Instead of doing yet another silly, meaningless New York Giants 53-man roster projection, let’s just assess the roster position-by-position. This feels like a good time to do that as the Giants transition from training camp to preseason mode and head to Michigan for a pair of joint practices with the Detroit Lions.
These are my thoughts on some of the players, and how some of the position battles could turn out.
So, some of you were not happy with me for not including Daniel Jones as a riser in my ‘stock up, stock down’ post. So, here goes.
Jones has had an outstanding camp. You have probably read or heard in other places about Jones looking comfortable or in control of the Giants’ offense. In Year 2 with Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka that has been the case.
How Jones is throwing the ball has also stood out. You can see on some of his intermediate throws that there is a surprising amount of zip on the ball, and Jamison Crowder told Big Blue View recently that Jones is better at reading defenses and knowing when to put touch on the ball than many give him credit for.
If you have been watching the practice highlights via social media, you also know that Jones has thrown some gorgeous deep balls.
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor also throws a beautiful deep ball. That, plus his experience and mobility make me feel like the Giants will be OK if Taylor has to play a couple of games.
As for Tommy DeVito, I still don’t believe the undrafted free agent by way of Syracuse and Illinois will be the team’s third, or practice squad, quarterback.
Let’s move beyond Saquon Barkley and talk about the backups.
It is apparent that the Giants want to find a role for fifth-round pick Eric Gray. They are giving him every opportunity to win the punt and kickoff return jobs. They are giving him chances as a receiver and a runner. He should get some touches when the regular season starts.
Veteran Matt Breida is the incumbent backup, and I would be surprised if Gary Brightwell, James Robinson or Jashaun Corbin takes a job from him. If the Giants keep a fourth back, Brightwell has the inside track because of his special teams versatility.
How many more superlatives can we use to describe Darren Waller? He is an incredible athlete who changes the Giants’ passing offense.
The biggest thing is that with Waller’s versatility to line up all over the formation, along with the versatility of players like Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, and Jalin Hyatt, plus the creativity of Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, the Giants are creating a position-less receiving group.
Daniel Bellinger and Lawrence Cager should make the roster. If the Giants can roster a fourth tight end, I think there is a wide-open competition between Tommy Sweeney, Chris Myarick, and undrafted free-agent rookie Ryan Jones.
I wrote about the position-less nature of the receiving corps above. Now, let’s talk about who might end up making the roster.
Hodgins, Campbell, Hyatt, and Darius Slayton are locks. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. I think that with the talent the Giants have it is going to be difficult not to keep seven receivers.
I think Wan’Dale Robinson begins the year on PUP, so he won’t count toward our discussion.
Any combo of Cole Beasley, Sterling Shepard, Jamison Crowder, and Collin Johnson could make the roster.
I think David Sills is on the outside looking in. You can make an argument that Kalil Pimpleton looks like the best return man on the roster, but I don’t know how he gets any more than a practice squad spot. Bryce Ford-Wheaton? I haven’t seen anything that tells me he deserves a spot over the more accomplished group I have already mentioned. We’ll see if he can pick it up during preseason games.
The most interesting thing of all, to me, is how the Giants will handle Shepard.
The shuffling at center and left guard has continued throughout camp. There has even been a little bit of rotation at right guard, but it would be shocking if that job doesn’t go to veteran incumbent Mark Glowinski.
Center looked settled until Ben Bredeson took first-team reps instead of rookie second-round pick John Michael Schmitz during practices on Saturday and Monday.
Tyre Phillips got first-team reps at left guard in one practice, but that is a competition between Bredeson and Josh Ezeudu.
What I think is going on is that the Giants think Schmitz, Bredeson, and Ezeudu are all starting-caliber players. Maybe Phillips, too.
In the end, I think Schmitz starts at center and stays there unless he can’t handle it. We might see a Bredeson-Ezeudu rotation like the one we saw a year ago.
As for the last couple of spots, you could make a case for any of Matt Peart, Korey Cunningham, Marcus McKethan, Jack Anderson, and Shane Lemieux.
The Giants tried to upgrade their defensive line depth in the offseason by adding free agents Rakeem Nunez-Roches and A’Shawn Robinson, and by adding nose tackle Jordon Riley in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Still, at this point depth behind Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams is a concern.
Robinson just came off the PUP list after offseason surgery on a meniscus injury, which helps. Still, second-year man D.J. Davidson, a 2022 fifth-round pick, is also on PUP. Ryder Anderson, a second-year player who was a depth piece a year ago, is out for at least a couple of weeks with a triceps injury.
The Giants can get through the preseason with guys like Brandin Bryant (11 NFL games in four seasons), Kevin Atkins, and Kobe Smith. I’m not sure, though, that they want any of those players on the 53-man roster when the season begins.
So far, so good with Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari. If those two young players stay healthy they should both have good seasons. Jihad Ward is a perfectly fine backup.
Beyond those three, though, no one looks like a lock to make the roster. Oshane Ximines and Tomon Fox saw playing time last year and it’s hard to believe the Giants won’t be looking for upgrades when teams trim their rosters at the end of the preseason. I’m not sure Tashawn Bower is the answer.
Bobby Okereke looks like a quality addition. Second-year players Darrian Beavers and Micah McFadden are competing to start next to Okereke, and the edge has to go to Beavers at this point.
I am anxious to see undrafted rookies Troy Brown and Dyontae Johnson in preseason games. It has been difficult to get a read on either player during early practices.
Tre Hawkins’ rise has been the story. Could we see Hawkins and first-round pick Deonte Banks on the outside with Adoree’ Jackson in the slot? Time will tell.
How the backups shake out is the real question. Aaron Robinson is still on PUP. Nick McCloud has been OK, but maybe not as good as was hoped. Amani Oruwariye and Rodarius Williams have not impressed. Gemon Green and Darren Evans are camp bodies. Zyon Gilbert is a slot cornerback, and probably fourth or fifth on the depth chart.
The big mystery remains Darnay Holmes. He has worked with the first team at times, and with the third team at other times. Year after year the Giants seem to try to replace him, and this year they can save $2.7 million in salary cap space by cutting him. They could use the space, but beyond Banks, Hawkins, Jackson, and Cor’Dale Flott I am not sure who else the Giants feel comfortable with at cornerback.
Jason Pinnock appears to have locked down the starting spot opposite Xavier McKinney. The big question for me, knowing that Nick McCloud has safety versatility and that the Giants drafted Gervarrius Owens, is whether McCain makes the roster if he doesn’t start.
Watching Graham Gano kick field goals you realize just how much perfect timing and execution from the long snapper and holder matter. Watching Casey Kreiter snap for place kicks vs. watching rookie undrafted free agent Cameron Lyons do the same makes you appreciate guys like Kreiter and his long-time predecessor, Zak DeOssie.
Lyons is not a terrible snapper. He is learning the craft and maybe one day he will have a job on a 53-man roster, but he isn’t as consistent as Kreiter. It is amazing how much more confidently and better Gano tends to strike the ball with Kreiter snapping rather than Lyons. Just a smidge high, low, left, or right can impact the timing and the holder’s ability to place the exactly as expected.