A Way Too-early 53-man New York Giants Roster Projection

Here’s a way too-early guess at the New York Giants 53-man roster.

Although we have a long way until the New York Giants’ 53-man roster must be set, I took an early guess based on what came out of the spring practices about how the 2017 Giants roster might take shape.

I also included a guess at the 10-man practice squad, though with that exercise, keep in mind that waived players can be claimed off waivers by other teams.

With that said, here’s my first guess at the Giants’ 53-man roster.

Quarterbacks: 3

In: Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb
Out: Josh Johnson
Practice Squad: None

Head coach Ben McAdoo already said that rookie Davis Webb is going to be the third-string quarterback, which means they will be carrying three this year. Josh Johnson might have a year in the Giants’ system, but Geno Smith has a little more experience, including that as a starter.

Ideally the Giants would rather Manning take all the team’s snaps to where they won’t have to worry about who the No. 2 quarterback is.

Given that they do have to name a backup, my guess is that if Smith can show that he can be the same quarterback he was at the end of the 2014 season, I can see him beating out Johnson for the No. 2 spot.


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Running Backs: 4

In: Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman
Out: Khalid Abdullah, Shaun Draughn, Jacob Huesman, Shane Smith
Practice Squad: Shane Smith

The Giants are looking to close the gap between the number of runs and passes this year after a season in which they passed the ball 200 more times than they ran it, the yardage total from the running game being only 45 more yards than what Odell Beckham Jr. alone amassed as a receiver.

To do that, they’ve revamped their running back corps, trimming Rashad Jennings from the mix and promoting Paul Perkins as their starter. Meanwhile, Shane Vereen will presumably continue as the team’s third-down back, with Orleans Darkwa likely to start as the guy in relief of Perkins, at least until rookie Wayne Gallman is ready to go.

I know there is some debate regarding whether the Giants will keep a fullback on the roster. I think that unless there is a rash of injuries at tight end, the Giants are not going to keep a pure fullback on the 53-man roster simply due to skill limitations of the position.

A tight end playing fullback gives them a few more wrinkles they can exploit and I get the sense that’s what the Giants would like to do if everyone is healthy.

Tight Ends: 4

In: Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, Jerrell Adams, Matt LaCosse
Out: Will Tye, Colin Thompson
Practice Squad: Colin Thompson

Four tight ends might see like a lot to carry, but the unit as I’ve configured it gives the Giants two pure blockers (Ellison and Adams), a pass receiver (Engram) and a hybrid (LaCosse), who can also line up in the backfield as a fullback.

Speaking of LaCosse, he told reporters that he changed how he trains and recovers in hopes of finally squashing the injury bug that stopped him from getting out of training camp the last two years.

LaCosse was one of the stars of spring. If he can hold up to the physical part of the game once the pads go on, the Giants patience with him might just finally pay off.

Engram might be a functional blocker, as the coaches put it, but at 234 pounds, is it really realistic to expect him to do anything more than simply chip a 270-pound defensive end?

And one quick note about Mark Herzlich, who changed his number to be a tight end. While I have him making the roster (as a linebacker), I think the reason they had him working at tight end is because the blocking done by the unit in the last two seasons was ineffective.

I also can’t help but wonder if there might be more concern with Rhett Ellison’s calf injury than anyone is letting on. If for whatever reason Ellison can’t go, that would be a huge loss to the offense, as he is supposed to be their run-blocking tight end.

Herzlich, as I see it, is probably the backup at that spot given that the coaches still need to see what they can get out of Jerell Adams, Evan Engram, and Matt LaCosse as blockers.

Receivers: 6

In: Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Tavarres King, Dwayne Harris, Darius Powe
Out: Keeon Johnson, Roger Lewis, Jerome Lane, Kevin Norwood, Kevin Snead, Travis Rudolph
Practice Squad: Travis Rudolph, Jerome Lane

I thought about swapping out Dwayne Harris for Travis Rudolph, especially after seeing Rudolph get some work this spring as a punt returner.

Harris had his 2017 base salary slashed by $500,000 this offseason, though he also has a chance to make that money back if he finishes with a punt return average of 10.0 yards or better this coming season.

