NY Giants: Biggest Snubs and Surprises on the 53-Man Roster
Roster cuts are never any fun, and can certainly be unpredictable for those of us who try to anticipate the various logic behind the decisions made by a team.
Such is the case with the New York Giants and some of their 2014 roster moves.
Yes, there are curious decisions that went into the makeup of the initial 53-man roster, which we’ll look at in the following slides now that the dust seems to have settled a bit.
Keep in mind, though, that additional moves could be coming. For instance, Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo was first with the news that the Giants are trying to close a deal with former San Francisco offensive lineman Adam Snyder.
As we wait on the tweaks to become official, let’s take one last look back at the surprises and snubs when the initial 53-man roster was finalized on Sunday.
As a bonus, we will also go outside the box a bit and look at a couple of player performances.
One is by a defensive player who didn't make the roster but who some believe should have.
The other is by an offensive player—one who made the roster but probably should have made a better showing in terms of his play in training camp and the preseason.
Surprise: DE Kerry Wynn
The Giants opted to add a fifth defensive end to their lineup, that being rookie defensive end Kerry Wynn out of Richmond.
It’s not so much that Wynn played badly this summer—he didn't and his production certainly warranted a roster spot.
According to the Giants' final defensive stats that were distributed to the media this week, Wynn contributed four quarterback hits, two quarterback sacks and was tied for sixth on the team in total tackles with 13.
The surprise factor was that the Giants decided to keep another defensive end when defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is perfectly capable of moving outside if they need an extra body out there.
As for Wynn, he's unlikely to get a game-day uniform. Perhaps the Giants thought they might have had a better chance of losing Wynn had they exposed him to waivers, which is why they opted to carry him.
It will be interesting to see if he remains on the roster for the entire 2014 season once injuries start piling up and the Giants potentially need to trim positions where the numbers are excessive.
Snub: CB Charles James II
Cornerback Charles James didn’t even make it to the final roster cuts, losing his spot when the Giants trimmed down from 90 to 75 players.
As a cornerback, James had a rough summer in coverage, allowing eight of 12 passes thrown his way to be completed for 94 yards, one touchdown and a 118.1 quarterback rating allowed, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
However, the cornerbacks who are usually at the bottom end of the depth chart typically don’t play defense as much as they do special teams. That's what made James’ departure such a surprise.
Once safety Cooper Taylor was lost for a season-ending toe injury, James, who had made his living on special teams last year, figured to have a spot.
In the end, his lackluster play on defense, a bad game on special teams against the New York Jets, and the fact that the Giants went with five cornerbacks meant that there was no room for the second-year man out of Charleston Southern.
Surprise: TE Adrien Robinson
Perhaps the biggest head-scratcher this year is why tight end Adrien Robinson currently holds a roster spot.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Robinson caught four passes out of eight targets for 84 yards. He also dropped two balls and fumbled one.
Robinson’s run blocking wasn’t that much better. He graded out in the red in three of the Giants' five preseason games, finishing with a PFF run-blocking grade of minus-4.5.
Overall, Robinson received the lowest grade of the four Giants tight ends, earning a minus-5.7 overall mark from PFF.
Yet as general manager Jerry Reese reminded the media at the start of training camp, “(Denver’s) Julius Thomas only had one catch going into (last) season.”
Still, that’s one more catch than the player Reese dubbed as the "JPP of tight ends" has.
Snub: TE Kellen Davis
On the flip side of the tight end picture is the snub of veteran Kellen Davis.
That mark included a strong 1.2 run-blocking grade, which was no surprise since Davis was indeed the second-best run blocker of the group, behind Daniel Fells.
The good news is that Davis could be back with the team should it makes expected roster moves to compensate for injuries along the offensive line.
Veterans who are signed after Week 1 of the regular season do not have their full salary guaranteed, so we’ll see if New York does indeed bring Davis back.
Surprise: OT Charles Brown
There’s a good reason why New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton benched his starting left tackle, Charles Brown in the middle of a game last year.
