Some of the writing was on the wall, and some was not, as the New York Football Giants made 22 roster moves yesterday to get down to the league’s 53-man roster. Although none of the 22 transactions could be categorized as surprising, the final roster composition was surprising in a couple areas.
Injuries played a part in determining the final roster, but some areas of injury are made worse by the lack of depth New York had to begin with at a couple of positions; most notably at the underwhelming and depleted offensive line.
The Giants rolled the dice in a few areas, like running back and cornerback, and stayed true to form by keeping 10 defensive linemen, but let’s not mistake quantity for quality at the point. Here are my observations on training camp and the final roster.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Ryan Nassib
Even though the Giants’ brass stacked the cards in his favor, Ryan Nassib did earn the backup quarterback position over Curtis Painter. Nassib was inaccurate and tentative to start camp, but came on strong in the final three preseason games. The second-year signal caller from Syracuse began to form chemistry with the Giants’ receivers and improve upon his decision-making and accuracy in the past three weeks. While this is good news for Nassib, it is not good news for the Giants because the backup plays only when the starter gets injured. Curtis Painter acquitted himself well and should get a shot with another team this season.
LEAST IMPROVED PLAYER: Jerrel Jernigan
For whatever reason, Jerrel Jernigan could not carry his strong play in the finals games of 2013 into anything tangible at camp this season. Because of the hamstring injury to Odell Beckham, Jr., Jernigan was give repetitions with the first offensive unit and gave a bland performance. Meanwhile, no-name players like Corey Washington, Preston Parker, Marcus Harris and Julian Talley performed well and made the wide receiver decision-making process tougher than it should have been. Hopefully the Giants can get Talley onto the practice squad because I am beginning to wonder if Jernigan is this year’s Da’Rel Scott.
IMPACT ROOKIE: Devon Kennard
This accolade should have gone to Odell Beckham based upon draft day expectations, and you wonder what with the 12th pick in the 2014 NFL draft give the G-men this season. Devon Kennard plays like Giants linebackers of yesterday. He fills the hole with aggression on running plays, and seems to have solid coverage skills. With Jon Beason coming onto the active roster, Kennard may take a back seat early, but he will make an impact this season. The only question is when.
THINNEST POSITION: Offensive Tackle
To begin with, there is only one player from last season’s potential starting five who was even on the team this year, Will Beatty. People forget that Justin Pugh was inserted into the lineup because David Diehl underwent thumb surgery. David Baas was supposed to be the center, and Chris Snee started last year at right guard. Kevin Boothe was in the mix at the guard spot, but he had to fill in at center, and then Diehl moved back to the right guard spot when he returned. Pugh did a nice job last season, and the Giants were fortunate in that regard. Given the nature of Beatty’s injury in the season’s final game, Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese should have come up with a better alternative than Charles Brown at tackle. Beatty does not appear to be 100 percent yet, so if something happens to him, the Giants’ season is essentially over. The lack of depth at tackle is exemplified by James Brewer making the team after a less than stellar preseason.
ON A TIGHTROPE: Running Back and Cornerback
The Giants are keeping three running backs and five cornerbacks on the just completed roster. At cornerback, Prince Amukamara is dealing with a groin issue, and Trumaine McBride finally got some preseason work in. Overall, I like what the Giants have done in this area, by bringing in Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie. Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman, and maybe Charles James gets signed back onto the practice squad. Bennett Jackson does not yet have the cover skills to play cornerback in the NFL.
Oft-injured Peyton Hillis is one of three running backs the Giants kept. Hopefully Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings prove durable, because the Giants backfield situation was a mess last season. Kendall Gaskins and/or Michael Cox could be back on the practice squad.
GM’S BLIND SPOT:
You would think that Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese would see the importance of the tight end position by playing Jason Witten and Brent Celak twice a year, but he does not apparently. It was surprising that the team cut one of this underwhelming quartet (Kellen Davis), but the stubbornness surrounding the stocking of players at this position will likely bit the Giants in the rear end again.