Projected New York Giants' Final 53-Man Roster, Pre-Training Camp Edition
For as exciting as training camp is for players, coaches and fans, it’s also a bittersweet event for those who give it their all only to be told at the end that they don’t have what it takes to make the 53-man roster.
This summer in particular is going to be a difficult one for New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and his staff.
Thanks to the team finishing 7-9 last season, the front office significantly made over the roster, bringing in more than 40 new faces to compete for jobs at every position.
There are multiple factors besides how the players perform that will determine the makeup of the roster. The biggest factor is injury, including those players who enter camp injured and those who suffer injuries as camp progresses.
In my projections, I managed to come up with 25 players on offense, 25 on defense and three specialists. Let's run down my projections, unit by unit.
All stats are from NFL.com, unless otherwise noted. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise note.
In: Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib
Out: Curtis Painter
The Giants coaches seem very determined to go with only two quarterbacks this year.
Ryan Nassib, who appears to be in the lead to become the understudy to Eli Manning, has shown that he can line everyone up and direct the huddle. What he still needs to show is that he can consistently make the throws needed.
Nassib figures to get plenty of reps this summer to prove that the team does not have to carry three quarterbacks.
If he can convince them of that—and I think he will—that will go a long way toward helping the numbers at other positions.
In: Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, Andre Williams, Michael Cox
Out: Kendall Gaskins (Practice Squad), David Wilson (PUP list)
Despite the optimism regarding David Wilson, the decision to clear him needs to be weighed very carefully, especially if his resuming contact drills increases the likelihood of something going wrong perhaps more so than the average running back who isn't coming off of neck surgery.
As I've noted several times in the past, other players who have had a similar surgical procedure—Peyton Manning of Denver and Jermichael Finley of Green Bay—were not cleared to return to contact activities six months after having their respective procedures, which would be the period for which Wilson is hoping.
Granted, everyone is different, but considering Wilson plays a position where he's putting that neck at greater risk than a quarterback or tight end, I don't see how he'll be ready for contact drills at the start of training camp.
I also would not be surprised if Wilson starts the 2014 season on the PUP list, thus buying additional time.
If that scenario plays out, that will increase the chances for Michael Cox, a second-year player and 2013 seventh-round draft pick who rarely played on offense last year, to land on the 53-man roster.
Although I am not projecting Kendall Gaskins to make the roster, he impressed during the spring and could be a candidate for the Giants to tuck away on the practice squad.
Gaskins can play both running back and fullback, which could allow the Giants to eliminate the roster spot normally devoted to a pure fullback as soon as next season should Gaskins develop.
In: John Conner
Out: Henry Hynoski
This is a position where the talent level is even. It’s also a position where we haven’t seen the players execute the full range of activities required of the position thanks to the no-contact nature of the spring drills.
I believe that blocking could very well be the tiebreaker in this competition, which is why in making this prediction, I’m submitting a disclaimer on the basis that we still need to see who is the better blocker.
Last week, I wrote a comprehensive breakdown of the battle at this position, a breakdown that showed that John Conner has an advantage in each of the four categories—blocking, receiving, running and durability—typically associated with a fullback.
However, each offense is its own living and breathing organism, and to the best of my knowledge, neither Conner or Henry Hynoski have ever functioned in an NFL level West Coast offense, which is one of the many X-factors in this competition.
The other important factor concerns where Hynoski truly is in his return from a season-ending shoulder injury suffered last year.
Although he told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post that he's "fully healthy," Hynoski has yet to test that shoulder on a football field, throwing lead blocks and extending his arms for passes.
The Giants initially declined to tender Hynoski as a restricted free agent this past winter. That's worth noting because out of all the players brought in to replace injured starters, Hynoski's replacement (Conner) was the only one to be signed to what the National Football Post reported was a two-year contract instead of the standard one-year "rental" deal.
Based on the current information available, Conner appears to have an advantage in this race.
In: Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis
Out: Daniel Fells, Xavier Grimble (practice squad)
What people seem to forget when it comes to evaluating the Giants' tight ends is that both Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell dealt with injury issues last year that affected their development.
It certainly said a lot that Robinson, who was injured in the preseason finale, was kept on the roster rather than put on injured reserve. It also said a lot that Donnell was given opportunities to try to catch up after missing all of last spring with a broken foot.