The breaking point for Payton, according to WWLTV.com came in a losing effort to the St. Louis Rams, when Brown, who was decidedly overmatched against the Rams' terrific defensive end Robert Quinn, gave up a number of sacks and pressures and committed multiple penalties.
Brown was not re-signed by the Saints and instead joined the Giants as an unrestricted free agent. However, his issues as a pass-blocker continued this preseason, as he finished with a minus-3.0 grade in that category from Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—the worst pass-blocking grade of the Giants’ six offensive tackles on the summer roster.
To add insult to injury, Brown suffered a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the final two preseason games.
Yet he made it to the Giants’ 53-man roster despite the injury and his on-field struggles. This amounts to a head-scratcher of a decision.
Snub: FB John Conner
While there was little doubt that Henry Hynoski outplayed John Conner for the fullback job—per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Hynoski’s run-blocking grade was a solid 1.3 while Conner’s was a minus-3.0—what made the cutting of Conner a surprise has more to do with the tight end situation.
Hynoski, remember, was given a package of plays normally run by the H-back, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Given the issues the Giants have at tight end, might it have made more sense to let Hynoski do the H-back work, keep the more durable Conner to do the lead-blocking and go with two tight ends instead of three?
The Giants didn’t think so, but certainly given the play of those involved, it’s hard to argue the intrigue that such a personnel configuration might have offered.
Postscript No. 1: WR Rueben Randle's Surprisingly Bad Performance
It’s not so much a surprise that receiver Rueben Randle made the 53-man roster—that was to be expected given that he’s a second-round draft pick and projected to be the Giants’ No. 2 receiver this year.
Rather, the surprise is Randle’s preseason performance, which per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), was the second worst among Giants receivers, just ahead of Julian Talley, a player who didn’t make the final cut.
As was often the case last year, Randle and quarterback Eli Manning did not seem to be on the same page very often in the preseason.
That’s mind-boggling, especially after how Randle gushed to Inside Football about how much easier the new offense was because, “it’s just allowing me to go out there and play…there’s not as much thinking going on—just go out there and make a play, line up and play ball.”
How bad was it this preseason for the the third-year receiver from LSU?
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Randle caught just 30 percent of the passes thrown his way, the lowest completion percentage among New York's receivers.
He had two dropped passes, the most among the wide outs. His yards after the catch—all six of them—was the lowest by a wideout. Finally, his 53 receiving yards were the third lowest total by a Giants wide receiver.
The Giants are going to need a lot more out of Randle if their passing game is to have any chance of succeeding.
Postscript No. 2: Why DT Kelcy Quarles Is NOT a Snub
Perhaps one of the most hotly debated “snubs” is defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who was left off on the 53-man roster in favor of defensive tackle Markus Kuhn.
So why did the Giants do it? Why did they part with Quarles, who looked to be so promising in the preseason and stick with Kuhn, the 28-year-old German-born football player who seems to be more about absorbing blows than dishing them out?
The only logical explanation is the summer-time production. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Quarles finished with a minus-2.6 overall grade while Kuhn finished with an even worse overall mark of minus-4.8.
A closer look at this production, though, shows that Kuhn topped Quarles in several statistical categories, allowing for the theory that while he’s not exactly someone who will consistently penetrate, he finds ways to make plays.
According to the stat sheet distributed to the media by the Giants, Quarles was credited with four total tackles.
However, that wasn’t good enough for them to justify giving him a roster spot over Kuhn, who finished with three total tackles, but who also added a quarterback hit, one tackle for a loss and a sack.
When it was all said and done, Kuhn, who had a rough start to his preseason, got better as the summer went on, posting back-to-back strong games until a sprained ankle knocked him out of the preseason finale.
Quarles, who might have been one of those players on the bubble going into the final preseason game, had a rough start to his final preseason outing. According to the film review by Inside Football (subscription required), Quarles was knocked off his feet, lost his containment and was juked on a draw play.
Perhaps it was that rough start against the Patriots that made the Giants hope that Quarles might make it through waivers.
They were obviously wrong.
All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.