New York Giants Training Camp is halfway complete, so how does the roster stand right now?
It’s almost time for football, which means it’s time to analyze, project, and overall just get to know your New York Football Giants from head to toe. We’ll break down each positional group individually before unveiling a final 53-Man roster projection and de facto depth chart at the end of the article. As goes without saying, early roster projections are often crapshoots, but here’s my two cents on how the Giants look and how they should assemble their squad to give them the best shot at winning Super Bowl 50.
The Giants’ quarterback situation as a whole isn’t one that has changed over the last 3 years, and the starter hasn’t changed in 12 years. That’s because the Giants have a good system on their hands right now. Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib will return as your 2015 New York Giants quarterbacks barring injury. Manning is coming off of one of his finest statistical seasons in his career, passing for 4,410 yards, an excellent 30-14 TD-INT ratio (that could have been much better if not for a disaster versus the San Francisco 49ers), a career high 63% completion rate. Manning finally has a decent offensive line and a truly amazing supporting cast of targets to throw to. In Year 2 of Ben McAdoo’s complex offensive system, Manning has the potential to be even better than ever before as he enters a contract year. His backup, Ryan Nassib, is still underdeveloped, but that is to be expected when one receives as few reps as he does. Nassib has a strong but inconsistent arm as well as decent mobility.
For the first time since 2008, the Giants may have themselves a 3-headed rushing monster. Rashad Jennings is a capable starter as he approaches 30 years old. Jennings is a good blocker, a quality receiver, and put up a 3.8 AVG in an injury-prone year. With healthy legs, Jennings should improve on last year in all facets. His primary backup will be new addition Shane Vereen. Vereen is a 5’10” speed and hands rusher that can do a little bit of everything on the football field. Signed from the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, Vereen is much like David Wilson. Vereen will likely be the Giants’ 3rd Down Back, a real receiving option, a plus blocker, and a speedy, shifty rusher. Andre Williams is the muscle of the trio; the 2nd-Year Giant will be the short-yardage and goal-line back. Orleans Darkwa and Akeem Hunt are intriguing youngsters that could offer some precious depth if they make the roster, and Henry Hynoski is one of the NFL’s premier fullbacks, one of the last of a dying breed.
The Giants boast the NFL’s most popular player in Odell Beckham Jr. How Beckham fell to 12th at the draft table will be a mystery forever. Beckham took the league by storm in his 12 games played. He caught over 90 passes, racked up over 1,100 yards, and scored 12 touchdowns. Beckham will draw double coverages all season long, but I don’t think that will stop him in the slightest. Victor Cruz is healthy as of now in his return from a devastating knee injury. Cruz has only scored 5 touchdowns in the last 2 seasons, but is always a big play threat from the slot. He has total confidence in his knee, an important trait for a player coming off of such an injury. Rueben Randle is back for his 4th year as a Giant. Randle has improved in each year, and will be free agent following the season. Randle is the Giants’ largest receiver. Veteran James Jones has caught over 70 passes and scored 14 touchdowns in the past, making him a quality 4th option. Dwayne Harris is the rather pricey return man and special teams ace, but will also see time in certain packages as a wideout. Rookie Geremy Davis, big Corey Washington, and veteran Preston Parker will fight for the final spot.
The Giants never seem to have an All-Star tight end, but always end up with better than expected production from their players. Larry Donnell joined the likes of Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard as unheralded but effective options with a 63-catch, 6-touchdown first starting season. Daniel Fells has good hands and is an outstanding blocker, but could face competition from younger options. Adrien Robinson is still here after 3 unimpressive seasons, but the Giants see something special in the former 4th Round Pick. Jerome Cunningham is a young tight end that has the size and hands that could earn him a surprise roster spot.
The all-important O-Line is retooled once again for the Giants in 2015. Will Beatty tore his pectoral in the offseason while lifting weights, leaving him out of commission until November at the earliest. In his stead, first-round pick Ereck Flowers will start at the blind side. Starting a rookie at left tackle is risky, but Flowers, a huge mauler, seems qualified. Justin Pugh will move inside to left guard, a spot that he seems like a good fit for. His Dave Diehl-like versatility makes him valuable. At center, Weston Richburg will start for the first time after playing out his rookie year at guard. Geoff Schwartz is a lock to start at right guard if he can stay healthy, a big if. John Jerry and Brandon Mosley are backup options in case Schwartz can’t start. Flowers was supposed to be the starting right tackle, but when the Beatty injury forced him to the left side, veteran Marshall Newhouse took over at right tackle with middling results. Jerry, Mosley, and Pugh could all see time at right tackle if the veteran Newhouse is ineffective. Versatile John Jerry, young Brandon Mosley, center Dallas Reynolds, and guard Adam Gettis are the likely backup linemen.