Donnell might actually be the hidden gem in this group. Out of the candidates competing at this position, he's been the most versatile to date in terms of executing the roles he’s been asked to fill.
Last year, Donnell was lining up in the backfield, as an in-line blocker, out wide and in the slot. The problem, though, was his route-running was far from crisp, which resulted in him not being where the quarterback expected him to be.
Now with a full offseason in the books and a better appreciation of the importance of doing the little things as a pro, both Donnell and Robinson could open a few eyes if they're able to stay healthy.
I have Davis making the roster ahead of Grimble, the undrafted rookie from USC, for two reasons. One, Davis is said to be a solid blocker (though the minus-2.9 run blocking grade given to him by Pro Football Focus would appear to contradict that belief). Second, NFLDraftScout.com draws several comparisons between Grimble and Davis, noting that Grimble "can play the role of a traditional security blanket tight end but a new-age hybrid seam threat, he is not."
If the coaches believe that Grimble and Davis are clones skill-wise, I can’t see two of the same player making the roster.
Out: Preston Parker, Julian Talley, (practice squad), Mario Manningham (PUP list)
I’m penciling in six receivers this year because I'm going with three tight ends instead of four.
As far as the receivers go, I have my doubts about Mario Manningham being ready. Even if his knee is recovered to the point where he can practice, is he ever going to be the same player that he was during his first tour of duty with New York to justify a roster spot?
My guess is no, and since there is something intriguing about 6’4”, 214-pound Corey Washington (who happens to be the tallest of the Giants receivers), I think the rookie will build on his solid spring and crack the roster ahead of Manningham, who might start camp on the PUP list.
I found room for both Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday, even though both seem to be similar in their perceived limitations. I believe Holliday, who excelled on offense this spring, is going to emerge as a return specialist and will devote the majority of his time on special teams rather than the offense.
On the other hand, I think Jernigan’s days as a return specialist are over, and I think he might very well get a chance as a receiver to build on what he started at the end of last year.
While I’m still not sure what kind of role he’s going to have—he seems best suited for the slot, which under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo could see multiple players lining up at that spot this year—I wouldn’t be surprised to see some four-wide sets at which point Jernigan would have at least one defined role.
In: Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Charles Brown, John Jerry, Demarcus Love
Out: Chris Snee (retired), Dallas Reynolds, Jamaal Johnson-Webb (practice squad), Rogers Gaines, James Brewer, Troy Kropog, Eric Herman (practice squad)
As Jordan Raanan of NJ.com noted, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding veteran offensive lineman Chris Snee, who is attempting to return after season-ending surgeries on his hip and elbow.
While Raanan reported that Snee is “planning to be ready for the start of camp," he also raises a valid point about how, if Snee had trouble making it through a non-contact slate of spring practices, how would Snee hold up to the rigors of training camp?
My guess is that Snee’s body just isn’t going to cooperate with his desire to play one more season. I would not be surprised if he is forced to retire by the end of the summer.
The other question mark from an injury perspective involves left tackle Will Beatty, who is recovering from a broken leg.
Beatty is supposed to be ready for the start of camp, but his progress has been something of a mystery.
He's only spoken to reporters once, that in late April. Since then, head coach Tom Coughlin, when asked about Beatty's progress, has sounded uncertain as well.
On June 12, the coach told reporters that Beatty “seems like he’s making progress,” adding, “That’s what we’re hoping for,” when asked if the expectation was for Beatty to be ready by camp.
Those remarks came a week after Beatty tweeted this ominous message, which may or may not have been related to his recovery:
Set backs & disappointments weren't meant to destroy u They were meant to strengthen u & give u fortitude to accomplish ur God-given destiny— William Beatty (@willbeatty65) June 6, 2014
More recently, Beatty re-tweeted a photo of him working out with a trainer, this on July 15. This tweet’s tone sounded much more positive than the one on June 15:
We'll finally get answers on Monday regarding Beatty's readiness for camp. If he can’t go, Charles Brown would probably be the next man up.
Meanwhile, I have John Jerry making the roster, even though it's not known if his alleged involvement in the Miami Dolphins workplace scandal might result in a medical evaluation that might take him away from the team, as Raanan noted in March.
