Having watched the first seasons of Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, Joe Judge and now Brian Daboll as head coach of the New York Giants, there is one thing I know for certain. When it comes to predicting the shape of the season-opening 53-man roster we know almost nothing.
New coaches — and new general managers — have no track record. We don’t know exactly how they view many of the players held over from the previous regime. We don’t know exactly what they are looking for in depth players. Even having watched spring practices, we don’t know precisely who fits — and doesn’t fit — the schemes the team wants to implement.
There will almost certainly be some stunning moves as the Giants shape their roster. There will probably be a bunch of shuffling after ‘final’ cuts to 53, once GM Joe Schoen sees which veteran players are cut loose by other NFL teams.
Here, though, is a pre-training camp educated guess at what the 53-man roster could look like.
Quarterback (3) — Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, Davis Webb
The more I have thought about this, I don’t believe the Giants talked Webb out of retiring and taking a job on the Buffalo Bills’ coaching staff to cut him and put him on the practice squad. Still, if they only want to keep two quarterbacks that is what would happen.
Running back (4) — Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Jashuan Corbin
Out: Antonio Williams, Sandro Platzgummer
I would not be the least bit surprised if Brightwell of Corbin were supplanted eventually by someone currently on another roster. Or even someone not yet on a roster.
Tight end (4) — Daniel Bellinger, Ricky Seals-Jones, Jordan Akins, Jeremiah Hall
Out: Austin Allen, Chris Myarick, Andre Miller
Hall was productive at both tight end and fullback at Oklahoma. The Giants are not carrying a true fullback, and that makes me think Hall’s dual skillset could make him really useful to the Giants’ offense.
There is one thing eating at me here, though. I have a suspicion that one of Seals-Jones and Akins is NOT going to make the roster. This is a really interesting position, and it will be fascinating to see who does, and does not, open the season on the team.
Wide receiver (6) — Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Richie James, C.J. Board
Out: Darius Slayton, Collin Johnson, Alex Bachman, Keelan Doss, Robert Foster, Austin Proehl, David Sills, Travis Toivonen
This projection will, of course, lead to the ‘Ed hates Darius Slayton’ narrative. Which, of course, is untrue. I have given my reasons for why I believe Slayton has a difficult path to the roster. I’m not going to go through them again. Injuries, or an outstanding camp by Slayton, could change the equation. Maybe Slayton beats out Board. Maybe the Giants keep seven receivers. Maybe they find another way to clear some needed cap space to get through the season. We’ll see.
Offensive line (9) — Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, Evan Neal, Joshua Ezeudu, Matt Gono, Ben Bredeson, Marcus McKethan
Out: Jamil Douglas, Max Garcia, Devery Hamilton, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, Roy Mbaeteka, Josh Rivas
This position is incredibly difficult for me to predict. I am not comfortable with anything beyond the starting five, then Ezeudu and Gono as primary backups. Well, other than the fact Mbaeteka, Gates and Peart won’t be on the season-opening 53-man roster.
The Giants could keep eight linemen. They could find a way to stretch that to 10.
I can see a scenario where the Giants cut McKethan, a fifth-round pick, and try to sneak him to the practice squad.
I can see scenarios where Bredeson loses his roster spot to Garcia, Douglas, or both. In fact, while I chose Bredeson here there is part of me that wonders if Garcia is a better bet to make the roster. He is certainly more experienced.
I can see a scenario where the Giants decide to keep Cunningham. I don’t believe he beats out Gono for a spot, but perhaps the Giants keep two true backup tackles rather than asking Ezeudu to swing between guard and tackle.
Defensive line (5) — Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, D.J. Davidson, Justin Ellis, Jihad Ward
Out: Ryder Anderson, Jalyn Holmes, Jabari Ellis, Chris Hinton, David Moa
I have Ward listed with the defensive linemen, though I think he will be used to back up both across the line and on the edge. That is what he has done throughout his career — actually playing more edge than anything else in recent years.
I am curious to see if a player like Hinton, the undrafted free agent out of Michigan, can force his way onto the roster.
Edge (5) — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, Quincy Roche, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown
Out: Niko Lalos, Oshane Ximines
I think Brown’s special teams ability keeps him on the roster, though it’s an interesting test case for how the new regime looks at special teams-first players. Brown spent time in the spring working both on the edge and at inside linebacker.
Linebacker (4) — Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder, Micah McFadden, Darrian Beavers
Out: Carter Coughlin, Justin Hilliard
Coughlin fans will hate me. Honestly, though, what has Coughlin done in his two seasons? The Giants’ new regime is invested in McFadden and Beavers as their own draft picks, and that gives them a leg up on Coughlin. Crowder’s playing experience also makes him valuable, even though his results have been mixed.
Cornerback (6) — Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, Cor’Dale Flott, Maurice Canady, Michael Jacquet
Out: Rodarius Williams, Darren Evans, Zyon Gilbert, Khalil Dorsey, Gavin Heslop
I am really tempted to add an undrafted player like Evans or perhaps Williams, a sixth-round pick last year, but I’m opting for the veteran depth. I do think Williams, Evans and Zyon Gilbert could find their way to the practice squad if they don’t make the 53-man roster.
I would, at this point, call Canady and Jacquet ‘soft’ projections. I think anything can happen once camp starts. I don’t know enough about Heslop to know if he has a real chance.
Safety (4) — Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Dane Belton, Jarren Williams
Out: Henry Black, Yusuf Corker, Trenton Thompson
I have gone back and forth on this one. I think the fourth spot here is between Williams and Black, who was a backup and valuable special teamer in Green Bay the past two seasons. Defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson was watched Williams, a former undrafted free agent out of UAlbany, grow for the past two seasons and I think Henderson will go to bat for Williams if he needs to. Black, though, could make the roster at the expense of a cornerback like Jacquet. Let’s see how things play out in training camp.
Anyone cut from this safety group could be a practice squad addition.
Special teams (3)
Placekicker — Graham Gano
Long-snapper — Casey Kreiter
Punter — Jamie Gillan
I still believe veteran competition during camp, or perhaps even a replacement at final cuts, could show up for Gillan. For now, though, this is clear.