With final roster cuts made on Saturday, its time to look at GM Jerry Reese’s and Coach Tom Coughlin’s decisions regarding the final 53-man roster heading into the opening game against the Carolina Panthers.
This typically conservative tandem made some borderline head-scratching moves, provoking questions from Giants analysts and fans, alike. Let’s break it down, unit by unit.
Quarterbacks: Eli Manning, Sage Roselfels
Analysis: Although he performed admirably throughout the preseason, Rhett Bomar did not do enough to persuade Reese and Coughlin to reserve a roster spot for him. As far as I’m concerned, a team should always have three quarterbacks on the roster: the starter, the back-up, and an emergency QB. However, when your QB is a Favre or a Manning, perhaps there is an exception. As far as Rosenfels goes, he can’t possibly have a better understanding than Bomar of the Giants’ playbook. Yet, he has proven worthy of an NFL roster spot and at this point, is far more talented than Bomar. Thus, you cannot blame the Giants’4th year GM for making this trade. Of course, the Giants assume that Rosenfels will have plenty of time to learn the Giants playbook; hopefully, a whole season’s worth of time. Not to mention, Bomar passed through waivers and has been signed to the practice squad; he can be signed to the Giants if ever they need him this season.
Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, D.J Ware
Analysis: In my last article, I mentioned that Ahmad Bradshaw should be the starter and all notions indicate that he will. Regardless of who is starting, the Giants have a pretty solid attack with Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. D.J Ware battled with a concussion after the first pre-season game, but proved to be talented enough to make the team out of camp for the second year in a row. I think the factor that gave Ware the nod over Andre Brown, Gartrell Johnson, and Tim Brown (WR) was his ability to return kick-offs. Recently acquired Darius Reynaud (WR) will be used in emergency circumstances as a RB.
Fullbacks: Madison Hedgecock
Analysis: Good move by Coughlin and Reese here by only keeping the one effective fullback on the team. Hedgecock is one of the NFL’s best backfield blockers in my opinion. Last year, he played through a shoulder injury and needed to come to camp and prove himself. After showing that he was healthy, the Giants were comfortable keeping him as the only FB on the roster. Not only did he prove his durability last year, but Coughlin and Reese both realized that FB is a blocking position and, if Hedgecock ever gets seriously hurt, they will be able to find plenty of reserve tight ends, linemen, or even defensive players who are willing to fill the FB role. Don’t over-analyze, football fans; all that is needed to be a fullback is to be physically imposing and willing to block. Catching the ball is a bonus and something Hedgecock can’t do anyway. Jerome Johnson certainly was not worthy of a roster spot.
Wide Receivers: Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, Victor Cruz, Duke Calhoun, Darius Reynaud.
Analysis: Smith, Manningham, and Nicks will be the three guys getting the most time. It’s hard to term them as the “starters” since the Giants could just as likely come out in a two WR set to start the season as a three wide set. However, those three, along with Kevin Boss, will be Eli Manning’s most frequently visited targets. Ramses Barden made the team because this is only his second year, he was a third round draft-pick, and he is 6’6. Potentially, Barden could be a great target in the red-zone. Cruz was phenomenal as a WR in the preseason, yet left a lot to be desired on special teams. Honestly, I think Coughlin would have sent a poor message to his team if he cut Cruz, after he led the NFL during the preseason in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Because Cruz didn’t show anything on special teams and will be used exclusively as an emergency wide receiver, Duke Calhoun made the team mostly due to his ability to tackle on special teams. He will be used as the gunner on kickoff and punts. Reynaud came over in the deal with Minnesota to be the return specialist. As of now, he is definitely the punt returner and is competing with D.J Ware as the primary kick returner.
Centers: Shaun O’Hara, Adam Koets
Analysis: O’Hara was a lock to make this team and has been a leader on and off the field since the team’s Super Bowl run in 2007. Koets is a product of Reese’s famous 2007 draft class and has proved to be a versatile member of the offensive line. What will be interesting is if O’Hara can’t start opening week, will it be Koets starting at the Center position or Rich Seubert?
Guards: Rich Seubert, Shawn Andrews, Mitch Petrus, Chris Snee
Analysis: Out of this group, Snee is the only guard guaranteed to be a starter if healthy. It seems as though the Giants have been trying to find a replacement for the incumbent starter Seubert since they tried pushing Dave Diehl into his (Seubert’s) guard spot and used William Beatty as the left tackle. However, Beatty failed to win the job during camp. Then the Giants signed Shawn Andrews, the former Eagle, to provide depth on the line. From what I watched, Andrews looks beastly and eager to prove himself. Especially considering Seubert’s broken hand, Andrews may very well take over the left guard duties sooner rather than later. Mitch Petrus is a rookie 5th round draft choice from Arkansas who has shown potential in camp this year.
Tackles: David Diehl, Kareem McKenzie, William Beatty
Analysis: David Diehl came into camp hoping to prove that he was the team’s best option at left tackle. Whether he did just that, or Will Beatty simply proved he wasn’t capable of handling the responsibilities is another question. Yet, it seems at this point that Diehl and McKenzie will be starting with Beatty as both of their back-ups. Less clarity has been surfaced regarding the guard position.
