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A Way Too Early New York Giants 53-man Roster Projection

Over the next several weeks, the New York Giants' 53-man roster will take shape as competition battles begin to heat up. Here, on the eve of training camp's official opening, is a way too early 53-man roster projection.

With New York Giants training camp about to begin Tuesday, here’s a way too early 53-man roster projection.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Starter: Daniel Jones
Backup: Mike Glennon

Analysis: The only thing to see at this position is whether starter Daniel Jones plays well enough to remain the starting quarterback beyond the 2021 season. He can accomplish that if he advances from being a game manager to a hero capable of loading the team on his shoulders and carrying them across the finish line with the game on the line.

Running Backs

Starter: Saquon Barkley
Backups: Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, Gary Brightwell, Mike Weber

Analysis: With Saquon Barkley’s status for Week 1 still unknown, the Giants will almost certainly carry an extra running back until Barkley gets the full green light to resume a normal workload.

I could see a scenario in which both rookie Gary Brightwell and newly signed Mike Weber make the initial 53-man roster if they both shine on special teams. But as mentioned later in this piece, if the Giants sign safety Nate Ebner as is expected, logic dictates that one of Brightwell or Weber will be waived with the intention of being added to the practice squad to open a roster spot for Ebner.

Fullback

Starter: Cullen Gillaspia
Backup: None

Analysis: The Giants brought in Cullen Gillaspia to challenge incumbent Eli Penny. As far as the offense goes, the Giants don’t use a pure fullback all that much. Gillaspia is a little more athletic than Penny to where maybe in the handful of cases where they use a fullback or an H-back, Gillaspia’s skill set might be a better fit.

Wide Receiver

Starters: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton
Backups: Kadarius Toney, C.J. Board

Analysis: The Giants might be forced to carry just five receivers instead of six given the injury situation at tight end (which I’ll get to in a minute). Toney has had a rough start to his NFL career—not his fault.

However, with him opening camp on the reserve/COVID list, that’s not a good sign for a rookie that needs as much work as possible. And we haven’t even talked about the potential side effects from the virus, which hopefully won’t further thwart his rookie season. 

Board was the best gunner the team had last year, so if he continues showing that, he’s a shoo-in. John Ross just barely misses the cut here simply due to his not having played special teams in the NFL, even though he did play them in college.

Tight Ends

Starters: Kyle Rudolph, Evan Engram
Backups: Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo

Analysis: Rudolph is starting training camp on the PUP list following his foot surgery earlier this year, that he doesn’t intend to miss any football. While his determination is admirable, as is the case with Barkley and his return, the body will tell Rudolph when he’s ready to return, and until then, it might not be the best idea to make any long-term plans. 

Even if Rudolph’s stay on the PUP list is a short one, there’s no assurance that both he and Evan Engram will both make it through a 17-game season together, which is why if the Giants are thinking of running more 13-personnel this year, they might want to carry the extra tight end.

Offensive Tackles

Starters: Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart
Backup: Nate Solder

Analysis: The Giants probably won’t admit it, but they’re holding their collective breath that Thomas and Peart, the second-year offensive tackles and last year’s first- and third-round draft picks, can be the starting bookends for a long time. Peart, however, is starting training camp on the PUP list due to a back ailment, which is concerning given how unpredictable back strains can be.

Even more concerning would be the thought of having Solder as the backup, given that he not only last played in a game on December 29, 2019, he’s trying to learn a position (right tackle) that he hasn’t played since his rookie season in 2011.

Guards/Center

Starters: Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux
Backups: Zach Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, Kyle Murphy

Analysis: The Giants are thought to like their young trio of interior offensive linemen despite Lemieux’s issues last year with pass protection and Hernandez’s switching to right guard after a career-long stint at left guard. 

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The team made sure to have some veteran depth behind that trio just n case, though the one to watch is Murphy, an undrafted free agent last year who has the versatility to play any position on the offensive line. The Giants liked him last year, and if he can become the next undrafted gem, a la Gates, that versatility will come in handy this year.

Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: Leonard Williams, Danny Shelton, Dexter Lawrence
Backups: B.J. Hill, Austin Johnson, Elerson Smith

Analysis: Danny Shelton will likely rotate with Johnson as the go-to guys on run dense downs, with Hill and Smith likely seeing snaps in select passing down packages. Smith, the team’s fourth-round pick, will also likely see time in a two-point stance as he continues his transition from college to the NFL.

Inside Linebackers

Starters: Blake Martinez, Tae Crowder
Backups: Carter Coughlin, Reggie Ragland

Analysis: Crowder will have to fend off Coughlin (who is thought to be moving to more of an off-ball role this year) and the veteran Ragland, the latter of whom has value as a downhill run defender. But Crowder’s coverage ability should keep him in the race for a roster spot and the starting job.

Outside Linebackers

Starters: Lorenzo Carter, Azeez Ojulari
Backups: Ryan Anderson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Cam Brown

Analysis: The Giants were once thought to be bullish on Oshane Ximines, a third-round draft pick in 2019 that the Giants acquired as part of the Odell Beckham Jr trade. 

But while Ximines, who begins training camp on the PUP list, has shown some flashes of having an intriguing toolbox (including a quick first step), injuries and possible fit within the scheme appear to be threatening his place on the roster in this, his third year.

Odenigbo has mainly thrived as a defensive end, but he told us earlier this year that he’s been working to learn how to operate from a two-point stance for a potential batch of snaps as an outside linebacker.

Cornerbacks

Starters: James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes (slot)
Backups: Aaron Robinson, Madre Harper

Analysis: The Giants are likely to load up on corners capable of playing man coverage, but there is also the special teams aspect of things, which is why Harper, whom the Giants wanted badly enough to where they signed him off the Raiders practice squad last year and even offered a signing bonus to get him, could end up edging rookie Rodarius Williams and returnee Isaac Yiadom in the battle for the last cornerback spot.

Safety

Starters: Logan Ryan, Jabril Peppers
Backups: Julian Love, Xavier McKinney

Analysis: Presumably, the Giants are planning to re-sign Nate Ebner at some point once he’s deemed fully rehabbed from the off-season surgery he had for an undisclosed injury that forced him to withdraw from the Olympics.

The only reason why Ebner hasn’t been added to the roster yet is that the Giants probably don’t want to devote a roster spot to a free agent that can’t pass a physical just yet. Once Ebner can, the expectation is he’ll not only be added to the training camp roster, but he’ll also have a place on the 53-man roster.

In the meantime, I could see the Giants using the roster spot that will ultimately go to Ebner for an extra running back while the team waits for clarity regarding Saquon Barkley's return to full strength.

Special Teams

Starters: Graham Gano, Riley Dixon, Casey Kreiter

Analysis: Keep an eye on the punting situation this summer where Ryan Santoso, he of the big leg, is expected to challenge Dixon, who not only doesn’t have any more guaranteed money but who also was inconsistent last year, for a spot on the roster. 

Santoso can also serve as a kickoff specialist, which would help with cutting down on the wear and tear on kicker Graham Gano’s leg, not to mention the Giants could save $2.8 million on the cap if Dixon isn't on the roster.  That said, Dixon gets the benefit of the doubt only because he's currently the known entity.


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