With training camp and preseason winding down, New York gaits head coach Joe Judge has a pretty good idea as to what his initial 53-man roster will look like.
That said, there are still a few loose ends regarding spots at the bottom of the roster that Judge and his staff hope to have resolved following the team’s preseason finale against the New England Patriots Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
Here’s a look at some of the projected bottom of the roster battles for which the Giants seek clarity.
Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, and Corey Clement are all thought to be roster locks. The identity of the fourth running back will boil down to rookie Gary Brightwell, the steam’s sixth-round pick this year, International Pathway Program star Sandro Platzgummer, and fullback Eli Penny.
Given the depth in front of him, the Giants have a roster exemption for Platzgummer that they’re likely to use. So the final roster spot could very well come down to Penny and Brightwell, both of whom are more known for their special teams’ play.
Penny is an interesting candidate. Listed as the team’s fullback, he’s seen more opportunities with the ball in his hand and has made the most of those. As a runner, he has three rushing attempts for 18 yards, 15 of which have come after contact.
And as a receiver, Penny, who has caught 84.2 percent of his pass targets over his career (16 of 19 regular-season passes), caught his lone preseason pass target, a 7-yard reception.
This preseason, Brightwell has caught three out of four pass targets, all of those coming in the team’s preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns. As a runner, he’s rushed three times for seven yards, with one yard coming after contact.
Brightwell may have a future with the Giants down the line, but if Penny keeps on delivering the goods with the ball in his hand, it would be difficult not to see him get that final roster spot among the running back/fullback group.
The Giants’ locks at receiver include Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Kadarius Toney. New York figures to keep at least five receivers, possibly six depending on what they end up doing with the tight end group where questions are circulating as to whether Kyle Rudolph will be ready for Week 1.
Let’s assume for the time being that the Giants keep six receivers. C.J. Board should be the fifth receiver (barring injury) for his special teams play. That leaves the sixth and final spot for grabs among Austin Mack, Damion Willis, David Sills V, Matt Cole, Alex Bachman, and Dante Pettis.
Sills, the Giants receiving yardage leader this preseason (80 yards on six receptions), has made probably the strongest case for a roster spot but hasn’t contributed much on special teams. Cole, meanwhile, has led the special teams units with three tackles and is the Giants’ highest-graded special teams standout, per Pro Football Focus.
For as good as Sills has been, the question becomes just how many opportunities will be there for him in the regular season, what with Golladay Shepard, Slayton, tight ends Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph, and running back Saquon Barkley all likely to be higher in the pecking order for pass targets.
On the other hand, a team can never have too many good players for special teams. It would be tough not to give the nod to Cole if it comes down to Sills versus Cole for that final roster spot.
People continue to wring their hands in worry over the offensive line as a whole, but the position that right now is the most concerning on that unit is offensive tackle, particularly the depth.
Veteran Nate Solder has been slowed this summer with a shoulder injury, though he’s expected to be ready to go once the season begins. Second-year man Matt Peart, the projected starter at right tackle, has been decent in run blocking but has struggled some in pass protection.
Behind Peart and Solder are Chad Slade and Jackson Barton, neither of whom have inspired much confidence with their respective play.
Slade has played 86 snaps at right tackle and leads the Giants offensive tackles in total quarterback pressures with five out of 53 pass-block snaps. Barton, meanwhile, has played 59 pass-block snaps, all of those coming at left tackle, and he’s allowed three pressures while struggling with his run blocking.
It probably won’t surprise anyone if the Giants add to the offensive tackle group either through the waiver wire or perhaps by sending a seventh-round pick in a trade to secure some depth. The Giants currently have their seventh-rounder but are expected to get the Panthers’ seventh rounder if kicker Ryan Santoso, whom the Giants traded to Carolina, is on the Panthers’ roster for two games this season.
The play of defensive linemen David Moa and Raymond Johnson has suddenly muddied up what was once a clear defensive line depth chart that was projected to include Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Danny Shelton, Austin Johnson, and B.J. Hill.
Moa and Johnson have taken advantage of their snaps. They are tied for the team lead in pressures with six apiece, with Moa leading the undrafted rookie in tackles (seven to two).
The thought of the Giants carrying six players at this unit probably isn’t realistic. Could the Giants maybe swap out Shelton and Hill if they wanted to keep both? Or if it comes down to keeping just one—Johnson might have more upside of the two—could Hill’s roster spot be in danger?
Considering Hill is entering the final year of his rookie deal and has dropped off since his rookie season, swapping Johnson for Hill would not be a surprise.
James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes, and Keion Crossen are all believed to be locks. That leaves a potential fifth spot open for one of Madre Harper, Sam Beal, Josh Jackson, Rodarius Williams, and Aaron Robinson.
This decision should be pretty straightforward. Harper hasn’t played well at all this summer, and Jackson, acquired in a trade from the Packers for Isaac Yiadom, also hasn’t done much.
Beal, a 2018 third-round pick in the supplemental draft, is showing signs of rawness still given his limited live snaps and would appear to be more of a practice squad candidate.
Robinson, who is still on the PUP list, will likely roll over to the inactive/PUP list to start the season. Robinson will have to miss the first six weeks of the season if he lands on the PUP list to start the year.
That leaves Williams, the winner by default. Williams has earned snaps this summer with the first-team defense and has delivered a mixed bag, but he’s thought to have the most upside of his competition.
The Giants, remember, don’t need to carry all five cornerbacks every week, not with Logan Ryan and Julian Love also being able to play the position if need be. So carrying Williams on the 53-man roster makes the most sense given the rest of the competition and their respective statuses.