New York Giants Veterans Who Have Been Put on Notice This Offseason
Because they had so many impending free agents at the end of their 7-9 season in 2013, the Giants effectively rebuilt their roster without releasing any veterans, like they did during the 2013 offseason when they rid themselves of linebacker Michael Boley, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive tackle Chris Canty.
Thanks to a wild free-agency period, a few Big Blue veterans will remain on the Giants' 2014 roster (at least until cuts are made in training camp), when they may have otherwise been released. To keep a job in New York beyond this summer, these veterans must impress in OTAs, training camp and beyond.
If they fail to impress, these veterans won't be calling themselves Giants in 2015. Some will make an NFL roster elsewhere, while others may never play in the league again.
For the purposes of this article, I've considered only returning Giants as veterans—no recent free-agent acquisitions and, obviously, no 2014 draft picks. It's make-or-break time for these players.
Let's take a look at the five New York veterans under the most pressure to perform this season.
*All statistical information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
WR Jerrel Jernigan
Fourth-year wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan finished the 2013 season in explosive fashion, catching 19 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns in the final three games of the year. He also scored on a 49-yard end-around in a Week 17 win over the Washington Redskins.
While Jernigan's late-season emergence provides hope for future production, hope is all it provides. His involvement in the Giants 2014 offense is not guaranteed.
Even if the Giants employ more three-wide receiver sets under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, Jernigan is unlikely to produce anywhere outside of the slot, where Victor Cruz has a stranglehold on the starting job. Jernigan is only 5'8", 189 pounds, which makes the competition for outside receiving duties between the speedster and the 6'3" Rueben Randle a seemingly lopsided one.
I doubt Tom Coughlin and the rest of the Giants coaching staff will work very hard to emphasize touches for Jernigan over those for 2014 first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr.
Giants co-owner and CEO John Mara made a snarky remark earlier in the offseason about Jernigan and the coaching staff's inability to get him involved in the game plan sooner. The truth is Jernigan had his chances to make an impact in the return game, a specialization in which New York anticipated the third-round Troy prospect to excel. He fumbled/muffed five punts in his rookie preseason and has fumbled once more in each of the past two regular seasons.
Jernigan has never returned a kick of any sort for a touchdown in his NFL career.
While I do expect him to make the final 53-man roster, Jernigan will not make a significant impact on offense unless Cruz is injured again in 2014. He will compete with Mario Manningham for fourth-receiver duties.
On special teams, Jernigan's competition for a returner position is stiffer than ever. Along with Beckham and former second-team All-Pro kick returner David Wilson, the Giants have also added viable return men in Trindon Holliday and Quintin Demps.
CB Jayron Hosley
Cornerback Jayron Hosley, a third-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2012, has been mostly invisible during his two seasons with the Giants. For some corners, like the ones with a so-called "island," being ignored is a good thing.
For Hosley, it is not.
In two years, Hosley has missed nine games and recorded just seven starts (only one in 2013). He has been listed on the injury report for his toe, shoulder, quadriceps, ankle and even an illness in Week 17 of the 2013 season, but the most troublesome injuries have been to Hosley's hamstring.
Hosley must overcome the injury bug if he ever wants to make it in the NFL. However, even if he does stay healthy, he is no lock to see the field or even make the final roster in 2014. The Giants added a lot of personnel to their secondary this offseason, and the competition at cornerback is incredibly steep for a player like Hosley.
Ahead of Hosley on the depth chart are the suspected starters Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara, as well as projected nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond III. Trumaine McBride, who outplayed Hosley in 2013, is returning and other recent additions, like former Chicago Bear Zack Bowman and sixth-round selection Bennett Jackson out of Notre Dame, will only make Hosley's life harder in 2014.
Even when on the field, Hosley hasn't showed much to call spectacular. In his first two seasons, he made only one interception, picking off Carolina's Cam Newton in a game that had virtually been decided by the time of Hosley's turnover.
Hosley is only 5'10", 178 pounds, too, making him one of the smallest players on the roster.
The third-year corner will be on the roster bubble heading into training camp. His best chance to make the 53-man roster will be to prove himself as an indispensable slot corner, as his size is sure to limit him on the outside against bigger receivers.
OL James Brewer
James Brewer has been one heavy disappointment. The 2011 fourth-round pick out of Indiana is a massive man, 6'6" and 330 pounds. That kind of size is perfect for a premier offensive tackle, but Brewer has been anything but as a pro.
