It is New York Giants 53-man roster projection time once again. I will make a final projection on Monday that will account for any injuries that occur Sunday in the preseason finale vs the New England Patriots, or anything else that happens to change my mind at one or more of the up-for-grabs spots. This, though, is pretty close to what my final projection of the initial 53-man roster will look like before waiver claims/free agent pickups.
Current roster: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon, Brian Lewerke
In: Jones, Glennon
Out: Lewerke (PS)
Nothing to see here. Jones will start. Glennon will be No. 2. Lewerke will probably be on the practice squad.
Running back (3)
Current roster: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, Gary Brightwell, Sandro Platzgummer
In: Barkley, Booker, Brightwell
Out: Clement, Platzgummer (PS)
I have thought about this one a lot, and I watched how the running backs were used VERY CLOSELY during the two practices this week with the New England Patriots. I “think” Brightwell is in and Clement is out. I don’t think the Giants will keep both of them. I also think this is a spot in this projection where I could end up being wrong.
Maybe I’m projecting my own distrust of Clement, but I have a hard time believing Joe Judge is going to feel good about giving the ball to a player who has averaged a fumble every 33.3 touches during his career. Clement showed vs. the New York Jets those ball-security issues are alive and not so well.
Brightwell has run with the first team on both kickoff and punt return for the past two weeks. Significantly, at least in my mind, he also got a handful of reps at running back with Daniel Jones this week.
I think the Giants are going to keep Brightwell for his special teams play and as the fourth, emergency, running back. Elijhaa Penny seems destined to be the third running back behind Barkley and Booker.
Current roster: Elijhaa Penny, Cullen Gillaspia
In : Penny, Gillaspia
This one will raise eyebrows, I’m sure. So many teams in the NFL don’t carry any fullbacks that carrying two seems odd. It would, though, be a very Joe Judge thing to do.
Here is my reasoning.
Penny, in a scenario where Clement does not make the roster, functions as the No.3 running back in addition to his fullback duties. Both Penny and Gillaspia are core special teamers. With only three roster-worthy tight ends, as you will see in the next category, I think one of these guys might find some work occasionally as an extra H-Back.
Tight end (3)
Current roster: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Jake Hausmann
In: Engram, Smith, Rudolph
Out: Griffin-Stewart, Hausmann (PS)
This is one fewer tight end than I expected to carry, and really one fewer than I am completely comfortable with. Thing is, the two players I thought might have a real shot at the fourth tight end spot — Rysen John and Cole Hikutini — are no longer options. John is on IR after injuring an ankle and Hikutini was waived this week after suffering a hip injury.
The reality is that neither Griffin-Stewart nor Hausmann are players who should be on a 53-man roster at this point. If they are it would just be to keep a fourth tight end, and that is not a good enough reason. If the Giants really want a fourth tight end, they should look at who is available after final cuts across the league on Tuesday. If they are uncertain about Rudolph’s Week 1 availability, that becomes likely.
I think that, in this three-tight end scenario, there are situations where the Giants could use an offensive lineman or Penny/Gillaspia to fill some of that responsibility if they need an extra tight end.
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, Slayton, Shepard, Toney, Board, Sills, Pettis
Out: Ross, Mack (PS), Bachman, Cole (PS), Willis (PS)
All along, I have been predicting the Giants would end up keeping seven wide receivers. That has felt like too many. It still does feel like too many. Considering the injury situations with Golladay and Toney, though, I almost think keeping an extra receiver or two at the start of the season has become a necessity.
Board makes it because he can do a little of everything. He can return punts and kickoffs. He can play on coverage teams, and can be a gunner when needed. He is also a decent fill-in receiving option.
Sills makes it because he’s been good in back-to-back camps, because Daniel Jones trusts him, and with Board, Keion Crossen and Cam Brown as punt gunners he doesn’t have to be depended on to fill that role. Pettis makes it because while he hasn’t generated much buzz he keeps making plays when given the opportunity. He also has return ability, even though the Giants don’t seem inclined to use it. Oh, and Pettis has managed to make it to the starting line every day during training camp.
Ross hasn’t practiced in weeks now. Speed doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get off the trainers’ table. Mack has barely practiced, but might land on the practice squad because of his 2020 contributions. Bachman has done little. Willis might be a practice squad candidate.
