5 Players Who Might End Up on the New York Giants' Practice Squad
The New York Giants have yet to announce their first roster cuts mandated by the league to reach the 75-man limit, which is due by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Yesterday, I attempted a 53-man roster projection, a projection that left out a lot of names. However, those who were left out aren’t necessarily destined to fade back into oblivion, as 10 lucky players will earn spots on the Giants’ practice squad.
In this slideshow, I’m going to identify five guys with a strong chance to land on the Giants’ practice squad.
Why just five when there are 10 spots open? Because there is a good chance that some of the players the Giants release will end up claimed by other teams, which would mean that New York could fill out its practice squad with players currently on other rosters.
FB Nikita Whitlock
As tempting as it might be to keep two fullbacks on the roster for that full-house look that the Giants whipped out a few times this summer, given the injury situation on the team, it’s just not practical to do so.
Still, that doesn’t mean that they can’t keep one of the two fullbacks they had in camp on the roster. That would, of course, be Nikita Whitlock (5’11”, 250 lbs), who doesn’t have the ideal size to beat out incumbent Henry Hynoski but still offers intrigue at the position and as a special teams contributor.
Given the rough nature of the fullback position, Whitlock would be nice insurance for the Giants if something should happen at the position.
TE Will Tye
Regardless if the Giants keep two tight ends, as I projected in my 53-man roster forecast yesterday, or three, chances are very high that they’ll keep another tight end on the practice squad.
At the start of camp, that projection would have been Matt LaCosse, but because he received an injury settlement from the Giants, they cannot re-sign him until six weeks into the season.
So for the time being, the most logical guy at the tight end position is Stony Brook’s Will Tye (6’2", 262 lbs).
Per Pro Football Focus, Tye has only played in 10 snaps on offense, with none of them coming in the last preseason game.
In those snaps, he’s caught zero passes and has done little in the way of blocking.
That lack of activity doesn’t necessarily mean that the Giant haven’t been happy with Tye. Sometimes a team will limit what a player puts on film for the rest of the league to see so that the temptation to roll the dice and sign the guy is lower.
That’s not to say that is what the Giants are doing with Tye, but considering the team seems to prefer re-signing those players it had in camp to the practice squad, Tye makes too much sense not to be among the 10 guys it'll look to add on Sept. 6.
RB Akeem Hunt
Undrafted rookie free-agent running back Akeem Hunt is nothing short of a ball of energy every time he takes the field.
Despite being just 5’10" and 190 pounds, Hunt is hard not to notice when he’s out there.
For starters, he’s a quick scatback type who has shown himself to have good vision and acceleration and who can zigzag through the scrum toward the tiniest of creases. Not surprisingly, Hunt’s 4.4 rushing average is second on the team behind Orleans Darkwa’s 4.6 average, per Pro Football Focus.
Where Hunt has really made a mark has been on special teams as a kickoff return specialist. There he’s returned six kickoffs for 195 yards, an average of 32.5 yards per carry. As he does on running plays, Hunt brings that combination of vision, acceleration and patience to special teams.
With the Giants pressed at certain positions as far as the numbers go and because of the presence of Dwayne Harris, who is projected to be the starting kickoff returner this year, Hunt is a luxury the team won’t be able to afford on the 53-man roster—though if New York can sneak him through to the practice squad, it wouldn’t be shocking if it does so.
OT Emmett Cleary
Looking ahead, the Giants’ depth at offensive tackle isn’t very promising.
Yes, they will have what they need for this year, but players such as John Jerry, Marshall Newhouse and even Will Beatty are in no way locks to be on this team in 2016.
Absent spending another high draft pick on an offensive tackle (Ereck Flowers), the Giants might be better off trying to develop a younger player.
One such player who just might be worth spending time developing is Emmett Cleary (6’7”, 324 lbs) out of Boston College.
Besides having ideal size for the position, Cleary has been working exclusively at left tackle this summer and has looked promising doing so.
He gets a hand on his man and battles hard, keeping his feet moving and trying to match power with power. He is also athletic enough to keep his balance in the scrum.
If the Giants coaching staff can teach Cleary how to excel at right tackle, it just might have someone there for the future who can be an upgrade over some of these greybeard veterans that general manager Jerry Reese and the Giants coaching staff seem to favor.
DE Brad Bars
The Giants' defensive end situation is another where the future depth is murky.
Owa Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn and Damontre Moore will form the nucleus, but veterans such as Robert Ayers, George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul are all not assured of being back in 2016.
Given that fact, there could be a place on the practice squad for Brad Bars (6’3”, 251 lbs), whom the Giants signed to their training camp roster after Brad Harrah was waived with an injury.
Bars, out of Penn State, is an active, whirlwind of a player who goes nonstop and hard on every snap. However, he still needs to learn how to play with control and discipline, particularly against the run, where, per Pro Football Focus, he has graded out with a respectable 1.2 mark in three preseason games.
Thus far, he has primarily played as the weak-side defensive end but has been unable to generate much, if any, of a pass rush.
A year on the practice squad combined with a full offseason in an NFL weight-training program could be just what he needs to take his game to the next level.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.