By Michael Stewart
Big things are expected for the New York Giants in the 2017 season, especially for an offense that underachieved last season despite loads of talent. Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram have been added to the receiving corps that already included Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, while Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman should help improve a backfield that struggled mightily last season.
The offensive line remains a major question mark, but the quick-strike passing attack that Head Coach Ben McAdoo has featured the past few years should help Eli Manning continue to get the ball out without taking too many hits. With a strong defense returning almost every key starter from last season, the pressure to achieve success should fall squarely on the shoulders of Manning and McAdoo. This year’s 53 man roster could feature some surprises as rookies and journeyman are auditioning for a spot on the roster. Here’s a look at what I believe the 53 man roster could end up being:
Starter: Eli Manning-Unless a severe season ending injury or poor production on Manning’s part, this is a lock. Webb was the Giants 3rd round selection and expected to be groomed to possibly replace Manning once he retires, so he has a secure spot on the roster. The final QB spot will be between either Geno Smith or Josh Johnson who was a backup in 2016. Thus far, both have played basically to a draw and if that continues it could be a tossup. My gut tells me that Smith edges out Johnson for the spot.
Backups: Geno Smith & Davis Webb:.
Running Back (4)
Starter: Paul Perkins- Head Coach Ben McAdoo proclaimed Perkins the starter for 2017. However; thus far in pre-season Perkins has not taken a firm hold on that title as Darkwa has actually out played everyone this pre-season. I believe the Giants will employ a RB by committee with all hands on deck to contribute. Whether this group will be more productive in 2017; remains to be seen.
Backups: Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman-
Starter: Shane Smith-Smith is a punishing blocker and give the Giants a boost in the running game. However; if the Giants decide to utilize Rhett Ellison more as their FB/HB in the backfield. The Giants will try to pass Smith through waivers and onto the practice squad.
Tight End (3-4)
Starter: Evan Engram- Engram is not your prototypical TE and the Giants plan to utilize him in as many mismatches as possible. It remains to be seen if the Giants plan on using a double TE formation more in 2017. If so, then they will only go with 3 TE’s with Smith as the FB. However; they plan on using Ellison more as a blocker in the backfield, look for Matt LaCosse to edge out Will Tye for the 4th TE spot.
Backups: Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams, Matt LaCosse
Wide Receiver (6)
Starters: Odell Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard: These were the projected three started once Marshall was signed and nothing has changed. As for the backups, the Giants could only have 2 instead of 3, depending on what they decide to do with FB and TE positions. In this scenario, I’m assuming that the Giants will have 4 TE’s and a FB due to the simple fact that the Giants must run the ball better and having a true blocking FB is a major plus to accomplish that. Therefore; I see Tavarres King, Dwayne Harris (Punt and Kickoff ability) and Roger Lewis as the backups. I was pulling for Travis Rudolph, unfortunately there’s only so many spots available. Giants will most likely place Rudolph on the practice squad.
Backups: Tavarres King, Dwayne Harris & Roger Lewis.
Offensive Line (8)
Starters: Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry & Bobby Hart: The offensive line could very well become a revolving door for the Giants in 2017. Already John Jerry and Bobby Hart have seen their playing time decease this pre-season. D. J Fluker and Brett Jones seem to be safe bets on making the roster, which leaves us with 1 last spot between either Adam Bisnowaty or Chad Wheeler. Again, a battle for the final spot could boil down to the simple fact that Bisnowaty was drafted and Wheeler wasn’t. In my opinion, both have similar attributes and are close in ability.
Backups: D.J Fluker, Brett Jones, Adam Bisnowaty or Chad Wheeler
Starters: Damon Harrison & Jay Bromley: The injury to Bromley kept him out of the final pre-season game, but all indications points to him being ready for opening day. Having 4 DT rotating throughout the game will keep them fresh and more productive. Wouldn’t surprise as the season progresses, Tomlinson will see more action than Bromley. Also, along with the 4 DT mentioned above, DE Kerry Winn and Jordan Williams have the ability to move inside and be very effective as well. Adding pass rushing ability on the inside will give the Giants a formidable Defensive line.
Backups: Dalvin Tomlinson, Robert Taylor
Starters: Olivier Vernon & Jason Pierre Paul: The Giants are counting on a big season from Vernon and JPP with the added depth currently on the roster, both Vernon and JPP should stay fresh and not be overworked as they did in 2016. Choosing the backups was not a tough decision in my mind as all provide the needed versatility DC Coach Steve Spagnuolo likes. Kerry Wynn and Jordan Williams, who has really impressed me can play inside as well; which is why Devon Taylor draws the short straw here.
Backups: Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara, Avery Moss Jordan Williams
Starters: Jonathan Casillas, Davon Kennard & B.J Goodson: Unlike last season, when the Giants kept 8 Linebackers to the season. This year, I see the Giants keeping only 5 with some surprise additions and subtractions. The injury bug could very well be the main reason I have Mark Herzlich (neck) and Keenan Robinson (concussion) not being on the 53 man roster. If not for the injuries, I could have had J.T Thomas a casualty, however; Thomas had an outstanding performance in the final pre-season game to warrant a spot. The last remaining spot goes to undrafted LBer Calvin Munson who has had a very strong camp and is a very solid special team player as well.
Backups: J.T Thomas, Calvin Munson
Starters: Janoris Jenkins & Eli Apple: With the depth at the safety position, I decided that 5 CB’s should be enough, even with the ankle injury to Apple and the long history of injuries to the Giants CB’s over the last several years. Andrew Adams and Nat Berhe can fill in at CB in a pinch if needed. I have Jenkins and Apple labeled as starters, where in reality; Rodgers-Cromartie should be included as a starter as well with the rotational system employed by the Giants. My final two spots has no that’s not a surprise and one that is considered a surprise. Michael Hunter Jr. has had a solid camp and is deserving of a spot. My final spot goes to Donte Deavon for being the last man standing; but stay tune.
Backups: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Michael Hunter & Donte Deavon
Starters: Landon Collins & Darian Thompson: Giant fans and Giant Management are banking on Collins to pick up where he left off in 2016 and for Thompson to stay healthy and showcase his ability he displayed in his short time in 2016. If both scenario’s play out, the Giants could arguably have the best young safeties in the NFL. Rounding out my safeties are Nat Berhe and Andrew Adams, who filled in exceptionally well in Thompsons absence in 2016.
Backups: Nat Berhe, Andrew Adams.
Special Teams (3)
Aldrick Rosas: The unknown Rosas against a veteran Mike Nugent competition really wasn’t much of a battle as most expected. Rosas was steady all pre-season and his game-winning 48 yard FG as time expired against the Patriots solidified his spot on the roster. Rosas has big leg; which the Giants haven’t had in a long time.
Punter & Long Snapper
Brad Wing & Zak DeOssie: No surprise here as Wing and DeOssie were penciled in once the 2016 season ended. Both are reliable and steady.
Final Thoughts: Some surprises here, but for the most part it’s what we expected. The biggest area of concerns is still the OL for the Giants and it wouldn’t surprise me if Head Coach Ben McAdoo plays musical chairs to see which combination of lineman works. Giants could very well look at the list of players released today to see if there’s a lineman who can make them better.