Of Harris’ $3.3 million 2017 cap figure, $1.1 million is guaranteed, which likely will help save his roster spot unless Rudolph shows that he can be effective as a punt returner AND in covering punts and kickoffs.

I have Roger Lewis not making the team. Even if he hadn’t run afoul of the last as he did this offseason, I believe Lewis would still be on the bubble given that he lost snaps toward the end of last season.

Based on the spring, I thought Darius Powe had a better showing—Powe also did some work with the tight ends, as I reported during the first day of the mandatory minicamp, and we all know how Ben McAdoo loves him some versatile players.

Offensive Line: 9

In: Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry, Bobby Hart, Brett Jones, D.J. Fluker, Adam Bisnowaty, Adam Gettis
Out: Michael Bowie, Chad Wheeler, Jessamen Dunker, Jon Halapio
Practice Squad: Chad Wheeler, Jessamen Dunker

I thought about going with eight at this position, but then I started to think about possible combinations should there be injuries among the projected five starters, who now are, from left to right, Flowers, Pugh, Richburg, Jerry and Hart.

If Flowers goes down, I believe Pugh moves to left tackle. If Pugh or Richburg can’t go, I think Brett Jones is the next man up. D.J. Fluker can step in for Jerry at guard; Bisnowaty at right tackle for Hart, and Gettis would be added insurance if both Pugh and Richburg can’t be in the lineup.

As for the two priority free agent signings, if I’m being honest, neither really stepped up with that “wow factor.” Granted, there’s no contact and you can’t draw conclusions based on non-contact drills when it comes to offensive linemen, but I just didn’t see quickness in pass protection from the two young linemen, and in fact saw them getting beaten by their opponents.

For those who are thinking, “Yeah, but Wheeler played left tackle during the mandatory minicamp when Flowers was sidelined,” I’ll remind you of what I said before: I believe Pugh is the backup left tackle. Since he wasn’t able to practice the day that Flowers was sidelined, Wheeler got work with the starters by default.

Defensive Ends: 5

In: Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Devin Taylor, Avery  Moss, Romeo Okwara
Out: Owa Odighizuwa (reserve), Kerry Wynn, Jordan Williams, Evan Schwan
Practice Squad: Evan Schwan

My gut feeling is that Owa Odighizuwa isn’t coming back this summer. Whatever it is he has going on, it’s obviously something serious enough to undivided attention, and I can only hope that he finds peace and the answers he might be seeking.

The addition of Devin Taylor might be the most underrated ones of the spring. Taylor did some work at both defensive end and defensive tackle, bringing that versatility the coaching staff loves so much.

I’m not sure that he’ll be the third defensive end in the rotation—that still needs to be worked out between Taylor, Moss and Okwara—but I do think Taylor is going to contribute a lot this season and will make people glad the Giants signed him.

With Taylor and Moss likely to make the roster, that leaves the fifth defensive end spot up for grabs between Okwara and Wynn (and, if he return, Odighizuwa).

I’m giving the edge to Okwara because I believe he’s more diverse than Wynn when it comes to rushing the passer and in coverage.

That Okwara as a rookie last year got the starting nod ahead of Wynn when Pierre-Paul went down for the year with a core muscle injury was also very telling in terms of his development.

Defensive Tackles: 4

In: Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, Robert Thomas, Jay Bromley
Out: Corbin Bryant, Jarron Jones, Josh Banks
Practice Squad: Jarron Jones

I doubt the Giants go with more than four at this position, again because Devin Taylor looks as though he can be that swing guy who can play some defensive tackle in certain packages (he’s not a full-time prospect for the position, though).

The long-term plan is (presumably) for Dalvin Tomlinson, the team’s second-round draft pick, to start alongside of Damon Harrison. However, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo strongly hinted during the mandatory minicamp that  Tomlinson still has some ways to go before he’s named starter.

“He is on that learning curve like all rookies are,” Spagnuolo said. “But I will say this; I have a great deal of respect for where he came from – Alabama and what they do there and the coaching there, so I think he is ahead in that regard. I think that the guys have confidence in him that he can go in there and help us in this league.”

