Predicting the Giants “Final 53”

Wait, weren’t the Giants just reporting to training camp like, yesterday?

Time flies when you’re having fun–or in this case, when you’re anxiously awaiting the answer to the question of what your team’s football roster look like on opening day.

The official answer won’t be here until Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, though leaks are certain to emerge via Twitter. Until then, I’m going to take a shot at guessing what I think the Giants’ roster will look like after they make the 22 moves mandated by the league to meet the 53-man roster count.

Before I get to my guesses, which are based on observations from practices and games, there are a few rules you need to be aware of regarding how teams can shape their rosters.

Although the roster might be named ‘the final 53,’ there is nothing final about it because there will be tweaks made by the team well into September. The Giants might look to add veterans cut by other teams, but will not do so until after Week 1.

The reason for this is that the salary of any vested veteran (anyone with 4+ years of accrued service) who is on a team’s opening day roster will count for the entire year, unless the acquired player already has received his full salary from his former team.

This is why early in the season you see young guys moved on and off NFL rosters – their salaries don’t count for the entire year. So if the Giants do pick up a veteran off the waiver wire before Week 1, chances are that guy is going to be on the roster for the entire year, unless, again, he’s already received his full 2013 salary by way of a term in his earlier contract.

Another thing to remember is that the temporary IR designation cannot be assigned until Sept. 3. Teams get one temporary IR designation per year, and players who get this designation must sit out for six weeks.

Any players placed on inactive PUP will not count against the 53-man roster. I expect this will be the case with defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, who has been on active PUP since the start of training camp.

And while on the subject of PUP, no, guys who were injured after the start of camp, like OL David Diehl and David Baas, are not eligible for inactive PUP.

Regarding the salary cap, the ‘Top 51’ rule, in which only the top 51 highest contract totals count against the team’s cap ends on Wednesday, Sept. 4. At that time, all NFL Player Contracts, Practice Squad Contracts, outstanding tender offers, and miscellaneous amounts (injured reserve, injury settlements, etc.) must fit within each Club’s 2013 Salary Cap.

The Giants, for those wondering, have just $2,775,728 of cap space. That number should increase, if just slightly, once they get down to 53.

And now for my roster projections…

Quarterbacks (3)
In: Eli Manning, David Carr, Ryan Nassib
Out: Curtis Painter

One of the surprise battles this summer at this position was between Painter and Carr, both of whom competed to be Manning’s understudy.

Statistically speaking, through three games, Carr has completed 63.6% of his passes to Painter’s 45%, Carr is also averaging 5.5 yards per attempt to Painter’s 4.9, so based on numbers alone, it would seem that Carr made a stronger case for a roster spot.

While the Giants hope that Manning never has to miss a down, I believe that the fact that Carr has a more in-depth knowledge of the team’s playbook given his multiple years in the system gives him the advantage in what wasn’t really as close of a battle as first thought.

Running Backs/Fullback (4)
In: David Wilson, André Brown, Michael Cox, Henry Hynoski (FB)
Out: Da’Rel Scott, Ryan Torain

Cox, the rookie seventh rounder, really helped himself this year by showing he’s potentially worthy of replacing Wilson on kickoff returns.

Meanwhile Scott, who in his rookie season captured the hearts of many fans because of his blazing straight ahead speed, has shown himself to be a one-trick pony; his fumble against the Jets last week likely sealing his fate.

I debated whether the Giants might carry Torain, who hasn’t done anything this summer to hurt himself, especially if Hynoski isn’t ready to go for a week or two, but in the end, I couldn’t find the justification to keep him over an extra cornerback.

The chances of the Giants dressing five running backs on game day are virtually nonexistent, and so I figured that if Cox is indeed the new kickoff returner, he’ll get the nod over the fifth guy.

With that said, if injuries hit this unit, I could very well see Torain being the first guy they call if he’s still available.

Tight Ends (3)
In: Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe, Adrien Robinson
Out: Larry Donnell (IR)

There was a time when I thought the Giants might just consider keeping four tight ends, this of course being when there were questions about whether Hynoski would make it back from PUP.

Now that we know that answer, I just don’t see how the Giants can keep four at this position when injuries are affecting other spots.

