In the next week, the Giants have to trim their roster down from 90 to 53 men. Plenty of those roster spots are set in stone, but there are a few that are up for grabs. But of the 37 cuts that Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff have to make, a handful of them will be particularly difficult.
The Giants hopefuls have had all of training camp plus three preseason games so far to prove their value to the team. After leaving all they’ve got on the field, the bubble players can do nothing but hope and pray for good news in the days to come.
Sure, there will be plenty of sleepless nights for players in danger of getting cut, but rarely do we ever discuss the pressure on the coaches who make these season-threatening decisions. This article will list nine players that Coughlin and company will find toughest to cut.
The Giants will carry three, possibly four, running backs on their final 53-man roster. Veteran starter Ahmad Bradshaw and first-round draft choice David Wilson have guaranteed roster spots. With D.J. Ware finding his niche as a third-down back, the backfield is suddenly too crowded for Da’Rel Scott.
A couple of inconvenient injuries sustained in training camp have prevented Scott from taking a significant step forward in 2012. However, Scott admittedly told Alex Raskin of CBSSports.com that a few personal errors, in addition to injuries, have set him back this preseason.
The 24-year-old Maryland product will be especially difficult to cut because he has so much untapped talent. Scott’s 4.34-second 40-yard dash made him the fastest running back at the 2011 NFL combine, and the Giants happily plucked him up in the seventh round.
Originally, Scott looked like he would be the starting kick returner, but so far this preseason, he’s only had the opportunity to return one kick for 28 yards. With plenty of other players in the hunt for the kick returner job, it doesn’t make sense to tie up a valuable roster spot with a player like Scott.
There will be more than one tough cut to make at wide receiver. Starters Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks currently hold down two roster spots, while Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Reuben Randle and Ramses Barden, who all have a good chance at making the team, battle for the third wide receiver position.
With so many players competing for a critical role in the offense, that doesn’t leave much room for receivers struggling to make the team like David Douglas and Dan DePalma. Both players have impressed the coaching staff with their ability this summer, but when the 53-man roster is released, Douglas and DePalma will have a tough time avoiding the cut.
Douglas, an undrafted free agent out of Arizona, showcased his athleticism in camp, hauling in multiple highlight-reel catches. The team might be looking for a way to keep Douglas on the roster, as he was the starting punt returner against the Bears on Friday with Jayron Hosley out.
DePalma, who stood out on the practice squad last year as the team’s hardest working receiver, may also end up drawing the short end of the stick. Despite an impressive effort this training camp and preseason, it looks like it will be back to the practice squad for DePalma.
New York has one of the NFL’s best starting rotations at defensive end with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. However, with Dave Tollefson now in Oakland, someone had to claim the fourth defensive end spot.
At the start of training camp, Justin Trattou and Adrian Tracy were the front-runners to win the job. Since then, a heel/ankle injury has forced the Giants to waive Trattou, and a hamstring injury has pulled Tracy, a graduate of William and Mary, from the action.
In their absence, Adawale Ojomo and Matt Broha have played exceedingly well. Ojomo has shown a relentless motor, bringing down the quarterback twice against the Jets and adding another sack against the Bears—the only player to do so. Broha has also rushed the passer well, recording a sack in each of the team’s first two preseason games.
Even though these two players have made a decent case for the coaches to keep them on the team, it’s unlikely that either of them will leapfrog Tracy. The 2010 sixth-round draft choice has earned the nickname “Young Osi” after returning to his natural position, defensive end, this season. Tracy has tried out at linebacker the past two years, but ultimately failed to make the active roster both seasons.
A lot of questions have arisen at the cornerback position this preseason. First, it was, can Terrell Thomas make an effective return from his torn ACL in 2011? Then, after Thomas went down with a re-aggravated ACL, it was, is Prince Amukamara ready to become the full-time starter?
Now that Amukamara (high ankle sprain) and Jayron Hosley (turf toe) are out of the lineup, the current question is, who will step into the starting role opposite Corey Webster?
Right now, it looks like Michael Coe will be called on to fill the void after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last season. But with all the shuffling at the cornerback position, it’s a different player, whose season was also cut short in 2011, that ends up getting lost in the mix.
Justin Tryon, who was drafted by the Redskins and spent time with the Colts before coming to New York, will have a tough time finding a roster spot. Given the recent injuries at cornerback, his chances of making the team are slightly greater, but first, he will have to visibly separate himself from Bruce Johnson and Antwuan Molden.
Tryon is gritty and hard-working—two adjectives you don’t usually hear when describing a cornerback. He excels on special teams and plays with an added motivation after his brother Jermaine was murdered during his college years. Last season, he had to be pulled from the Dolphins game after breaking his arm, an injury that cost him his 2011 season.
Last year, sixth-round draft choice Greg Jones and undrafted free agent Spencer Paysinger were two of four rookie linebackers to make the team. This preseason, the competition at linebacker has been stiffer, and the chances of making the team have become much slimmer.
Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka and Chase Blackburn have locked down roster spots for the 2012 season, and Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers and Mark Herzlich appear to be firmly entrenched behind them. That leaves barely enough breathing room for Jones and Paysinger.
Jones actually began the 2011 season as the Giants’ starting middle linebacker. He held down the job for the first five games before losing it to Herzlich and eventually Blackburn. The former Michigan State Spartan still appeared in every game and contributed on special teams.
When Boley missed time in training camp last year, Paysinger stepped in and ran with the first team. However, when Boley went down in the regular season, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s adjustments had Paysinger on the sideline.
Once again, Boley has been out for the majority of this preseason, and in his absence, Paysinger has seen time with the first team. In spite of all this, his future with the Giants is still in question.
Both Jones and Paysinger have been able to make plays on special teams and have shown progression since their rookie seasons. However, it’ll take much more than that for one of these linebackers to find a spot on the 53-man roster.
When the Giants drafted Markus Kuhn out of North Carolina State in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, he was expected to be a practice squad player. The German-born 26-year-old defensive tackle is still learning the game, and he entered training camp as a developmental project.
However, when multiple defensive tackles went down earlier in August, Kuhn’s progression needed to be put on the fast track. Since then, Kuhn has been given a lot more opportunities, and so far, he has impressed the coaching staff what he’s done with them.
With Chris Canty on the physically unable to perform list, Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard are currently the starting pair. But beyond those two players, the Giants’ depth at defensive tackle is incredibly murky.
Dwayne Hendricks, a practice squad player in 2011, is the next most experienced player (with New York). Like Kuhn, Marcus Thomas, Carlton Powell and Oren Wilson—each brought in to replenish the depleted DT position—are all trying to pick up a brand new system.
If Shaun Rogers ends up avoiding injured reserve, there will be no room for the team to bring Kuhn along. He will be difficult to cut, as he has shown promise for the future, but the Giants will probably follow their original plan and sign Kuhn to the practice squad.