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Giants 53-man roster projection: Who’s in, out on the initial roster?

Ed’s final projection prior to Tuesday’s deadline to reach the 53-man regular-season limit

New York Jets v New York Giants
B.J. Hill
Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The New York Giants have until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday to set their initial 53-man roster. That will not be the 53-man roster that faces the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12 in the first game of the regular season. There will be waiver claims and free-agent signings, maybe even a couple of trades.

Here, though, is an educated guess on where the Giants will start, along with some thoughts on what may happen after the initial roster is announced.

Offense (25)

Quarterbacks (2)

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)

After watching the distribution of playing time Sunday night, with Brightwell getting work with starters in the first half and Clement playing with the backups in the second half, I’m sticking wikth

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.

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.

For what it’s worth, here is some of what Judge said about Brightwell Sunday night:

“He’s shown a lot of improvement. Obviously as a young player, for him, any in-game experience he gets is very valuable. He’s made a lot of strides for us in the kicking game. He’s done some really nice things on offense ... He’s done a nice job in running the ball for us, he catches the ball well out of the backfield. He’s done a lot of things to build on right there, a lot of bright spots and there’s a lot of things we saw with him, obviously that we drafted him for a reason.”

Fullback (2)

Current roster: Elijhaa Penny, Cullen Gillaspia

In: Penny, Gillaspia
Out: None

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. Penny made his case for that third running back role Sunday with runs of 15 and 14 yards. 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)

The Giants desperately need to hope that Engram’s calf injury isn’t serious and that Rudolph will be ready to play against the Denver Broncos Week 1.

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.

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. It is at least one more than I would like to carry, but with the availability of Golladay and Toney uncertain right now I think they almost have to.

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. He probably heads to IR.

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. I think Sills and Pettis are in the most precarious situations.

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 (PS), Barton, Heggie (PS), Burton (PS)

Lemieux’s status complicates this. He suffered a knee injury at the beginning of training camp, missed time, worked back to full practices, then stayed behind last week for treatment when the Giants were in New England. That indicates that the second-year guard is not completely healthy, and that the Giants are — at least for now — needing to manage his workload.

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.

With Lemieux less than 100 percent, I wouldn’t be surprised if both make the initial roster. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised is neither is on the roster when the Giants face the Broncos. I kind of feel the same way about Harrison at this point. He is what they have for a backup center, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they look for a better one.

So, umm, yeah. The Giants are finishing the preseason where they started with the offensive line. Beyond the first six guys, I really have no idea who will be on the roster Week 1.

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

This is a change from what I have been predicting. I began wondering a week or so ago about B.J. Hill’s status, and he did not play a snap Sunday. That made Hill the only apparently healthy Giant not to see the field, which screams from the mountaintop that the 2018 third-round pick is not making the roster.

I thought about giving Hill’s spot to Raymond Johnson, but it goes to Moa because he can play on the nose and I’m not sure about the health of Danny Shelton.

UPDATE: Hill has been traded to the Cincinnati Bengals for offensive lineman Billy Price.

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, 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 Harris takes that spot once he clears waivers. If someone unexpectedly claims Harris, Lalos takes that spot.

A week ago I thought 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.

Anderson’s six-game PED suspension leaves the Giants with an interesting decision. Do they cut him outright or carry him during the suspension in the event they have injuries and could use him later in the year?

Linebacker (4)

Current roster: Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, Reggie Ragland, Devante Downs, Carter Coughlin

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

Downs has played his way off the roster. 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.

Cornerback (6)

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, Harper
Out: Sam Beal (PS), Aaron Robinson (PUP), Josh Jackson (PS)

The first five spots — Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Holmes, Crossen, Williams — are easy. Figuring out the sixth spot is not.

I’m giving it to Harper .. for now. I think cornerback is a spot where the Giants turn to the waiver wire after cuts are made on Tuesday.

Safety (4)

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

In: Ryan, Peppers, McKinney, Love
Out: Johnson

The most significant thing here is that I am not including Nate 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
Out: None

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.

Practice squad

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, Wiggins
DL — Raymond Johnson
Edge — Lalos
CB — Beal, Harper