In three seasons with the Giants, Brewer has shown improvement, although minuscule. He did not appear in a single game as a rookie, but he did play eight games in 2012. Last season, Brewer doubled that figure, playing in all 16 games while also recording the first eight starts of his career. The majority of Brewer's playing time came at guard, mostly due to the general deterioration of the Giants' O-line in 2013.
Last season, Brewer was essential to holding together an offensive line that had come completely undone. However, never during the 2013 season did Brewer's performance indicate that he could start on a healthy, formidable line. New York's offense was terrible up front last season, and Brewer wasn't the only one to fully look the part of a backup.
Now, with the line revamped, Brewer's chances to start again are infinitely slimmer. Even if veterans Chris Snee (hip) and Will Beatty (leg) suffer setbacks in their respective recoveries, New York now has Geoff Schwartz, Charles Brown, John Jerry and others to help patch things together.
Brewer's size still makes him an enticing athlete, but the Giants are no longer enamored by his stature alone. They know what he is and is not capable of doing on the field. Unless he shows the coaching staff something previously unseen, Brewer could be on the way out sooner rather than later.
At least Brewer will always have video games to fall back on, if the whole professional football player thing fails to pan out.
TE Adrien Robinson
If the "JPP of tight ends" moniker is true, then Adrien Robinson is one year overdue for an All-Pro season.
Attempting to describe the project of a tight end he had drafted in 2012, GM Jerry Reese drew a comparison between Robinson, a fourth-rounder out of the University of Cincinnati and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, another player who was a raw prospect when he was drafted.
That's about where the similarities end, though.
Pierre-Paul had become one of the NFL's most-feared defenders by the conclusion of his second professional season. Robinson, on the other hand, hadn't caught a single pass.
With only three appearances under his belt, Robinson hasn't come very far in two years. It will take a quantum leap in his third year to justify Reese's comparison.
A sprained foot kept Robinson out of action for most of the 2014 season. When he did finally find the field in Week 16 last year, Robinson lasted no longer than the opening kickoff. The big tight end injured his knee on the play and was carted off the field.
Robinson stands 6'4" tall and is on his way down from 285 to 265 pounds, making him a decent-sized target for quarterback Eli Manning to find—provided that he's on the field. If it turns out that Ben McAdoo's offense is simpler than the intricate scheme ran by former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, the inexperienced Robinson will benefit immensely from the change.
Of course, that does not matter much if he cannot prove himself as a blocker, too.
Martellus Bennett and Brandon Myers are officially out of Robinson's way, and now it is his job to lose. The Giants added just Kellen Davis, a blocking tight end, in free agency and chose not to draft a player at this position in 2014. However, they did sign undrafted free agent Xavier Grimble, who could give Robinson an unexpected run for his money this summer.
LB Jacquian Williams
Let me start by saying Jacquian Williams is an exceptional special-teamer and an athletic, versatile defender. He does many things well for the Giants, but if he does not become exceptional at any one dimension of his game, Williams will fall by the wayside like the many 'tweeners that came before him.
Playing in all 16 games was a big accomplishment for Williams, who finally was able to put a pesky PCL injury behind him. Although he started a career-high eight games in 2013, it was his counterpart, Spencer Paysinger, who took the larger step forward a season ago. Both players landed with the Giants in 2011—Williams as a sixth-rounder, Paysinger as an undrafted free agent.
Paysinger, who also played in all 16 games last year (with 11 starts), is the better every-down linebacker. He lacks Williams' speed and overall athleticism, but Paysinger's play is sound and effective. With former Baltimore Raven Jameel McClain now in the mix at linebacker too, Williams could become a situational defender, which will severely limit his snap count.
If that's the case, Williams will have to excel when called upon, thus warranting his being on the field in place of McClain or Paysinger. An undersized linebacker at only 224 pounds, according to the Giants' 90-man roster, Williams' specialty is not going to be stuffing the run. Instead, he needs to excel in coverage and in making plays in space.
This is where Williams' athleticism will bear itself best. He can hang with the most talented tight ends in the league, and he won't get lost shadowing, for example, LeSean McCoy or Shady's new Philadelphia Eagles teammate Darren Sproles. both of whom can be real pests if left alone in open space.
To avoid becoming a one-trick pony, Williams should also work on his pass rush. If picked up by an O-lineman, he is too small to avoid being swallowed up. His speed, however, bodes well for a surprise blitz, if defensive coordinator Perry Fewell can time it right.
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