Who Are New York Giants' Biggest Wild Cards Entering 2015 Season?
For the New York Giants to fully rebound from last year's 6-10 season, several wild cards on the roster must step up and play well.
A wild card is anyone with the potential to become a go-to playmaker—or ride the bench. A boom-or-bust candidate, one might call him. There is a variety of factors that lead to a wild-card label, including experience, opportunity and health.
Heading into the 2015 season, the Giants have far more wild cards on defense than they do on offense. The defense is rebuilding under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, so much more is unknown about that side of the ball. There is one offensive wild card, however, who may be the biggest of them all.
Read about all five of New York's most notable wild cards in the slides ahead and then add your own submissions and explain your reasoning in the comments section below.
Damontre Moore, Defensive End
Damontre Moore is still in search of his first NFL start as he heads into Year 3 of his rookie contract. The old stars who once stood in his way—Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka—are no longer with the team. There's finally a clear path for Moore to win a starting job.
But will he nail it down?
The Giants drafted Moore with a third-round pick in April 2013. Three months earlier, he was topping NFL draft boards; to fans, he felt like a steal. Flashes of playing time have come his way, but now it's time for him to prove he belongs among the top members of the 2013 draft class—not on New York's bench.
Moore was a useful reserve last season. He came in on passing downs to collect 5.5 sacks, the third-highest total on the team after Jason Pierre-Paul (12.5) and Johnathan Hankins (7.0). No one questions Moore's ability to invade and disrupt the backfield quickly, especially not punters.
What they do question is the slender defensive end's ability to hold the edge against the run. Moore played at 245-249 pounds last season, according to Jordan Raanan of NJ Advance Media, and the team asked him to put on weight. He claims to have gained about 10 pounds since last season.
Will Moore capture a starting job in 2015? That depends on how well he carries the 10 extra pounds in training camp, allowing him to become a well-rounded lineman. His game must develop for him to become a dependable, every-down D-end.
Even Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is not sure what to expect from Moore, according to NJ Advance Media report, which makes the defensive end New York's leading wild-card candidate.
Jay Bromley, Defensive Tackle
Jay Bromley was a non-factor last year, appearing in only eight games and making a mere five tackles. Like Damontre Moore, Bromley was a third-round pick. However, unlike Moore, Bromley was never in his wildest dreams considered among the elite members of his draft class.
The Syracuse product was considered a reach when the Giants selected him 74th overall. Even he was surprised to get the call, per Tom Rock of Newsday.
The Giants must see potential in Bromley, and in 2015, he'll have every opportunity to prove it. A starting job can be his, just as soon as he can snatch it from Cullen Jenkins, a 34-year-old veteran who took a pay cut to stay with the team this year.
Bromley has been overlooked from the beginning, and he has maintained his low profile through the offseason. The defensive tackle position was considered a need throughout the spring, yet the Giants made no head-turning additions to the unit either in free agency or the draft.
In April, Bromley made a viral appearance on social media, working out with star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in Florida (h/t NJ Advance Media). It was a subtle reminder to fans that he's still around.
Bromley and Johnathan Hankins can make the D-tackle position one of New York's strongest in 2015. On the other hand, it's tough to get excited about the players primarily responsible for fixing the league's worst run defense from a season ago in terms of yards per carry allowed.
The potential and hype don't align in Bromley's case, making him an intriguing wild card.
Jon Beason, Linebacker
Jon Beason is a different kind of wild card. With the linebacker and team captain, it's less a question of what he can do and more a question of how much he can handle. Beason is a difference-maker on the field, but he cannot stay healthy.
He is a 30-year-old veteran of the league. The 2007 first-round selection of the Carolina Panthers made three Pro Bowls and did not miss a single game (or start) through his first four NFL seasons. Since 2011, however, he has played only 24 of a possible 64 games (37.5 percent). He has weathered several injuries to his lower extremities during this time.
The Giants realized their need for an impact middle linebacker four games into the 2013 season, as the team was crashing to an 0-6 start. They traded for Beason, who made an almost immediate difference. He could plug the run up the gut and track down stretch plays to the outside.
Beason was able to stay healthy and become a team leader after just one season. But when he was lost for all but four games of the 2014 season to a toe injury, New York's run defense fell apart.
This offseason, his injury history hurt his wallet. To stay with the team, he had to restructure his contract, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports 1.
Beason's presence is the difference between a functional defense and a non-functional defense. With his health so often in question, the linebacker qualifies as a wild card.
Nat Berhe, Safety
The competition is wide open at safety, and Nat Berhe is the most interesting 2014 holdover in the mix. The second-year player is in line for a starting job at free safety, likely alongside rookie strong safety Landon Collins.
Berhe, a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, was limited to special teams as a rookie. Still, his impact on the game was noticeable. Pro Football Focus named him an All-Pro special teamer for his work on kickoff coverage.
The athleticism is evident when it comes to Berhe; otherwise, he wouldn't have stood out on special teams. It takes further development as a professional, however, to become a reliable contributor on defense. This is especially true since Berhe is trying out for a position that requires him to be the last line of defense.
He told Nick Powell of NJ Advance Media that he already has a better relationship with new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo than he did with Perry Fewell, who previously held the position. This is a major development for the young defensive back, as communication with the coordinator is key for any player to thrive.
The Giants are going out on a limb at safety, as they lack experience at the position. Collins looks like he can be an impact playmaker, but there's no telling what the rest of the competition will yield.
Since Berhe is the early favorite to start opposite Collins, he's the wild card to watch among the safeties.
Corey Washington, Wide Receiver
As mentioned in the Intro, the Giants have far more wild cards on the defensive side of the ball than they do on the offensive side. However, we cannot overlook one player with the potential to shake up New York's offensive landscape: Corey Washington.
Washington is huge on the scale (6'4", 214 lbs), huge in "big" moments (four preseason TDs in 2014) and huge in his fan following. His performance last summer was spectacular but not enough to warrant quality reps during the regular season.
For Washington to see the field this year, he'll have to prove himself as a reliable outside receiver. He has the natural size to create separation outside, but the quarterback must also be able to count upon his understanding of the offense and ability to run the right route.
The Giants already have a receiver of Washington's ilk ahead of him on the depth chart in Rueben Randle. Yet, if Randle is injured or outplayed in the preseason, Washington should be the top candidate to replace him.
If he really is the game-changing pass-catcher Giants fans saw last preseason, the team could be swimming in options at wide receiver this summer. There's also the unavoidable chance that he hasn't progressed at all, which makes Washington the biggest wild card on offense.
Kevin Boilard writes about the New York Giants at Bleacher Report.