moa, Willie Henry, Elijah Qualls, Raymond Johnson III

In: Williams, Lawrence, Hill, Shelton, Austin Johnson
Out: Moa, Henry, Qualls, Raymond Johnson (PS)

After watching Saturday’s preseason opener vs. the Jets I am moving Johnson from the “edge” category to defensive line. The undrafted free agent was impressive, and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said Johnson had “set himself up to have a good chance to compete, to see if he could play in this league.”

Looking at the depth chart currently, I think Johnson’s likely path is to beginning the season on the practice squad.

Edge (6)

Current roster: Lorenzo Carter, Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson, Oshane Ximines, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown, Niko Lalos, Trent Harris

In: Carter, Ojulari, Odenigbo, Ximines, Smith, Brown
Out: Anderson, Lalos (PS), Harris (PS)

Lalos did a nice job against the Jets in the first preseason game. I won’t be surprised at all if he makes the roster. To me, it’s Lalos or Ximines — unless there is an injury. As of now, draft pick wins and undrafted player goes to the practice squad.

I’m sure those of you are Lalos fans are going to enjoy gleefully throwing these predictions in my face if he does make the roster.

I am also starting to wonder if I need to figure out a way to make a spot on the roster for Trent Harris.

Linebacker (4)

Current roster: Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, Reggie Ragland, Devante Downs, T.J. Brunson, Carter Coughlin

In: Martinez, Crowder, Ragland, Coughlin
Out: Downs

Brunson’s torn ACL takes away some depth as he was likely headed to the practice squad.

Cornerback (5)

Current roster: Sam Beal, James Bradberry, Darnay Holmes, Adoree’ Jackson, Quincy Wilson, Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams, Madre Harper, Keion Johnson, Josh Jackson

In: Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Holmes, Johnson, Rodarius Williams
Out: Josh Jackson, Sam Beal (PS), Aaron Robinson (PUP), Harper (PS)

For now, one newly-acquired cornerback (Keion Johnson) making the roster and one (Josh Jackson) not making it. The Isaac Yiadom for Jackson was really, to me, just two teams swapping cornerbacks they didn’t want to see if they could find something.

Interesting stuff about Sam Beal. I’m beginning to realize that the Giants still think the 24-year-old might have an NFL future. Beal said during a recent chat with media that there was more to the gun charge against him than had been reported, and that he had explained those details to the Giants.

Co-owner John Mara allowed this week that the conversation with Beal made the team feel comfortable with keeping him on the roster and allowing him to compete for a job.

“I think he’s done a good job since he’s been here. He’s working hard on the field trying to make the roster. He obviously has some talent,” Mara said. “The league has addressed his or is addressing his issues and we feel good about where he is right now.”

Safety (5)

Current roster: Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Montre Hartage, Chris Johnson

In: Ryan, Peppers, McKinney, Love, Nate Ebner
Out: Hartage, Johnson

I am keeping Ebner on the initial 53-man roster, but I am less convinced this week than I was last week that the veteran special teams player is going to be part of the team as of Week 1. Eventually, yes. Week 1? I’m not so sure.

Here is what McGaughey said this week when asked for an update on Ebner:

“Nate’s a good man and I haven’t talked to him in a while, but he texts back and forth with Joe. Nate’s in a good spot right now. He’s just rehabbing and hopefully we can get him back.”

Special teams (3)

Current roster: PK Graham Gano, PK Ryan Santoso, P Riley Dixon, LS Casey Kreiter, LS Carson Tinker

In: Gano, Dixon, Kreiter
Out: Santoso (PS), Tinker (PS)

I have Santoso on the practice squad. It sounds, though, like the Giants believe he might not get there when they inevitably cut him.

“He’s competing for a job and not only is he competing for a job here, he’s competing for a job all over the league,” McGaughey said. “Ryan has great upside, he’s a good man, he works his tail off. That’s what this league is all about, it’s about competition and hopefully Ryan can do enough where he can get a job, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”