By Michael Stewart/@golferbad

With the New York Giants 2020 training camp underway,  I thought it would be good to give my 1st edition of the final 53 man roster projection.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of three Giants have decided to opt-out of the 2020 season and they are OT Nate Solder, CB Sam Beal, and WR Da’Mari Scott.

Solder and Beal are two big names here and I’m not too sure the Giants already have their replacements currently on the roster. So expect to see some new faces making the roster from now until the start of the season.  It’s time to take a look at the team’s projected 53-man roster for opening day.

Offense (24)

Quarterback (2)

  • Starter: Daniel Jones: Jones is the man now and he will be expected to lead this Giant team moving forward and in the near future.
  • Backups: Colt McCoy: I decided that the Giants will only keep two quarterbacks on the final roster as there are other positions more worthy of having more depth. Besides the new CBA ruling, the Giants can always add another quarterback at any time during the year for any particular game, so I fully expect to see one of the quarterbacks who don’t make the final roster to be added onto the practice squad.

Running Backs (4)

  • Starter: Saquon Barkley: The Giants will run the offense through Barkley; which they should. A full healthy Barkley will give the Giants a weapon of mass destruction in both the running and passing game. A running back like Barkley comes along once in a decade and it would be in the Giants best interest to utilize him in every facet.
  • Backups: Dion Lewis, Eli Penny, and Wayne Gallman: Lewis will be utilized as Barkley’s first backup option and will give him a much need breathier as a change of pace running back, who excels as a receiver as well. Penny will serve as Barkley’s personal blocker, however; Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett likes to employ multiple tight ends in many formations and one particular formation is employing a tight end as an H-back.
  • Wayne Gallman will be given one last chance by the coaching staff as he edges out UDFA signee Javon Leake despite Leake’s performance during training camp. The Giants coaching staff will take notice and place Leake onto the practice squad in case Gallman falters.

Wide Receivers (6)

  • Starters: Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton: This is a solid trio if they can stay on the field together. Tate is over 30, Shepard has had two concussions in 2019, so that should be a major concern and Slayton has become Daniel Jones #1 target.
  • Backups: Corey Coleman, Cody Core, Binjimen Victor: The Giants could very well go with seven wide receivers here as Cody Core will be more utilized for his special teams play. However; for now I have Coleman and Victor getting the nod with the final two spots. This should be one of the most enjoyable positional battles in training camp as Austin Mack, David Sills, Dillon and Binjimen will battle it out for the final spot if the Giants go with just six receivers. However; if the Giants decide to go with seven, then two out of the four mentioned above will get the nod. For the wide receivers not selected, some could wind up on the practice squad.

Tight Ends (3)

  • Starter: Evan Engram: The entire Giants organization and the entire Giant fan base are crossing their fingers and hoping Engram can finally avoid the injured list and give the Giants a full season of productivity. If so, there’s no reason to believe that Engram will emerge and have his finest season under Jason Garrett’s offensive system.
  • Backups: Kayden Smith, Levine Toilolo: The Giants could decide to go with four Tight Ends as they also have Eric Tomlinson on the roster who is a very serviceable Tight End. However; I felt that since the decision to place Eli Penny on the roster at the fullback position, it wouldn’t make sense to keep more than three Tight Ends as Smith and Toilolo are expected to play more in the Giants new offensive system. As the training camp and pre-season games conclude, this could change and the decision to go with four Tight Ends and eliminate the Fullback position is a possibility. We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out in my final edition (53 man roster) before the start of the season.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Starters: Cameron Fleming, Will Hernandez, Shane Pulley, Kevin Zeitler, Andrew Thomas: With Nate Solder opting out in 2020, at the moment this seems like the starting group for the Giants once training camp begins. However; I believe Nick Gates who signed a two-year extension could possibly move into the starting role either at Right Tackle or at center.
  • If so, then Shane Pulley will serve as the backup. The Giants could also look outside the organization and pick up a center like Justin Britt or an offensive tackle either via trade, free agency or through the waiver wire. Backups: Matt Peart, Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates and Chad Slade:I like the versatility of this group as each lineman can play multiple positions along the offensive line. I have Slade penciled in if the Giants don’t go outside the organization for either another center or tackle, if so, then Slade could either be placed on the practice squad or released. The offensive line bears watching as we move closer to the start of the season and in my final 53 man roster.

Defense (26)

Defensive Line (5)

  • Starters: Dexter Lawrence, Davlin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams: This a very talented trio and you can expect to see the Giants run defense improve dramatically. I also expect to see new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham to keep his defensive linemen fresh with some sort of a rotational system implemented.
  • Backups: B. J Hill and Austin Johnson: The Giants went with five Defensive linemen in 2019. If so, then R.J McIntosh would be the likely odd man out. The decision to go with seven cornerbacks outweighs the defensive line going with six as I believe Head Coach Joe Judge values the extra depth in the secondary higher than the defensive line.  McIntosh and Slayton could be expected to be placed on the practice squad for additional depth in case of injuries or COVID-19. However; it’s highly likely that one of them will be claimed off waivers.

