Making the Call on the New York Giants' Hardest Remaining Cuts
If there’s one time of year that NFL coaches and general managers must hate with a passion, it’s having to inform those players whom, despite working hard all offseason and summer, they've decided to release from the team.
Unfortunately, that time is fast approaching, and it probably doesn’t get any easier for New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who along with his coaching staff and general manager Jerry Reese, will have some difficult decisions to make.
To recap the timing, on August 27, teams will be required to reduce their rosters from 90 to 75. On August 31, teams will make their final roster cuts down to the final 53 players.
Here’s a look at where seven Giants veterans, who at the start of camp were thought to be on the bubble, likely stand in their quest to make the 53-man roster.
WR Jerrel Jernigan
The Giants are more than likely going to keep six receivers when the dust settles, this because of the uncertainty regarding Odell Beckham’s hamstring.
However, one of those six spots is not an automatic for Jerrel Jernigan, the team’s third-round draft pick in 2011.
Jernigan, remember, opened some eyes toward the end of last season when he stepped in for the injured Victor Cruz. However, head coach Tom Coughlin told reporters this week that Jernigan’s solid showing from the end of 2013 hasn’t carried over to this summer.
“He’s had days when he’s done very well and he’s had days when he hasn’t. I don’t mind saying the other night (against the Colts)…he did run by the defender, if he caught the ball, it certainly would have helped us. That’s a continuous battle right now to sort that thing out. Who’s going to be the playmakers? Who are they?”
Beckham, Cruz and Rueben Randle would appear to be locks. If the Giants do go with an additional three receivers, Corey Washington, Marcus Harris and Preston Parker are going to be difficult to ignore.
Parker, in fact, has shown flashes as a punt returner, something Jernigan could never seem to master despite numerous opportunities. That factor right there could very well seal the deal on Jernigan’s fate, which right now doesn’t look very promising.
Likely Verdict: Out
TE Adrien Robinson
The Giants tight end position is no closer to being resolved now than it was at the start of camp, and there could be a scenario where the starting tight end isn’t even on the roster just yet.
Still, look for the Giants to keep three on the roster and for two of those three to include youngsters Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson while the third tight end figures to be veteran Kellen Davis.
Robinson, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2012, is the team’s leading receiver among the tight ends, with three catches for 68 yards.
Possessing impressive size, the 6'4", 264-pound Robinson’s biggest issue right from the start has been his consistency. He did have a solid showing against the Colts in the third preseason game, albeit against backups. In that game, Robinson caught two of four pass targets for 59 yards, including a picture-perfect 33-yarder.
Likely Verdict: In
FB John Conner
The Giants fullback battle was probably one of the most interesting, yet underrated of the lot, as New York brought two quality fullbacks into camp in Henry Hynoski and John Conner.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Hynoski, who’s taken five fewer snaps than Conner, has the better overall grade (2.2) and better run-blocking grade (2.2).
However, the coaches have given Conner two carries, to date, in which he managed to generate 10 yards, six yards coming after contact.
Unfortunately, the team will probably keep just one of the two, and the winner of that competition after three preseason games just might be Hynoski, who last week revealed that he was given the H-back playbook to learn, a good sign that he has moved ahead in the competition if his duties are expanding.
It also didn’t help Conner, who’s been listed behind Hynoski on the depth chart since the second week of training camp, when he had to miss a few days of practice after suffering a concussion in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This battle is probably going to go down to the final roster cut. Unless something changes, it doesn’t look good for Conner right now.
Likely Verdict: Out
WR Mario Manningham
Once upon a time, receiver Mario Manningham was an underrated, yet solid contributor who just happened to make perhaps the most impressive reception in a Super Bowl since former Giants receiver David Tyree pinned a pass against his helmet.
Following New York's Super Bowl XLVI triumph, Manningham signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an unrestricted free agent. Unfortunately, a severe knee injury seems to have robbed him of his speed and ability to separate.
Since returning to the Giants on a one-year deal this offseason, Manningham has been fighting the good fight, trying to show that he can be a serviceable receiver.
However, the injury and subsequent surgery have turned him into a shell of what he once was; it seems that he can no longer separate from defensive backs.
With the emergence of youngsters like Marcus Harris, Corey Washington and Preston Parker, Manningham’s second tour of duty with the team that originally chose him in the third round of the 2008 draft doesn’t look like it will end on a positive note.
Likely Verdict: Out
LB Mark Herzlich
Although all systems seem to be a go for Jon Beason’s return for Week 1—Beason told reporters on Monday that he's "getting close" to coming off the PUP list—the Giants would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t carry an extra linebacker just in case something unexpected were to happen.
That extra linebacker will more than likely be Mark Herzlich, who should make the team as the sixth linebacker. Herzlich’s primary competition going into camp was undrafted rookie Dan Fox, who is a promising prospect, but who would probably benefit from spending a year on the practice squad to build up his strength.
Herzlich has actually had a nice showing this summer, earning positive grades from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) in both run defense and pass coverage, the latter for which he has an 82.5 rating in 93 snaps.
A solid special teams player, Herzlich should easily be one of six linebackers retained, were the Giants to keep that many.
Likely verdict: In
RB Peyton Hillis
Whether a fringe player is a rookie or a veteran, a lingering injury during training camp is never a good thing.
Yet that’s the position that running back Peyton Hillis currently finds himself dealing with after suffering a sprained ankle on Aug. 4.
That injury is actually the second one he has dealt with this offseason; in the spring, he missed what Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger reported to be a low-grade muscle strain just before the team’s minicamp in June.
When he has been healthy, Hillis has been a solid contributor to the Giants’ offensive backfield. However, his durability is starting to become a concern.
With rookie Andre Williams fast showing that he can be a solid complement to starter Rashad Jennings, and with Jennings showing that he can handle all of the roles that Hillis handled, if the 28-year-old one-time Madden cover boy can’t get on the field soon, he could be on the outside looking in come the final cut-down date.
Likely Verdict: Out
CB Charles James II
The Giants are potentially looking at keeping 10 defensive backs, a figure that breaks down to four safeties and six corners.
If they go with the six corners—and they just might if Trumaine McBride’s hip and/or Prince Amukamara’s groin are of any concern—that should clear the way for Charles James II, the scrappy undrafted free agent who last year found his way to the active roster after starting out on the practice squad.
Thus far, James’ reps at cornerback have been limited. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he’s taken just 10 snaps at cornerback, allowing 60 percent of the passes thrown at him to be completed for 51 yards for a 73.3 NFL rating.
In addition to being able to play corner, James contributes on special teams. He’s worked as a starting gunner in the first two preseason games, and he can return punts if necessary.
Likely Verdict: In