Tight Ends: Kevin Boss, Travis Beckum
Analysis: To the surprise of many, Coughlin and Reese elected only to keep two tight ends. Boss, the starter, is a proven blocker and receiver. Beckum has proven nothing to this point. Coming into his second season, Beckum is widely viewed as a strictly receiving tight end, similar to Dallas Clark and Dustin Keller. Normally, the Giants carry at least one tight end who is predominantly a blocker. However, both Bear Pascoe and Jake Ballard were cut. The good news is that both were not claimed on waivers and were signed to the practice squad so they can be signed and eligible to contribute in an emergency.
Defensive Ends: Justin Tuck, Dave Tollefson, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul
Analysis: This was the easiest group to figure out. Tuck, Umenyiora, and Kiwanuka will get the majority of the time, rotating at defensive end and also playing at the same time with one of the three slotted at defensive tackle on passing downs. Jason Pierre-Paul is the talented rookie out of South Florida who may get playing time and Dave Tollefson has made the team for the fourth year in a row.
Defensive Tackle: Barry Cofield, Rocky Bernard, Linval Joseph, Chris Canty
Analysis: All of these guys were pretty much locks to make the team. However, the big name missing is Jay Alford. Coughlin admitted that cutting Alford was one of the tougher decisions he had to make when getting the roster down to 53 men. The lack of defensive tackles chosen confirms that the Giants will put their defensive ends along the whole defensive line on passing downs, and will not hesitate to take out their run stuffers in these situations. This also means that the Giants expect Linval Joseph to contribute immediately despite his rookie status. Lastly, Canty and Bernard both have to have serious bounce-back years.
Middle Linebackers: Jonathan Goff, Phillip Dillard
Analysis: When Jerry Reese signed Keith Bulluck before the start of training camp, he made it clear that Bulluck was brought in to play the Middle Linebacker position. This seemed to make sense because the Giants were comparably deep at Outside Linebacker. However, Jonathan Goff has had a terrific training camp, winning over the coaching staff. He has shown leadership on the field and has shown the ability to stop the run effectively. Going into the season, it seems as if Goff will be the starter and Bulluck will move over to his natural OLB position. Phillip Dillard is a rookie out of Nebraska who is undersized but has shown an ability to contribute and lead thus far. Both Bulluck and Chase Blackburn can play in the middle if needed.
Outside Linebackers: Michael Boley, Keith Bullock, Chase Blackburn, Gerris Wilkinson, Bryan Kehl, Clint Sintim
Analysis: Boley and Bulluck are the starters here, with Bulluck playing the strong-side and Boley playing the weak. It will really be interesting to see how Bulluck’s surgically repaired knee holds up since better lateral movement is required to play outside linebacker as opposed to the middle. I am very surprised that Chase Blackburn made this team. He twisted a ligament in his knee early in camp, and has seen the field in a very limited capacity ever since. Going into camp, Blackburn was buried on the depth chart at linebacker, and I was sure that his special teams play was the only reason that the Akron-alumnus would make the team. When he hurt his knee, I assumed that Blackburn’s tenure as a Giant was over. Coughlin must be confident in Blackburn’s health and his ability to contribute, specifically on kickoff where he has excelled in the past. Wilkinson is another player who could have easily been cut. Drafted during Ernie Accorsi’s tenure as GM, Wilkinson has never lived up to his expectation because of frequent injures. Despite these injures, whenever Wilkinson enters the game, he does an above average job. If only the Giants could keep him healthy, they’d have some real depth at OLB. I thought for sure that Wilkinson would be cut after his most recent groin injury. Bryan Kehl is a third year player who will provide depth. Clint Sintim, originally the starter at the strong-side position coming into camp, lost his spot to Bulluck. The Giants drafted Sintim despite the fact that he was a pass-rushing OLB in a 3-4 defense at the University of Virginia.
Safeties: Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Michael Johnson, Deon Grant
Analysis: The second easiest group to predict. The Giants added both Grant and Rolle in fear that Phillips would not be healthy enough to start the season and that Michael Johnson wasn’t good enough to start on a consistent basis. As it turns out, Reese hit jackpot with his decision to upgrade this position as both Rolle and Phillips will be ready for the season opener. Both players are Miami alumni and the thought of the two floating around in the secondary at the same time has got to be nauseating for opposing quarterbacks. Grant is player who rarely ever misses a game and will provide the leadership that only an 11-year veteran can. Johnson is a very average safety who will be used in emergency situations and on special teams.
Cornerbacks: Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross, Bruce Johnson, D.J Johnson
Analysis: Webster and Thomas are undoubtedly the starters. Ross was having a good camp until a heel injury hampered his progress and confirmed that even if he is healthy, he will be used mostly in nickel and dime packages. Bruce Johnson had a good season last year playing in the nickel and dime, but both he and D.J Johnson struggled in camp. However, both needed to make the team because of the questions surrounding Ross’s injuries.
Longsnapper: Zak DeOssie
Kicker: Lawrence Tynes
Punter: Matt Dodge
About the Author
Written by Chris Ippolito
Grew up in Holmdel, NJ. Studied at Marist College. Worked as personal intern for hockey analyst and writer Stan Fischler of MSG network. Interned at MSG network for school credit during Fall of 2008. Worked as play by play broadcaster for the Danbury Westerners of the NECBL in summer of 2007. Passionate about baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. I mostly follow New York teams, but I pay attention to what goes on outside the tri-state area very closely. I feel as though I write so that people can both relate to and understand what they are reading. I am honest, but I also try and look at issues from different perspectives. I will do my best to both inform and entertain while contributing to this website.