New York Giants: 5 Veterans Who Could Be Camp Casualties
With seven training camp practices in the books as of Wednesday, the New York Giants roster battles, while far from being settled, are starting to heat up across the board.
So far, there have been a few players who have jumped out with strong and consistent showings. Alternatively, some players have yet to step up and separate from the rest.
While there are still five preseason games to be played that will leave room for anything to happen as far as injuries or the rising or falling of personal stocks, here is an early look at five players who after seven practices might have a hard time making the 53-man roster.
Linebacker Mark Herzlich
Linebacker Mark Herzlich, who everyone knows by now won his battle against Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, went undrafted in 2011.
The Giants decided to give him a chance, and while he had a few shining moments as a rookie, he’s since been little more than a situational linebacker despite twice being given the chance to secure the starting middle linebacker job.
Although Herzlich is currently listed as the backup to Jameel McClain on the depth chart posted on the team’s official web site, the former Boston College star is hardly a lock for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Assuming Jon Beason, for whom the Giants made a rare in-season trade after Herzlich struggled last season in the role, is able to make it back from his foot injury before the end of training camp, the Giants will have a decision to make regarding how many linebackers they keep.
While injuries and other factors could change the plans, the Giants are projected to keep six linebackers. Beason, McClain, Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams, Devon Kennard are likely locks. The sixth spot—if there is a sixth spot—will come down to Herzlich or rookie Dan Fox.
For Fox to top Herzlich, he must not only show that he can be a playmaker on defense, but he also must be superior to Herzlich on special teams.
If the Giants decide to go with five linebackers, Herzlich will almost certainly be the odd man out.
Receiver Mario Manningham
After a serious knee injury cost him 14 games between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, receiver Mario Manningham is hoping that his return “home” to the Giants, for whom he was a 2008 third-round draft pick, changes his fortunes.
However, Manningham, one of the heroes of Super Bowl XLVI, thanks to his amazing fourth-quarter reception that kept the Giants’ game winning drive alive, has not looked anything like the receiver he was before he signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers after the 2011 season.
He missed the entire spring while continuing to rehab his surgically repaired knee. In addition, since returning to training camp practices, Manningham has struggled to separate from defenders, raising concerns about whether his best years are behind him.
“Every day I feel better. I am going out here and just trying to get back where I was,” Manningham told reporters earlier this week.
“Coming in and out of my breaks, knowing I have the injury, it is taking me a little bit of time, but every day, it is getting better and better.”
While he’s encouraged by his progress, even Manningham knows he’s not a lock for the Giants' 53-man roster.
“This is still a new team to me—new faces, new staff, new offense,” he said. “I am going out there like I want to make this team, not like I already made the team or I got drafted here. I have something to prove.”
The silver lining for Manningham is the injuries to the other receivers, such as hamstring issues that have slowed down Rueben Randle and rookie Odell Beckham Jr., and the lower leg issue that has bothered Trindon Holliday.
If any of those injuries linger, Manningham might have a chance to stick. How much he will actually be able to contribute, assuming he makes the team, will be another story.
Offensive Lineman James Brewer
When a young player squanders a starting job that's handed to him on a silver platter, that usually doesn't bode well for that player's future with the team.
Yet that is where fourth-year offensive lineman James Brewer, a Giants’ fourth-round draft pick in 2011, currently is.
Last year thanks to injuries necessitating a shuffling of the offensive line, Brewer, a guard and tackle by trade, was inserted into the starting lineup at left guard. However, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he struggled in three of his last five games played, earning a minus-9.2 overall grade.
Brewer’s struggles, which might have been partially due to a sprained ankle suffered late in the season, no doubt prompted the team to take steps to shore up the depth at guard and tackle. As a result, the team signed Geoff Schwartz to a multiyear deal to be the starter at left guard.
Brewer, meanwhile, has been working with the second team at left tackle ad finds himself third on the team’s depth chart behind projected starter Will Beatty, a longtime Giants offensive tackle, and backup Charles Brown, another offseason acquisition.
With it appearing that Brewer is no longer being in the mix for a starting job—he’s not even been considered for the vacancy at right guard—combined with his struggles in camp working with the second string, the lineman's grip on a roster spot is far from being secure.
Fullback John Conner
The Giants’ fullback position has been one big mystery right from the start because it’s still not completely clear what the position role will be in Ben McAdoo’s offense.
Actually, that’s not a completely accurate statement. The Giants have used a fullback on numerous plays—but it’s been a tight end and not a pure fullback, such as John Conner or Henry Hynoski, receiving those snaps.
The fact that Hynoski, listed first on the team’s depth chart, and Conner have been used so little has raised questions as to whether the Giants might actually keep a pure fullback on their 53-man roster.
Per Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, the team has contemplated life without a pure fullback, which would be a first in the Tom Coughlin era.
Of course, the prospect of having a tight end do the job of a pure fullback on a fulltime basis didn’t sit too well with Hynoski, who made his case for keeping a pure fullback on the roster.
"You need a fullback," Hynoski told Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. "If you want to be physical and run the football, you need a fullback. If you want to be committed to the ground game, you need a fullback."
To further prove his point, Hynoski, who spoke to Raanan on Sunday before practice, later delivered one of the finest performances of training camp so far by a fullback, earning himself recognition from the Giants.com writer Dan Salomone as one of the players who stood out in that day’s practice.
Although Hynoski appears to have taken a slight lead in this race, there are still five preseason games for Conner, who has done a nice job running, receiving and blocking, to make his case.
If the decision, however, had to be made today, Conner would likely end up on the outside looking in.
Receiver Trindon Holliday
When there are 11 players at one position, that usually means training camp snaps for some of the second- and third-team players are few and far in between, making the importance of capitalizing on each snap one does get vital.
That hasn’t always been the case for receiver/return specialist Trindon Holliday.
After looking so promising in the spring, the diminutive Holliday, listed as the fifth receiver on the team's depth chart, has had his share of hiccups, which have included at least one drop per practice.
Add to that a lower leg injury which has limited him, and the combination of an inconsistent showing plus the injury doesn’t exactly bode well for his chances of making the 53-man roster.
Although Holliday is listed by the Giants as the No. 1 punt returner, the team has recently started giving cornerback Charles James a look at that position.
James has responded well too, showing good acceleration and vision in picking out holes and following his blocking. If James continues to excel at that spot, his performance could seal Holliday's fate.