As the depth at tackle appears a little thin, I also have DeMarcus Love making the roster. Love, who can play both guard and tackle, was suspended for four games in 2013 after violating the league’s policy on PEDs as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
I have James Brewer not making the 53-man roster. Brewer, who possesses wonderful size and physical tools, had an excellent opportunity to secure a starting job last year, but just couldn’t get it done. Entering his fourth season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the coaches have concluded that Brewer has hit his ceiling.
I also tried to find a spot for Eric Herman on the 53-man roster, but was unable to do it given the uncertainty involving Beatty. Herman would still be eligible for the practice squad if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster.
In: Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore
Out: Kerry Wynn, Kendrick Adams, Emmanuel Dieke, Jordan Stanton (practice squad)
The abundance at defensive tackle—Cullen Jenkins can move to defensive end in a pinch—and the ability of rookie Devon Kennard to line up as a defensive end give the coaches a little more flexibility with the numbers, which is why I think they'll keep four defensive ends plus one on the practice squad.
My choice for the practice squad candidate is the 6'4", 280-pound Jordan Stanton, who last year as a senior for James Madison logged 56 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks.
Stanton appears to have some pass-rushing ability, but whether that can transfer to the pro level and whether he can anchor against the run by the end of the summer will mean the difference between him landing on the practice squad or being cast aside.
In: Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Kelcy Quarles, Jay Bromley, Markus Kuhn
Out: Everett Dawkins, Mike Patterson
I think the Giants are going to keep an extra defensive tackle this year, and I think that extra defensive tackle could very well be rookie Kelcy Quarles.
The reason why I have Quarles over Mike Patterson is that I think Quarles brings a little more to the table as a pass-rusher.
Per NFLDraftScout.com, his career totals include 105 tackles (66 solo) with 13.0 sacks for minus-111 yards, 23.5 stops for losses of 147 yards and eight quarterback pressures. His sack total alone in four years is just 3.5 sacks fewer than Patterson’s 10-year career total of 16.5.
The other reason why I have Quarles making is that in reviewing Patterson’s weekly game grades, as assigned by Pro Football Focus (subscription required), I concluded that he’s been too streaky, having every year logged stretches of poorly graded games since 2008.
In 2013, Patterson, who did well in short-yardage and goal-line situations, finished the last quarter of the season with four consecutive negative grades from PFF—all of which steadily declined by year’s end.
The other player to remember is Markus Kuhn, a 2012 seventh-round draft pick who saw his rookie season cut short by an ACL injury.
Kuhn, who missed a large chunk of last year while on the PUP list, has rededicated himself in the weight room and has drawn praise from defensive line coach Robert Nunn.
“He had an outstanding offseason, really outstanding practices,” Nunn said. “He and (Johnathan) Hankins—they’ll definitely get more reps in training camp than Mike (Patterson) and Cullen (Jenkins) if everything goes as planned.
“He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations Markus was, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t call his name out in a positive manner.”
Nunn’s words are of interest given that Hankins is projected to be the starter this year alongside Jenkins. If the Nunn's plan comes to fruition, that means that Kuhn will have a big opportunity to cement his spot on this roster.
In: Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, Devon Kennard, Dan Fox
Out: Mark Herzlich, Spencer Adkins, Terrell Manning
Jon Beason's recovery from a foot injury probably forces the Giants to keep an extra linebacker, just in case Beason isn’t ready by opening day.
From a lineup perspective, Jameel McClain and rookie Devon Kennard are the two next in line to fill in for Beason, per head coach Tom Coughlin.
“We have two—you have the two that have been playing in it,” he told reporters after Beason’s injury was announced. “McClain would be in there first, Kennard would be in there second.”
The only true battle, then, appears to be for the final roster spot at this position, a battle that will come down between veteran Mark Herzlich and rookie Dan Fox.
On paper, Herzlich should have the edge given he’s played in Perry Fewell’s system for three seasons.
However, Herzlich, who last year was solid on special teams, appears to have hit his ceiling as a linebacker, as evidenced by his failure in two previous extended attempts to secure the starting middle linebacker position. Also, Tom Coughlin did not mention Herzlich as a prospect to fill in for Beason.
Fewell could barely contain his excitement when asked abut what he's seen from Fox this spring.
“A smart football player. I keep going back to professional, a professional type person that studies,” Fewell told reporters. “I’m really pumped up to see when he gets hit in the mouth how he’ll respond. I think he’ll be good on special teams for us and just a solid player that you can develop.
