Time is running out for some members of the Giants’ 80-man roster to make their cases for a spot on the 53-man roster.
In some cases, certain guys are locked in for a spot on the 53-man roster. But unlike recent years where maybe a small number of roster spots were left up for grabs right up until the final preseason game, this year, with no preseason games and only one more week of practices and a scrimmage relating, it seems as though there are more than just a handful of roster spots that remain open.
“We spent about six hours (Saturday) as a coaching staff and personnel talking through the roster,” said head coach Joe Judge on Sunday.
“At this point, there’s a lot of things that can happen. There are a lot of guys who have left strong impressions. We want to make sure we take advantage of the remaining time to give everyone a fair shot and make sure we don’t oversee someone’s ability and make an assumption too quickly.”
He’s right in that a lot of things can happen. There could be an unexpected injury that saves a guy who was thought to be a longshot to stick.
There could also be a bunch of guys who just miss the cut and end up on the expanded 16-man practice squad. There could even be an instance or two where a member of the 53-man roster isn’t yet in Giants camp.
After Thursday’s scrimmage, I’ll unveil my initial 53-man roster prediction. For this piece, I want to look at some of the players I think are in serious jeopardy of losing their roster spot.
Fullback Eli Penny. Penny is a likable guy and a member of the Giants special teams unit. But since he’s been with the team, he’s never played more than 130 snaps on offense, and it just seems like a wasted roster spot to carry a guy whose position can likely be filled by a tight end.
Sure, Penny can run the ball if asked. Still, with Saquon Barkley, Dion Lewis, and Wayne Gallman likely filling the first three spots on the roster at running back, unless there was a significant injury wipeout, it would be hard to see offensive coordinator Jason Garrett devoting any meaningful snaps on the fullback.
Safety Sean Chandler. The Giants will be without rookie safety Xavier McKinney for at least the first half of the season, which is a huge blow. Still, it’s unlikely that McKinney’s absence will save Chandler’s roster spot.
The coaching staff has emphasized cross-training guys to be multiple, but as far as Chandler, who two years ago made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Temple, he’s mostly played at safety in his NFL career.
Could he be cross-trained? Yes, but it’s thought to be typically easier to cross-train a corner to be a safety than the other way around.
Defensive Lineman R.J. McIntosh. McIntosh has been slowly fading from the Giants' picture after failing to follow up on a strong summer last year. He recorded only 114 snaps on defense last season with the former coaching staff.
With this new one, McIntosh, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2018, has dropped on the depth chart as guys like Austin Johnson, Chris Slayton, and Daylon Mack have seen their respective stocks rise.
Quarterback Alex Tanney. Tanney is a good guy and has been a strong, yet underrated presence in the Giants quarterbacks room.
But with the team having added Colt McCoy, who will presumably be Daniel Jones’ backup, and Cooper Rush, that probably leaves no room for Tanney on the 53-man roster regardless if the Giants go with two or three quarterbacks.
Offensive Lineman Spencer Pulley. All through the off-season and even at the start of camp, I was convinced that Spencer Pulley would be the starting center, given that he was the only guy on the roster with regular-season experience at the position.
But that was all before seeing Nick Gates step up and make the job his, seeing Pulley miss time with an undisclosed ailment that undoubtedly set him back, and seeing Tyler Haycraft, an undrafted rookie free agent, deliver the goods as a potential backup. And let’s not forget the ongoing plans to cross-train Shane Lemieux at the position.
Even if a disaster were to strike and Gates were to be injured at a point in the season where Haycraft and/or Lemieux weren’t ready to go, the team has continued to keep tabs on Jon Halapio’s recovery from an Achilles injury suffered in last year’s regular-season finale.
But let’s get back to Pulley, who can also play guard. If a disaster were to hit Wil Hernandez or Kevin Zeitler, presumably the net man up would be rookie Shane Lemieux, who has looked impressive this summer and plays with a feistiness you want to see in an offensive lineman.
Also, figure the Giants will be carrying at least one offensive lineman capable of playing multiple positions on the interior. And, again, if circumstances allow for it, Halapio could also step in and play guard if he’s recovered and the Giants were short-handed at the position.
One last thought about Pulley and his presumed shaky roster hold. If he’s cut, the transaction will save the team $2.35 million (he has no prorated roster bonus but did have a per-game roster bonus which, if he’s cut, he obviously won’t collect. That’s significant because the team won’t have dead money hit the 2021 cap, which is expected to drop.
It also makes for financial sense as Gates, who earlier this summer signed a two-year extension, is playing the 2020 season on the final year of his rookie deal and will only count for $1.176 million against the cap.