Training camp is right around the corner for the New York Giants. And that means head coach Joe Judge and his staff will begin cutting their 90-man roster down to 53 players. To earn a playoff berth and become one of the NFC’s better teams, the Giants need to make sure their roster is well-rounded. New York brought in a plethora of immediate contributors through free agency and the draft, so the competition for roster spots should be especially intense in August. As the team heads into camp, here’s a forecast of what the final Giants 53-man roster could look like.
New York Giants 53-Man Roster Projection: Taking the Next Step
In: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
There’s not much competition here. Mike Glennon is an experienced player who should be a capable backup for Daniel Jones. While Jones’s injury history could convince the Giants to take two quarterbacks behind him, the team has too much talent at other positions to use another roster spot on another backup. Barring injury, Glennon should beat out Clayton Thorson for the second quarterback spot.
Running Back/Fullback (5)
In: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, Elijhaa Penny, Gary Brightwell
Saquon Barkley is one of the best running backs in the NFL, so he should be the undisputed starter once he fully recovers from the torn ACL he sustained last September. However, the Giants will need to provide the running back room with depth to prevent the coaching staff from overusing Barkley. That’s why the team signed Devontae Booker and Corey Clement, two backs with different yet important skillsets.
Behind Booker and Clement, there could be a fierce competition for the fourth-string running back spot. But sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell should ultimately win the job. Every team needs a young, scrappy special-teams contributor like Brightwell, so his prowess in that area should earn him a place on the final roster. Elsewhere, incumbent fullback Elijhaa Penny’s familiarity with New York’s offensive scheme should help him beat out veteran Cullen Gillaspia.
Wide Receiver (5)
In: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, John Ross
This offseason, the Giants made a point of giving Daniel Jones more weapons. Free agent signing Kenny Golladay is a proven number one receiver who gives New York’s passing attack a layer of explosiveness that it’s lacked since Odell Beckham Jr.’s departure. Golladay is complemented with a slew of deep threats. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton should be solid depth pieces, and first-rounder Kadarius Toney is a dynamic player who can wreak havoc out of the slot.
The spot on the Giants 53-man roster behind those four receivers is up for grabs. John Ross’s incredible speed should convince the coaching staff to designate him as the fifth receiver. The Giants could take six wideouts, but no one stands out as a special-teams contributor. Roster hopeful C.J. Board was the team’s gunner on punt coverages last year, but it’s likely Brightwell will fill that role in 2021.
Tight End (4)
In: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo
Although Evan Engram faced an abundance of criticism from Giants fans in 2020, he should have the opportunity to redeem himself as the starting tight end. Engram and veteran Kyle Rudolph could become one of football’s best tight end duos. Rudolph is a decent run-blocker and has great hands, so the coaching staff won’t hesitate to make him the starter if Engram struggles. Kaden Smith is also an improved blocker who, though under-utilized in the past, can contribute as a receiving threat. Levine Toilolo can do much of the same, fitting right into Jason Garrett’s counter-run scheme.
Offensive Line (9)
In: Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez, Matt Peart, Nate Solder, Zach Fulton, Jonotthan Harrison, Chad Slade
Almost all of the starters on New York’s offensive line are young, developing linemen. While that could be a recipe for disaster in 2021, flashes of potential from this unit could transform the team’s offense. Either way, the inexperience exhibits the need for veteran, versatile linemen. Zach Fulton and Jonotthan Harrison will fill that role on the interior line. Chad Slade is on the bubble, but his ability to play at both tackle and guard should convince the Giants to spend an extra roster spot on the offensive line.
Defensive Line (6)
In: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Danny Shelton, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Austin Johnson, B.J. Hill
General manager Dave Gettleman prides himself on bringing in talented linemen on both sides of the ball. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that all six of these players are great run defenders. Leonard Williams and Ifeadi Odenigbo are also solid pass-rushers who can create pressure from both the interior line and the edge position.
The name to watch in training camp is B.J. Hill. The 2018 third-round pick hasn’t seen much playing time during his time with the Giants, so he could be a surprise cut if undrafted free agent Raymond Johnson III breaks out during the preseason. More than likely, though, the Giants will put Johnson on the practice squad and stick with Hill, who is more familiar with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme.
Linebacker/Edge Rusher (9)
In: Blake Martinez, Azeez Ojulari, Reggie Ragland, Tae Crowder, Lorenzo Carter, Ryan Anderson, Carter Coughlin, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown
The Giants have a perfect blend of dynamic youth and veteran leadership in their linebacking corps. Because of that, Patrick Graham will likely rotate most of these players — with the exception of starter Blake Martinez — in and out of the lineup. Younger players like Tae Crowder and second-round pick Azeez Ojulari should provide depth across the unit. Lorenzo Carter and Ryan Anderson both have the potential to create consistent pressure as outside linebackers, and Reggie Ragland gives the defense even more strength against the run.
There’s always at least one surprising cut each season, and Oshane Ximines could be that player. That isn’t to say Ximines isn’t a good pass-rusher — he was a starter for the Giants in 2020 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. But New York brought in so many talented edge rushers this offseason that there doesn’t appear to be any room for Ximines on the Giants 53-man roster. He could beat out second-year linebacker Cam Brown, but Brown’s impact on special teams gives him a crucial advantage.
In: James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, Isaac Yiadom
The first four cornerbacks are locks to make the roster. Unless the Giants decide to take six cornerbacks (which isn’t likely), the key battle will be between Isaac Yiadom and Madre Harper for the fifth spot. Yiadom should get the nod due to his experience in New York’s defensive scheme. Primarily an outside cornerback for the Giants in 2020, Yiadom didn’t make many crucial mistakes. Although he wasn’t great, he was definitely serviceable last season. Yiadom already has the coaching staff’s trust, and that should give him an edge over Harper.
In: Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner
This is the same group the Giants had last year, and it could be one of the team’s biggest strengths. The only possible cut here is Nate Ebner, who is 32 and mostly plays on special teams. Ebner is technically a free agent right now, but Joe Judge all but assured he’d be back with the Giants. Ebner played under Judge with the New England Patriots and was a team captain last year, so he should be back to keep building Judge’s resilient team culture in the locker room.
Special Teams (3)
In: Graham Gano, Riley Dixon, Casey Kreiter
There shouldn’t be any changes from last year here. But it’s worth noting that Riley Dixon could lose the punting job to Ryan Santoso, who was on the Giants practice squad last season. Dixon didn’t have a great 2020 season, so it’s possible that Santoso could beat him out. Ultimately, though, coaches typically prefer continuity on special teams, and Dixon is the more experienced punter.
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