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Giants-Jets ‘things I think’: Waiting begins for players on the bubble

With NFL teams having to trim rosters to 53 players by Tuesday, players know they have done all they can

NFL: New York Giants at New York Jets
Austin Calitro scores a touchdown after intercepting a pass on Sunday.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The 80 men remaining on the New York Giants’ roster have done all the work. They have toiled through throughout offseason workouts and practices, mini-camps, training camp and preseason games. They have rehabbed injuries.

They have done everything they can to further or continue their NFL careers. Now, they can do no more. Except wait for the phone to ring. Or, not ring.

NFL teams have to trim their rosters from 80 players to the regular-season limit of 53 by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, less than 48 hours from when this post will go out to the world. Some NFL teams that played earlier in the weekend have already begun that process.

I think this is the hardest part.

Players who know they will be on the roster when the Giants reconvene on Tuesday to begin practicing for the season-opener against the Tennessee Titans know many of the guys they have been working with for months won’t be around.

There are questions about who will, and will not, make the roster at almost every position for the Giants. That means dozens of players who were in uniform Sunday don’t know if they will have a Giants’ practice jersey on Tuesday. Or, if they will be ending up elsewhere. Or, sadly, if their NFL lives are over.

Much of the chatter leading up to the decisions on the initial roster has been regarding whether or not wide receiver Darius Slayton, a 2019 fifth-round pick, would be a Giant when the regular season begins.

“I don’t really stress about it too much,” Slayton said after Sunday’s game. “At the end of the day if it’s meant for me to be here I’ll be here. If it’s not, I won’t.”

Slayton has had few first-team opportunities this summer, spending most of his time working with backup Tyrod Taylor and third-teamer Davis Webb. He also dealt with a hamstring tweak that kept him off the field for a while.

Unfortunately, a big part of the reason Slayton may be an ex-Giant some time in the next 48 hours has to do with his $2.598 million salary cap hit, difficult for the cap-strapped Giants to digest since Slayton is buried on the depth chart.

“I don’t think I would be surprised (to end up elsewhere),” Slayton said.

Linebacker Austin Calitro has been in the league since 2017, with the Giants being his 11th NFL team. He has been with the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals twice.

Calitro had a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and five tackles on Sunday.

“I feel like I put my best foot forward,” said Austin Calitro. “It’s not really in my hands anymore. I did what I could and we’ll see what happens.”

Despite the vagabond nature of his career, Calitro wants to keep going.

“If you would have asked me my rookie year if I would’ve made it to stick around this long, I would’ve said no,” Calitro said. “I just want to keep going; when you’re undrafted you’re not supposed to make it this far. One day when I have kids, I want to leave some kind of legacy behind for them, and for me I’m still not done yet.”

Fourth-year edge defender Oshane Ximines entered training camp on the roster bubble. After a solid training camp/preseason during which he got a large number of first-team opportunities, Ximines can now only wait to find out if it was enough.

“My goal was to maximize every single day. Not take one single day, not one single rep for granted and I feel like I did that,” Ximines said. “I just tried to go as hard as I possibly could and let the chips fall where they may.”

NFL: New York Giants at New York Jets
Alex Bachman after making a catch on Sunday.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver Alex Bachman knows the drill. He has been on the Giants’ practice squad the last three seasons.

What does he do now after leading the Giants this preseason with 19 receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns?

“I wake up the same way I’ve been doing it last four years, I’ve been in the NFL. Just continue to take care of my body, and prepare myself for the next opportunity, whether it’s here or anywhere else,” Bachman said. “I’ve been on and off the couch for three years just trying to find someplace to stick. New York’s giving me several opportunities. I’m thankful for all of them.

“I felt like I left it all out there. I did everything I could do.”

Offensive lineman Eric Smith has been in the league since 2017, and he’s been in the position of waiting for that “yes or no” phone call” every season.

“It’s not my first rodeo,” Smith said. “I’ve been in situations like this, but this is my first time coming in and switching teams during the preseason [Smith was waived by Arizona Aug. 4 and picked up by the Giants four days later.”

Smith said he will just be “patient” and see what happens.

“It’s not my first time,” he said. “It’s just a waiting game, patient game. Wherever I am, same game, different logo. If it is a different logo.”

Quarterback Davis Webb, a third-round pick by the Giants in 2017, is another player who has been through this annually.

“I’ve definitely talked about it with a few guys, especially young, good rookies and some vets. We’ve all been in this situation, but I think this is my best preseason I’ve had,” said Webb. “I think that’s a credit to the offensive line and the coaches. (Offensive coordinator Mike) Kafka did a great job calling plays. It was a lot of fun this preseason. Hopefully it works out.”

Second-year running back Gary Brightwell has been competing with Antonio Williams and Jashaun Corbin for a spot in the Giants’ backfield.

“That’s no longer my choice,” Brightwell said in regards to whether he stays or goes. “I did everything I could during the preseason, during the camp, and now I just put it in God’s hands.”

Cornerback Harrison Hand, awarded to the Giants last week via waivers from the Minnesota Vikings, said “I pray and I meditate” when asked how he will spend his time until he learns his fate.

Hand, who was the defender on a 29-yard touchdown catch Sunday by Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims, wasn’t bemoaning the short amount of time he had to make an impression on Giants’ brass.

“That’s the game,” said Hand. “Went out there, let that touchdown up. Wish you could get it back, but all you can do is know that you’re not where you need to be.”

Of the touchdown, Hand said:

“I need to make that (play). No excuses, no anything else. I need to make that.”

Other things I think

  • It is going to be really difficult to try to cut Davis Webb and get him through to the practice squad after his preseason performance, 60 of 81 (74.1 percent) with three touchdowns and a 99.7 passer rating.
  • I came out of Sunday’s game, where undrafted free agents Zyon Gilbert and Darren Evans, veterans Olaijah Griffin and Harrison Hand, and third-round pick Cor’Dale Flott all had difficulties, more convinced than ever that the Giants will be looking for cornerback help following Tuesday’s cuts.
  • I’m curious to see which wide receivers make the final roster. I don’t think Sunday moved the needle at all.