When it came to forging the first version of the 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon, the Giants offered few surprises.
There were no shocking moves to let veterans walk, few plucky underdogs who fought their way on the team from obscurity, and very little drama in the entire process. The roster – with the exception of a few splash transactions that took place in the past month such as the signing of safety Logan Ryan and the trade for cornerback Isaac Yiadom, both of whom could wind up as starters – wound up looking pretty much as it seemed it might when the players first started arriving in mid-July.
But now comes the sleight of hand. Because while the names that remain were pretty much chalk, where they’ll be deployed next Monday night against the Steelers could be the biggest stunner.
“Really the biggest thing we’re working on as far as building this roster is building the versatility on both sides of the ball, and that factors into the kicking game as well,” Joe Judge said on Thursday, after the final on-field workout as an 80-man unit. “If we have good versatility, that will allow for us to have multiple game plans and schemes so we can match opponents and deal with different situations we’re going to face.”
It’s why the Giants decided to remain relatively thin at positions that are something close to specialists — keeping just two quarterbacks, just three tight ends, just three true running backs and a fullback — while loading up on athletes. Twenty-one of Giants are listed as either a linebacker or a defensive back … and a good number of those in either column may at times find themselves playing an on-field role from the other.
Perhaps the most surprising player cut was linebacker Ryan Connelly, a fifth-round pick in 2019 who showed plenty of promise as a rookie before he tore his ACL. He came back from reconstructive surgery in time to start training camp, but he missed about a week of action in late August. He was one of three recent Giants draft picks who were waived along with fellow 2019 pick and seventh-rounder defensive lineman Chris Slayton and 2020 seventh-round cornerback Chris Williamson.
Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa, cornerback Grant Haley, tight end Garrett Dickerson and offensive linemen Eric Smith along with the recently added Jon Halapio were players who contributed to the 2019 Giants but were cut or waived on Saturday.
The Giants also sliced their quarterback room in half for the time being, cutting veteran Alex Tanney and waiving Cooper Rush. With just two quarterbacks on the active roster in Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy, one of those two who did not make this roster trim will almost certainly be back on the practice squad. If Rush clears waivers, he’ll likely get that role.
The battle among the second-tier wide receivers was one of the more intriguing of training camp, but one that ultimately produced only an out-and-out winner: C.J. Board made the team. Johnny Holton, Alex Bachman, Derrick Dillon, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor were all waived.
Many will be back on the practice squad. Some may even be on-field contributors before the regular season ends. For others, they’ll never again play professional football.
“That’s the unfortunate part of the business and that’s the reality for every coach and player in the NFL,” Judge said. “You try to encourage the player [who has been cut] on what they can do to improve themselves professionally as well as stay in shape and stay ready. Because when those phone calls happen, they happen fast.”
Notes & quotes: The rest of the players who did not make the initial 53-man roster are: RB Tavien Feaster, TE Eric Tomlinson, OL Tyler Haycraft and Kyle Murphy, DL Daylon Mack and Niko Lalos, DBs Brandon Williams, Dravon Askew-Henry, KeiVarae Russell, Jarren Williams and Prince Smith, Jr., and long-snapper Carson Tinker. Safety Montre Hartage was waived/injured with a hamstring injury.