Less than a week remains before the New York Giants cut their 80-man roster down to 53 players on August 31. After two preseason games and a few weeks of training camp, head coach Joe Judge and his staff have been able to thoroughly evaluate each player on the team. With much more information to consider than in late July’s original roster forecast, it’s a perfect time to predict how the Giants 53-man roster will shape out.
New York Giants 53-Man Roster Projection 2.0
In: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
Nothing’s changed here. Mike Glennon started both of New York’s preseason games. The veteran looked shaky in the opener against the New York Jets, but he showed encouraging signs last Sunday. Against the Cleveland Browns, Glennon threaded many precision passes through the heart of Cleveland’s defense, finishing ten of 13 for 86 yards. He appears to be a capable backup for Daniel Jones should the Giants need him.
Running Back/Fullback (5)
In: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Corey Clement, Gary Brightwell, Elijhaa Penny
Barkley, Booker, and Clement are locks for the Giants 53-man roster. As for sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell, the question is whether the Giants are willing to take a fourth running back. There’s no clear threat to Brightwell’s job security at his position, but New York may put the rookie on the practice squad if the coaching staff wants to spend a roster spot on an extra lineman or a receiver. That’s a real possibility, but Brightwell’s physicality makes him a valuable weapon on kickoff and punt coverages. Special teams prowess often determines the last few spots on NFL rosters, so Brightwell should make the team.
Elijhaa Penny is the odds-on favorite to win the starting fullback role. Penny’s been with the Giants since 2018, and he can contribute both as a run-blocker and in the short-yardage running attack. His only competition is Cullen Gillaspia, who hasn’t been impressive enough to supplant Penny.
Wide Receiver (6)
In: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, John Ross
The well-publicized battle here is for the final two receiver slots. John Ross, C.J. Board, David Sills V, and Dante Pettis are all in contention. Taking the rest of the roster’s construction into account, it seems like the Giants will take one player for their receiving ability — to fill the fifth wideout slot — and another primarily for their special teams contributions. As a solid gunner on punts, Board fits that last role perfectly. Before suffering a midseason neck injury, he made a great impact on special teams.
That leaves Sills, Ross, and Pettis. Sills has arguably been New York’s biggest training camp star. In both preseason games, he’s caught a combined six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Pettis has also looked good in practice, while Ross has missed time due to injury.
So how are Sills and Pettis the odd men out? Well, like Board, Ross’s skillset almost perfectly matches what the Giants need. With his elite speed, Ross can break off a big play at any time, which is what the New York offense will be aiming to do when it lines up with four or five receivers. At the very least, Ross will take defensive attention off Kenny Golladay when both players share the field. Sills and Pettis may be more well-rounded, but Ross is a better fit.
Tight End (3)
In: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith
Levine Toilolo would’ve made the cut too, but he will miss the entire 2021 season after tearing his Achilles in training camp. Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph will likely see the field often, while Kaden Smith will contribute as a solid depth piece with his great run-blocking. Although many teams roster four tight ends, this trio seems well-rounded enough to strengthen the Giants offense. Plus, New York has too many other needs to spend an extra roster spot on a backup tight end.
Offensive Line (9)
In: Andrew Thomas, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, Will Hernandez, Nate Solder, Jonotthan Harrison, Chad Slade, Kenny Wiggins
After veterans Joe Looney and Zach Fulton suddenly retired during training camp, the competition for the final second-string linemen spots swung wide open. Kenny Wiggins and Chad Slade garnered ample playing time in the first two preseason games and have performed well, for the most part. Barring any injuries or serious mistakes against the New England Patriots in New York’s final preseason matchup, both players are likely to survive the final cut over Jackson Barton, Ted Larsen, and others.
Jonotthan Harrison should win the backup center spot. Although injuries have limited him in training camp thus far, his versatility on the interior line should win the coaches over. His biggest competitor for the job, undrafted free agent Brett Heggie, doesn’t have the experience that Harrison has at guard. The Giants can’t expand their offensive line depth without giving it more flexibility, so Harrison should get the nod.
Defensive Line (6)
In: Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Danny Shelton, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Austin Johnson, B.J. Hill
With the exception of B.J. Hill, a fourth-year player who’s entrenched as a key depth piece, all of these players are either undisputed starters or are in contention for starting roles. They are all locks to make the roster. The Giants could take undrafted free agent Raymond Johnson III — who played well against the Browns — as an extra defensive end. However, the Giants linebacking and offensive line units’ need for more depth should keep New York from spending another roster spot at a position that’s one of the team’s biggest strengths.
In: Blake Martinez, Azeez Ojulari, Reggie Ragland, Lorenzo Carter, Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, Oshane Ximines, Elerson Smith, Cam Brown
The inside linebackers — Martinez, Crowder, Ragland, Coughlin, and Brown — are entrenched in the depth chart. But the story seems to change almost every day with the Giants outside linebacking corps. Just a few weeks ago, there were some doubts that Oshane Ximines would make the team. After a brilliant game against the Browns where he recorded a sack and five pressures, Ximines put that question to bed.
Now, it looks like free agent signing Ryan Anderson may get cut. A back injury caused the Giants to release and re-sign him in an effort to alter his contract, and he has now been suspended six games too. The other outside linebackers — Ojulari, Carter, Ximines, and Smith — are all Giants draft picks who general manager Dave Gettleman invested in. They all have more potential and versatility than Anderson, so it’s unlikely that he will make the Giants 53-man roster.
In: James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Darnay Holmes, Josh Jackson
The only real question mark here is Josh Jackson. On August 18, the Giants acquired Jackson from the Green Bay Packers in exchange for cornerback Isaac Yiadom. In most cases, it would be tough for Jackson to make the team due to his lack of familiarity with Big Blue’s defensive scheme, but there simply isn’t a real threat behind him. Defensive back Madre Harper might have taken himself out of the running with a subpar performance against the Browns. Plus, as a former second-round pick, Jackson has much more potential than Harper. Trading for him this late in the preseason signals a vote of confidence in his ability to adapt to a new environment.
In: Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, Julian Love, Nate Ebner
Besides Nate Ebner, this might be Big Blue’s strongest position unit. Although the team still hasn’t signed Ebner, head coach Joe Judge has constantly expressed interest in bringing him back. The former Patriots special-teamer has played under Judge for the last nine years. Judge values Ebner’s work ethic and locker room presence, so the Giants will likely make re-signing him a high priority in these next few weeks.
Special Teams (3)
In: Graham Gano, Riley Dixon, Casey Kreiter
The Giants just traded Ryan Santoso, who doubles as a kicker and punter, to the Carolina Panthers. Santoso was Riley Dixon’s only competition, so the Giants will return their entire special teams unit from last season.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images