The loss of steady leader Jason Pierre-Paul to a hand injury throws a serious monkey wrench into the Giants’ D-Line plans. Luckily, the Giants grow young pass rushers on trees. Veteran Robert Ayers Jr. is a sturdy left end that can defend the run better than any Giants’ end not named Pierre-Paul. His opposite starter is still unknown, but could be last year’s undrafted surprise, Kerry Wynn. Damontre Moore will be a situational pass rusher again, but could finally see a larger role with JPP injured. Moore is an insanely raw but insanely talented speed rusher a la Osi Umenyiora. Joining him in the category of young, raw defensive lineman is this year’s third round pick, Owa Odighizuwa. Odighizuwa could see time inside and outside in the NASCAR package much like Mathias Kiwanuka once did. Veteran George Selvie is a serviceable and flexible backup that may play a big role in the absence of JPP. At tackle, the Giants still have the rock that is Johnathan Hankins. “Big Hank” comes off of his first year starting in which he accumulated 7 sacks and totally plugged the middle of the defensive line. His opposite could be veteran Cullen Jenkins once again. Jenkins has always been a dependable Giant, but will likely give up some time in 2015 to young Jay Bromley or plugger Kenrick Ellis. Markus Kuhn is still around, but could face an uphill climb to see playing time this year.
The theme of renovation and retooling hits home at the linebacker spot as well for Big Blue. Gone are Jacquain Williams and Spencer Paysinger. In their place are J.T. Thomas III and Jonathan Casillas. Thomas will start on the weak side, but also could play the middle in a pinch. Big Jon Beason will be the captain and leader once again in the middle, but his health needs to stay intact for the Giants to be able to feel his impact in their defense. If Beason is healthy, the Giants’ defense will be loads better. Impressive Devon Kennard will start in his second year at the strong side. Kennard is decent in pass coverage, but makes his bones by stopping the run and rushing the quarterback. Backups Jameel McClain, Mark Herzlich, and Casillas can play anywhere effectively.
The Giants are once again facing adversity in regards to their secondary. Starting cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are solid, dependable, and ball-hawking starters. Prince in particular plays the run quite well for a corner. Trumaine McBride can play the outside or the slot. His 5’8″ frame would lead you to believe he’d be bullied by larger wideouts, but this is untrue. Backups Jayron Hosley, Mike Harris and Chykie Brown have potential but are inconsistent. Unheralded Trevin Wade has been impressive as well. At safety, the Giants have a major conundrum. Today’s starters are 2nd Round Pick Landon Collins and veteran Brandon Merriweather, but veterans Cooper Taylor, Josh Gordy and Jeromy Miles are hot on their tails. Due to the loss of Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, the Giants are dangerously vulnerable at safety.
The Giants have no issues in regards to special teams. Kicker Josh Brown is both accurate and powerful, as is punter Steve Weatherford. Dwayne Harris will primarily return kicks and punts, but Odell Beckham Jr. could see some time in late-game situations, as could sure-handed Rueben Randle. The Giants made it a point to acquire quality coverage men, including Harris, Casillas, Thomas, Davis, and Odighizuwa, to join strong special teamers Zak DeOssie and Mark Herzlich.
Projected 53-Man Roster:
QB (2): Eli Manning, Ryan Nassib
RB (4): Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa
FB (1): Henry Hynoski
WR (6): Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle. James Jones, Dwayne Harris, Geremy Davis
TE (3): Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Jerome Cunningham
O-Line (9): Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, Marshall Newhouse, John Jerry, Brandon Mosley, Dallas Reynolds, Adam Gettis (Will Beatty to PUP)
Defensive Ends (5): Robert Ayers Jr., Kerry Wynn, George Selvie, Damontre Moore, Owa Odighizuwa (Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t signed his Franchise Tender yet)
Defensive Tackles (4): Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Jay Bromley, Kenrick Ellis
Linebackers (6): Jon Beason, Devon Kenard, J.T. Thomas, Jameel McClain, Mark Herzlich, Jonathan Casillas
Cornerbacks (6): Prince Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trumaine McBride, Jayron Hosley, Chykie Brown, Trevin Wade
Safeties (4): Landon Collins, Brandon Merriweather, Cooper Taylor, Jeromy Miles (Bennett Jackson, Nat Berhe, and Mykelle Thompson to IR)
Kicker (1): Josh Brown
Punter (1): Steve Weatherford
Long Snapper (1): Zak DeOssie