Spagnuolo also hinted that he might use a committee approach for the time being, though that’s subject to change once the pads go on and he can get a better look at what he has.

“It is going to come from a lot of different people at that position. Robert Thomas has done a heck of a job; Jay [Bromley] has done a heck of a job. We never play with just two guys in there anyway, so they will all be rotating.”

The Giants added veteran Corbin Bryant to the mix late in the spring. Usually when a veteran is added that late, it’s due to either injury concerns, or the guys on the roster not really starting to separate themselves from the pack. But again, with defensive linemen, it’s hard to tell what you have until the pads go on. With that said, I think they go with Harrison, Bromley, Tomlinson and Thomas.

I have Jarron Jones making the practice squad. Jones, remember, did some work as an offensive lineman so I can’t see the team necessarily parting ways with him without seeing the experiment through a little more.

Linebackers: 6

In: Devon Kennard, B.J. Goodson, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson, Mark Herzlich, J.T. Thomas
Out: Stansly Maponga, Curtis Grant, Calvin Munson, Deontae Skinner, Eric Pinkins
Practice Squad: Calvin Munson

Deciding on the last two spots was tricky, but in the end, I stuck with J.T. Thomas because if he’s healthy, he’s a solid reserve player and a potential core special teamer.

As of now, I don’t know if Thomas will begin training camp on PUP, like he did a year ago, but if he’s ready to go and if he can shed the injury-prone label, he’s worth keeping.

The last roster spot  at this position came down to Mark Herzlich and Eric Pinkins. Pinkins to my eyes at least, looked like a solid special teamer lasts year, but I think the reason he loses out to Herzlich is because of what I mentioned above: Herzlich’s versatility (tight end and long snapper).

Safeties: 4

In:  Landon Collins, Darian Thompson, Andrew Adams, Nat Berhe
Out: Jadar Johnson, Duke Ihenacho, Ryan Murphy, Trey Robinson
Practice Squad: Jadar Johnson

On paper, three of the projected four spots at this position should be locked up among Landon Collins, Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams.

I’m going with Nat Berhe over veteran Duke Ihenacho and promising undrafted rookie Jadar Johnson for now because if Berhe has finally learned to avoid the poor tackling techniques that have helped contribute to his concussions, I think he brings more to the table at this point.

However, Johnson is a guy to keep an eye on as he flashed in the spring and could end up sneaking past Berhe if he turns into a hard-hitting safety who can contribute on special teams and if he can stay healthy.

Corners: 5

In: Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Mykkele Thompson, Michael Hunter
Out: Valentino Blake, Nigel Tribune, DaShaun Amos, Donte Deayon
Practice Squad: Nigel Tribune

This position was the toughest to call, but in the end, I have Michael Hunter, who really had a strong spring, edging out Donte Deayon for the final roster spot.

I also have the oft-injured Mykkele Thompson on this year’s roster because again, like Nat Berhe, I think Thompson’s versatility–he can play as an outside corner, slot corner and safety–gives him an edge, if he’s healthy.

If Thompson has another injury setback, that would open the door for Deayon, another young player I really like. Deayon, originally an undrafted free agent in 2016, spent most of last year on injured reserve so I suspect he might be a little behind Hunter for a roster spot.

Specialists: 3

In: LS Zak DeOssie, K Aldrick Rosas, P Brad Wing
Out: N/A
Practice Squad: N/A

I’m still finding it hard to believe that general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo, both of whom love to see competition at every spot on the roster, have not yet added a kicker to challenge Aldrick Rosas, who has zero regular-season game experience.

Even in the past when the team had more established kickers, there was always another leg brought in, though that was probably done to provide relief for the older kickers they had in camp.

Special Teams coordinator Tom Quinn noted that with an inexperienced kicker like Rosas, there are only so many kicks to go around not just in camp practices, but in games.

The Giants’ brass has spoken glowingly about Rosas, so it’s very likely that they are very encouraged by what they’ve seen from him, which is why no other competition has been brought in yet.

But if Rosas should falter as the heat on him gets turned up, that will almost certainly change in a snap, especially as camp goes on and the coaches start to get a better sense of just who isn’t going to cut it.

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