“…I think this is some of the better rookie linebackers that we’ve brought in in the last four years that I’ve been here. That ’11 class was pretty good. I think this class is really stepping up to the plate to try to equal that or better.”
When you also consider that Fox can play inside and outside linebacker, has experience playing in a 3-4 front (ideal should the Giants want to run some 3-4 looks) and can contribute on special teams, Fox is very much a real competitor for a roster spot.
With Beason expected to miss all of training camp while he continued to rehab his foot, Fox should get plenty of opportunities to solidify what appears to be an early hold on a roster spot.
In: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps, Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe
Out: C.J. Barnett (practice squad), Thomas Gordon, Kyle Sebetic
I’m going with the five safeties because while there is optimism that Stevie Brown’s knee will hold up, the Giants could easily find themselves stretched thin at this position if Brown’s reps need to be managed throughout the year.
Whereas I initially thought rookie Nat Berhe might be headed to the practice squad since his skill set appears to be identical to Cooper Taylor’s, upon further contemplation, I think it would be too risky to make this move.
With Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps all seeing their contracts expire after this season, I believe the Giants are going to look to keep at least one safety on the practice squad, and my choice prior to training camp is C.J. Barnett.
In the spring practices, I thought Barnett displayed some ability when given opportunities, so I’m going to watch to see if he continues to flash in camp and the preseason.
In: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman, Charles James
Out: Trumaine McBride (PUP list), Bennett Jackson (practice squad), Jayron Hosley (suspended four games), Travis Howard, Ross Weaver
I believe the Giants will hang onto Jayron Hosley, even after his four-game suspension for having violated the league's substance abuse policy is over, and plug him in as the fifth cornerback if there is an injury.
I have a feeling that Trumaine McBride, who underwent offseason hip surgery in January, according to Art Stapleton of The Record, might not be ready for camp.
Even if he is, he’d be the fourth cornerback at best despite doing fairly well as a starter last year. It makes more sense to put Zack Bowman, who’s known as a special teams ace, ahead of McBride on the depth chart.
Although I don't think Charles James will see much time as a punt returner, he can make other contributions to the special teams units, which would help his chances of earning a roster spot.
Bennett Jackson, the team’s sixth-round draft pick this year, is a raw prospect who will probably benefit from a year on the practice squad.
In: Steve Weatherford (punter), Josh Brown (kicker), Zak DeOssie (long snapper)
Out: Brandon McManus (kicker)
The lone competition among the specialists is at the kicker position, where 35-year-old Josh Brown, who signed a two-year contract with the Giants in the offseason per Rotoworld, will be challenged by 22-year-old rookie Brandon McManus.
Unlike past summers, when the Giants have brought in an extra kicker to help take some of the workload off the incumbent, this actually looks like it’s shaping up to be a competition.
Brown is coming off his second-best season as a pro, in which he made 88.5 percent of his field-goal attempts.
A deeper look at Brown’s production over the years shows that other than 2012, when he came in as a late-season replacement for the Cincinnati Bengals, Brown has made it through all 16 games and has averaged 81.9 percent on his field-goal conversions.
Although Brown has spent part of his career kicking indoors, the fact that he managed to record his second-best career field goal percentage in an outdoor stadium in the northeast says a lot about how well he keeps himself in condition.
The question the Giants must answer, though, is whether they want to gamble on Brown’s leg lasting another two seasons or switch to the strong-legged McManus, who is the Temple University record holder for points scored (338), field goals made (60) and attempted (83) and punting average (45.4)?
It could be a tight competition, but I think Brown, who has proven himself under fire, will survive.
Full Projected New York Giants Roster
Quarterbacks (2): Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib
Running Backs (4): Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, Andre Williams, Michael Cox
Fullback (1): John Conner
Tight Ends (3): Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis
Receivers (6): Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr., Trindon Holliday, Jerrel Jernigan, Corey Washington
Offensive Linemen (9): Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Charles Brown, John Jerry, DeMarcus Love
Defensive End (4): Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore, Mathias Kiwanuka
Defensive Tackles (5): Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Kelcy Quarles, Jay Bromley, Markus Kuhn
Linebackers (6): Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, Devon Kennard, Dan Fox
Safeties (5): Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps, Cooper Taylor, Nat Berhe
Cornerbacks (5): Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman, Charles James
Steve Weatherford (punter), Josh Brown (kicker), Zak DeOssie (long snapper)