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Making the case: Jamison Crowder vs. Jaydon Mickens vs. Kalil Pimpleton

Which fringe receiver could seize a roster spot at slot receiver?

Syndication: The Record Danielle Parhizkaran/ / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants are expected to have a very competitive training camp this year. There are going to be roster battles at just about every position, but very few truly open roster spots to go around.

We’ve already talked about the potential camp battle at wide receiver, but the Giants also have a lot of options to consider at slot receiver. In fact, Nick Falato termed the Giants’ offense a “slot machine” for all the receiving options on the roster who have primarily been slot receivers.

Parris Campbell, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, and Jalin Hyatt will all jockeying for position at the top of depth chart (health permitting with Shepard and Robinson).

But behind them, the Giants also have Jamison Crowder, Jaydon Mickens, and Kalil Pimpleton. It’s entirely possible that the Giants will carry six receivers and the final receiver room will look like this:

  • Isaiah Hodgins
  • Darius Slayton
  • Parris Campbell
  • Jalin Hyatt (R)
  • Sterling Shepard (ACL)
  • Wan’Dale Robinson (ACL)

But considering half of that depth chart is made of a rookie and two players coming off of ACL injuries, the Giants could look to add another receiver with a similar skill set as Shepard or Robinson.

After all, right now we don’t know if Robinson will even be able to start the season or if the injuries that plagued Sterling Shepard’s career have degraded his athleticism. And while Brian Daboll doesn’t make the concerted effort to pack the team with special teams players that Joe Judge did, special teams acumen is often a deciding factor for players on the roster bubble.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the players who’s skill sets and athletic profiles most closely match Shepard, Robinson, and Hyatt.

Jamison Crowder

Jamison Crowder almost has to be considered the frontrunner for the sixth or seventh receiver spot. Crowder was something of a surprise addition during free agency. Many identified outside receiver as an area of need for the Giants, so the moves to add Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder was definitely unexpected. However, considering the concerns regarding Robinson and Shepard, as well as the Giants’ deficiencies on special teams in 2022, the move ultimately made sense.

Why should he make the roster?

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound receiver has been a reliable receiver since being drafted by the Washington Commanders out of Duke in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Crowder has 415 receptions for 4,667 yards and 28 touchdowns since being drafted, the overwhelming bulk of which came for Washington and the Jets.

He is also a very experienced special teams player. He was a primary punt returner for Washington to start his career, with 86 returns for 677 yards (7.9 per return) and a touchdown. The Giants have been searching high and low for a good, reliable returner while it’s been a while, Crowder has been that in the past.

What could hold him back?

For the sake of argument, we’ll start by assuming that there’s a roster spot to be had. Realistically, the overall numbers game could keep all of these players from making the final roster.

The big question with Crowder could well be his health. Crowder has suffered lower body injuries in every year of his career, save 2019 — and it probably isn’t a coincidence that it was the best year of his career. He’s had multiple hamstring and calf strains over the course of his career, as well as ankle injuries. In fact, Crowder’s season ended very early last year after suffering a fractured ankle on October 2nd.

It’s a real possibility that Crowder suffers an injury at some point, which could derail his campaign to make the Giants’ roster. And even barring that, the Giants might have some private concerns regarding how many of the players they will be relying on have recent injury history.

Jaydon Mickens

Mickens has been a journeyman throughout his career since signing with the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted free agent following the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s spent time on the Raiders’ and Panthers’ practice squads, as well as bounced between the practice squad and active roster on the Jacksonville Jaguar and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was signed to the Giants’ practice squad in December of 2022.

Why should he make the roster?

If Mickens makes the roster, it will be for special teams. Mickens has appeared in 38 games over the course of his NFL career, almost always seeing the field as a returner. He has 69 punt returns for 581 yards (8.4 per return) and a touchdown, as well as 35 kick returns for 811 yards (23.2 per return. As noted above, the Giants have been looking for a reliable return option for a while now, and Mickens’ experience there could be his ticket to the 53-man roster.

The 29-year-old has limited experience as a receiver, with just 15 receptions for 145 yards (9.7 per catch) and two touchdowns. That doesn’t necessarily doom his chances of beating out Crowder or any other receiver. Isaiah Hodgins and Richie James were far from household names when they became Giants. Mickens’ odds of making the final roster are undeniably slim, but the Giants did like him enough to sign him to a reserve/future contract following the 2022 season.

What could hold him back?

Simply put, it’s unlikely that Mickens brings enough to the table to force the Giants’ hand. He’s a 29-year-old journeyman, and it would be a surprise if he makes a significant-enough leap to beat out Crowder. It’s possible that he has untapped upside as a receiver and could surprise in camp — possible, but unlikely.

Once again, if Mickens makes the final roster, it will have to be through special teams. He will not only have to show the ability to be a core special teams player, but also prove to be a clear-cut better option than anyone else. That’s doubly true if he doesn’t prove to offer much offensive upside.

Kalil Pimpleton

The Giants originally signed Pimpleton to their practice squad after he was surprisingly cut by the Detroit Lions after camp last year. They signed Pimpleton as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan following the 2022 NFL Draft, and gained renown when the Lions were featured on Hard Knocks.

Why should he make the roster?

Pimpleton is something of an unknown and X-factor right now. He was an explosive and versatile weapon for Central Michigan who was used as a returner, ball carrier, and as a slot receiver. He showed good speed, quickness, and agility and was dangerous with the ball in his hands — albeit at a lower level of collegiate football.

His experience as a slot receiver and runner, as well as an athletic profile that mirrors Wan’Dale Robinson’s. If Robinson isn’t ready to open the season, the Giants could look at Pimpleton as a direct replacement for Robinson’s skill set. He is also younger and less expensive than Crowder or Mickens, and that could be a factor considering the Giants are (once again) up against the salary cap.

It’s also possible that Pimpleton could impress in his own right and forces the Giants’ hand. He showed impressive hand-eye coordination in the Lions’ camp last year and it was something of a surprise when they cut him. He also showed good ball skills and body control, as well as toughness, on tape as a college receiver. And considering that Pimpleton has been on the practice squad since September of last year, he has more familiarity with the offense than Mickens or Crowder. That could give him an advantage in making a strong early impression.

And considering that special teams play could be vital for this roster spot, it is notable that Pimpleton averaged 19.0 yards per return, with touchdowns, in his final college season.

What could hold him back?

Pimpleton is a second year former UDFA who hasn’t taken a snap in a real NFL game. We haven’t seen him on the field, in pads, and in a Giants’ uniform. The odds are slim that he’s a diamond in the rough and will have a big-enough impact to force the Giants’ hand.

Pimpleton was a fan favorite in preseason last year and was a dynamic threat in college, but he was inconsistent on the field for the Lions. The Giants may not care about his body-type, but he he will likely need to show improvement after a year on an NFL practice squad to push for a roster spot.

We saw the team double up on skill sets with Robinson and Kadarius Toney a year ago, but it’s unlikely that Pimpleton has the same upside as Wan’Dale Robinson. It’s more likely that he will show enough to keep around as a practice squad player who can be elevated in an emergency.