I would love to find space for Cole, but the Giants have three capable punt gunners and Board, Pettis and Sills have all been more productive as receivers. He is the perfect player to stash on the practice squad to help on special teams when injuries strike later in the season.
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, Harrison, Larsen
Out: Slade (PS), Wiggins, Barton, Heggie (PS), Burton (PS)
For now, I will give the nod for the eighth and final spot on the line to Larsen over Wiggins. He’s got a lot of experience, the Giants have been giving him reps at both guard and center, and I think Larsen is more capable and more versatile at this point than Wiggins. Not that, to be honest, I have a ton of confidence in either.
I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if one or more linemen on the 53-man roster when the Giants face the Denver Broncos Week 1 are currently not with the Giants. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a ninth lineman ends up on the initial 53.
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 (PS), Henry, Qualls, Raymond Johnson (PS)
This is the same group I have been predicting all along. I see no reason to change.
Current roster: Lorenzo Carter, Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson, Oshane Ximines, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown, Niko Lalos, Trent Harris
In: Carter, Ojulari, Ximines, Brown, Smith, Odenigbo
Out: Anderson, Lalos (PS), Harris
I think there are going to be some roster gymnastics at this spot. Rookie fourth-round pick Elerson Smith (hamstring) still hasn’t done much of anything in training camp. He is off PUP, though, so he has to make the initial 53-man roster or the Giants have to waive him and risk losing him.
I think Smith makes the roster, then gets moved to IR and replaced by Harris once Harris clears waivers. If someone unexpectedly claims Harris, Lalos takes that spot.
A week ago I though Odenigbo was on the bubble. He still may be, but he was forceful as a pass rusher in two days of practice vs. the Patriots. I think there is more upside with him that with Lalos, who is another perfect practice squad candidate.
Current roster: Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, Reggie Ragland, Devante Downs, Carter Coughlin
In: Martinez, Crowder, Ragland, Coughlin
Getting Downs off the roster means this group is better than last year’s. I’m excited to see if one of the youngsters, Crowder or Coughlin, can step up and be a true impact player. I wouldn’t be shocked, though, if the veteran Ragland winds up as the nominal starter next to Martinez.
Current roster: Sam Beal, James Bradberry, Darnay Holmes, Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams, Madre Harper, Keion Crossen, Josh Jackson
In: Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Holmes, Crossen, Rodarius Williams, Josh Jackson
Out: Sam Beal (PS), Aaron Robinson (PUP), Harper (PS)
The first five spots — Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Holmes, Crossen, Williams — are easy. Figuring out the sixth spot is torture.
I find myself debating between Josh Jackson, Beal (unbelievably), and Harper.
I haven’t seen Jackson, apparently dealing with a calf injury, play a snap since the Giants acquired him from the Green Bay Packers in exchange for Isaac Yiadom. Harper is a big, physical cornerback, but a player defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson has admitted the Giants aren’t sure they can trust. And, by the way, he hasn’t played very well lately. Beal is, well, Beal. He did have a nice practice on Thursday, though, and was one of four cornerbacks in the playing rotation vs. the Patriots.
With no faith at all that I’m right — and only because as I type this I can’t bring myself to give the spot to Beal or Harper — I will give it to Josh Jackson on the belief/hope/prayer that he can bring something to the table.
Of course, this roster spot could go to someone acquired after cuts are made. Or ... wait for it ... Nate Ebner.
Current roster: Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Chris Johnson
In: Ryan, Peppers, McKinney, Love
The most significant thing here is that I am not including Ebner. While Judge has been insistent he wants the veteran special teamer on the roster, all you hear when you ask about him is that he’s rehabbing and staying in touch. That sounds like a player who won’t be ready for the beginning of the season.
Special teams (3)
Current roster: PK Graham Gano, P Riley Dixon, LS Casey Kreiter
In: Gano, Dixon, Kreiter
Not much to see here. With the trade of Ryan Santoso to the Carolina Panthers and the waiving of long-snapper Carson Tinker, this group is set.
Teams can keep 16 players, including a handful of veterans, again this season.
QB — Lewerke
RB — Platzgummer (roster exemption)
TE — Hausmann
WR — Cole, Willis, Mack
OL — Slade, Heggie, Burton
DL — Raymond Johnson, Moa
Edge — Lalos
CB — Beal, Harper