The first cut down of the season was yesterday, and we will got a better feeling for the makeup of the Giants 2014 roster. Most of the names below will not be a surprise, but there a couple of twists to make it interesting, because going with the flat out favorites would make this a boring read. Keeping in mind camp and preseason game performances, and barring a major injury between now and September 8th, here is the projected 53 man opening day roster for the New York Giants:
Quarterbacks (2): Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib. Tom Coughlin would prefer to keep only two quarterbacks, and Nassib has shown enough to be Manning’s sole backup. Curtis Painter is a security blanket and Coughlin is ready to let his him go. Since being demoted to the third team and leading the fourth quarter comeback against Indianapolis, the switch has flipped on in Nassib’s head. However, if Nassib throws a meaningful pass, the season is all but lost.
Running Back (4): Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Michael Cox, Kendall Gaskins. Jennings will be the starter and third down back. Williams will handle short yardage, goal line, and spell Jennings 35 to 40% of the time. Both Cox and Gaskins have shown enough to earn backup spots, while Peyton Hillis has been injured again. Coughlin likes players who stay on the field, and Hillis has not been able to do that.
Fullback (1): Henry Hynoski. Hynoski edges out Conner to take the fullback spot, which will be featured more prominently in Ben McAdoo’s offense. He has been taking snaps as an H-Back and will be also utilized in that capacity. None of the tight ends have stepped up and shown that they can handle the job full time and Hynoski has had a solid camp, blocks well, and can catch the ball. This interim solution will provide some functionality from the hybrid tight end/H-Back position.
Wide Receiver (6): Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham, Jerrell Jernigan, Corey Washington Preston Parker. Until Beckham’s hamstring is sufficiently healed to put him back on the field, Jernigan will be the third receiver. He won the job by default, when Marcus Harris injured his shoulder and hip in the Jets game and was placed on season ending injured reserve. Washington, if active on game days, may get some snaps in the red zone where his height gives him a distinct advantage. Parker will return punts and see some spot duty at receiver, where he showed some play making ability in the preseason games. The odd man out is Mario Manningham, who didn’t show enough to merit a spot over Jernigan. Trindon Holliday will receive an injury settlement and may come back if the return game needs a boost.
Tight End (3): Daniel Fells, Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis. The three players who have been the most consistent and productive will earn roster spots. The others will be shown the door. Xavier Grimble and Jerome Cunningham were cut on August 26th and will be added to the practice squad if they clear waivers and given the opportunity to continue developing, assuming Grimble is healthy enough to practice. The clock finally runs out for Adrien Robinson, who never developed the consistency needed to play against NFL competition. Coughlin said the team will play tight end by committee, with each player doing what he does best. Davis is the blocker, Donnell is the receiving tight end, and Fells will play in the red zone, as he can do both, but only to an average degree. Jerry Reese will be scouring the waiver wire for help at tight end, but in reviewing league wide rosters, the cupboards are bare.
Offensive Line (10): Will Beatty (T), Justin Pugh (T), Charles Brown (T), James Brewer (T/G), Roger Gaines (T), Geoff Schwartz (G), Brandon Mosley (G), John Jerry (G), J.D. Walton (C), Weston Richburg (C/G). Injuries to Schwartz, Brewer, Brown, and Mosley put this unit in flux, but some combination of these ten will open the season as the Giants offensive line. Beatty, Richburg, Walton, Jerry, and Pugh is the Giants360 prediction. Brewer’s flexibility and strong preseason earned him a flex position, and he and Brown should be back in time for opening day. The line has potential when it gels, but that process can begin until the lineup is settled. Gaines has been the preseason surprise and will provide depth. A veteran such as Winston Justice or the recently NFL cleared for 2014 action Richie Incognito could be added after the first week of the season to solidify the line with a veteran presence.
Defensive Line (9): Jason Pierre-Paul (DE), Mathias Kiwanuka (DE), Robert Ayers (DE), Damontre Moore (DE), Jordan Stanton (DE), Cullen Jenkins (DT), Mike Patterson (DT), Jonathan Hankins (DT), Jay Bromley (DT). The influx of running quarterbacks and hurry up offenses in the NFL forces defenses to substitute defensive linemen more frequently than at any point in league history. In order to substitute effectively, a deep pool of linemen is needed to draw from. While the ceiling is lower for this group than in recent Giants history, they are not without ability, and are part of an upgraded defense. The run stuffers are solid, and if Pierre-Paul, Kiwanuka, and Moore are able to put pressure on the quarterback, this Giants defense will be formidable.
Linebackers (6): Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Devon Kennard. A first glance, the linebacking corps may seem thin, but when one considers that only two will be deployed on the majority of downs, the number on the final roster makes sense. Beason is a leader and a run stopper extraordinaire, but struggles against the pass. Williams and McClain are three down linebackers, but rookie Kennard will see the field frequently if he makes the big plays he has in practice. This is the most talented group of linebackers on the Giants in a generation. Rookie Free Agent Dan Fox will be added to the practice squad.
Defensive Backs (9): Dominique Rodgers-Cromarie (CB), Prince Amukamara (CB), Walter Thurmond (CB), Trumaine McBride (CB), Zack Bowman (CB), Antrel Rolle (S), Stevie Brown (S), Quintin Demps (S), Nat Berhe (S). The cornerbacks are as deep and talented a group as any in the league, but the safeties are razor thin. Charles James didn’t do enough on special teams to make the final roster, was released in the first wave of cuts, and will be added to the practice squad if he clears waivers. Given the need for quality cornerbacks in the league, especially by the team that shares Metlife Stadium, that’s improbable.
Specialists (3): Josh Brown (K), Steve Weatherford (P), Zak DeOssie (LS). Weatherford and DeOssie’s roster spots were never in doubt. Brown outlasted the hard charging Brandon McManus to hold on to his job for one more season. McManus will spend September in Colorado kicking in the rarefied air in Denver, and might just break the record for the longest field goal in NFL history set last season by the man he’s been brought in to replace, the suspended Matt Prater.
Holding the extra offensive lineman came at the cost of keeping a 6th cornerback (James), or an extra defensive lineman (Israel Adonije). It’s possible that the Giants decide to cut bait with Nassib and hold Painter for another season. Nassib could be signed to the practice squad if no one claims him, but given his recent upswing in performance, it’s likely someone would.
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