Outside Linebackers (6)

  • Starters: Kyler Fackrell, Markus Golden: This is another positional battle that should be fun to watch. Head Coach Joe Judge learning from one of the best in Belichick, used an unrestricted free agent tender on Golden; which is seldom used throughout the league. The return of Golden means that Fackrell, Carter and Ximines will be battling it out for the other OLB spot and at this point I’m giving Fackrell the edge simply because he has had success under Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham while in Green Bay.
  • If Fackrell can come close to duplicating that production, along with Golden and then sprinkle in Carter and Ximines. The Giants could be looking at their best group of outside linebackers since their Super Bowl years.
  • Backups: Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown: In my 1st edition of the Giants 53-man roster, I have Lorenzo Carter being replaced at the starting OLB position by Kyler Fackrell, who has more pass rushing ability. If Golden is re-signed then that could also limit the playing of Oshane Ximines on the other side. New DC Patrick Graham should employ a rotational system to keep these four outside linebackers involved; which will only benefit the Giants defense. Rookies Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown round out the group and will be utilized more on special teams in 2020.

Inside Linebackers (4)

  • Starters: Blake Martinez and Ryan Connelly: Martinez is a lock at one inside linebacker spot and I believe Connelly will recover fully from his ACL injury and over take Mayo for the other spot. The reasoning behind this is because Connelly is not only a solid run defender, but he is also very efficient in pass coverage.
  • Backups: David Mayo and Tae Crowder. David Mayo is more of a run stopper and not nearly as effective in the passing game. Again, DC Patrick Graham will find a way to utilize all three in the Giants middle of the defense. Rookie Tae Crowder edges out T.J Bronson and Josiah Tauaefa for the final spot. I expect to see one of them being placed on the practice squad and the other released.

Cornerbacks (7)

  • Outside Starters: James Bradbery and Ross Cockrell:  Beal opting out and giving the circumstances surrounding DeAndre Baker’s alleged assault charges to bribery/payoffs and eventually being added to the exempt list by the commissioner has now taken a more dramatic turn as DeAndre Baker is being prosecuted on all four counts of robbery with a firearm and if convicted will receive a minimum of 10 years in a state prison. The first order of business will be who will play alongside newly signed free agent cornerback James Bradberry? The recent signing of Ross Cockrell would suggest that he would get the first opportunity to start on the other side of Bradberry. If so, then this would DC Patrick Graham flexibility to mix and match in the secondary.
  • Slot Corner Starter: This battle will be between Julian Love and rookies Darney Holmes and Chris Williamson. Last season, both Grant Haley and Corey Ballentine struggled in the slot and I see Love getting the nod to be the starter in the slot. This will allow rookie Darney Holmes to ease his way into a more permanent/defined role as the season progresses.
  • Backups:  Darney Holmes, Corey Ballentine, Chris Williamson and Montre Hartage: In my projection, Grant Haley becomes the odd man out as he is not an outside corner and didn’t play well in the slot in 2019. Ballentine and Hartage have better skills on the outside and Williamson will earn the final spot based of his versatility and the ability to perform on special teams.

Safeties (4)

  • Starters: Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney: I project that each player will elevate each other’s game as I believe both safeties are interchangeable. We should see both Peppers and McKinney at times lining up in the box in Patrick Graham defensive system; where both will be employ in blitzes packages to help off-set the lack of a pure pass rusher. I’m setting the bar high for these two players; as I believe McKinney will make an impact the same way the Chargers safety Darwin James did as a rookie last season and Peppers is ready to elevate his game to the next level.
  • Backups: Nate Ebner and Sean Chandler: Nate Ebner makes the roster for his special team’s ability. Sean Chandler gets the nod as the 4th safety on the roster based on Love’s role changing and shifting from safety to the slot. Chandler edges out the likes of Mark McLanurin, Dravon Askew-Henry, and Jaquarius Landrews.

Special Teams (3)

  • Kicker: Chandler Catanzaro: Aldrick Rosaswas released as he is facing three misdemeanor charges to his alleged hit and run accident back in mid June; along with having a very sub-par 2019 season. Head Coach Joe Judge and GM Dave Gettleman decided to cut the cord and bring in Catanzaro who has a career FG percentage of 83.8 during his career. Catanzaro also has a 92.9% in extra points.
  • Punter: Riley Dixon: Dixon had a solid season in 2019 and there’s no reason to expect him to show a decline in his production in 2020.
  • Long Snapper: Casey Kreither: Long time Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie has finally retired after a very prestigious career. Kreither should pick up right where DeOssie left off without a hitch.

Final Thoughts: There’s a quick glimpse at my 1st edition of the New York Giants 53-man roster for 2020. There were a couple of surprises, but for the most part the selections were expected. Keep an eye out for my final 53-man roster as we near the end of training camp and just before the start of the season.

We could see more surprises as training camp unfolds. Keep in mind that the NFL could alter the roster eligibility rules due to Covid-19 becoming an issue by expanding the roster. The same can be said regarding teams practice squad as the new CBA ruling had an increase from 10 to 12 players starting in 2020, however; with the current crisis the NFL could expand the rosters even more to accommodate teams in case of injuries or should a player/players come down with the virus.

Nothing has been finalized at this time and the NFL is still in its early stage with this discussion. We should learn more as the weeks unfold on whether or not the NFL expands both the roster and/or the practice squads.