What I could see happening, though, is the Giants placing Donnell, who injured his knee in camp, on IR, because there are tight end starved teams like New England, Miami and Baltimore waiting to pounce. If Donnell is in their future, I just don’t see them exposing him to the waiver wire.

From all I’ve been able to gather, they really like Donnell, who, like Pascoe, can be a backup fullback. So why not just add him to the 53?

First, he’d probably be inactive every week anyway – remember the Giants use an offensive lineman in their jumbo package as a blocking tight end. Second, Donnell missed the entire spring because of a broken foot. His knee injury, which he fought through, did limit some of his preseason reps, especially in Game 2.

While there is promise in this young player, I think if the Giants can stash him away, and if Donnell gets a complete spring and summer to refine his game, it would be in both parties’ best interests.

One other reason to keep in mind regarding Donnell and the tight ends is that after this year, both Pascoe and Myers are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents (Myers has a multi-year deal with the Giants, but the last three years are voidable) .

Chances are the Giants won’t resign both, so if they opt for Myers over Pascoe, Donnell, who has been groomed to do what Pascoe now does, would make the most sense to replace him, something that can happen if he’s stashed on IR.

Wide Receivers (5)
In: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy, Jr., Jerrel Jernigan,
Out: Kevin Hardy, Marcus Harris, Julian Talley, Ramses Barden

When I initially drafted this article, I had the Giants keeping six receivers because of the unknown leg injury affecting Louis Murphy. However, Murphy returned to practice this past week, so I’m assuming whatever it was that kept him on the shelf has improved to where he can contribute, though how effectively remains to be seen.

I also initially thought that Barden might have a chance at the 53, but he’s been dealing with an on-and-off knee problem, and has always been one of those players who seems to look better in practice than in games.

While Jernigan has also dealt with injuries this summer, he was starting to make some forward progress in his development, enough to where I think the coaches will keep him ahead of Barden, who remember the team didn’t rush to re-sign when he was an unrestricted free agent until it became clear that neither Nicks or Cruz were going to be present in the spring OTAs and minicamp.

I have a feeling the Giants are going to try to add Hardy, who got some snaps with the starters as the slot receiver after the Cruz injury and when Jernigan was sidelined, to their practice squad if he passes through waivers.

Offensive Line: 9
In: Will Beatty, James Brewer, David Diehl, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh, Kevin Boothe, Chris Snee, David Baas, Jim Cordle
Out: Matt McCants, Eric Herman, Selvish Capers, Stephen Goodin, Bryant Browning,

As I stated in my introduction, teams will not be able to use the temporary IR designation until Sept. 3. Whether they use this designation on either Baas or Diehl remains to be seen – if history repeats itself, my guess is they won’t use the tag this early in the season.

Otherwise, I think with the nine listed above, the Giants should have what they need to get by early in the season,  as once Diehl gets back, my guess is he’ll be first off the bench at guard and tackle if he doesn’t go back into the starting lineup.

I’m not sure what the time-table is on Baas – usually MCL injuries can take up to six weeks to heal depending on their severity, so if that prognosis is correct, then Cordle sticks on this roster as a backup to Boothe at center.

I have Herman, one of the team’s two seventh round draft picks this year, not making the cut, but I think he, as well as McCants, are potential practice squad candidates.

In: K Josh Brown, P Steve Weatherford, LS Zak DeOssie
Out: N/A

This unit was set at the start of camp, so really noting to discuss here in terms of potential roster moves unless a surprise injury pops up.

Defensive Ends: 5
In: Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damontre Moore, Justin Trattou
Out: Adewale Ojomo, Matt Broha, Adrian Tracy

I went back and forth over whether I thought the Giants might keep four or five at this spot, especially since I’m not 100 percent convinced that Pierre-Paul will play against Dallas (like Hynoski, it will depend on how much Pierre-Paul is able to do in practice next week).

Although Jenkins can play at defensive end, it was hard to ignore the strong showing that Trattou, who reminds me a little of Dave Tollefson, had this summer.

While not a game day statistical leader like Ojomo, Trattou just seemed to be more consistent in getting around the ball, and why I think he might edge out Adrian Tracy in what will be a close call.

As for Ojomo, yes, I know all about his game day production, which has mostly come during garbage time, but what I keep telling people who think he’s going to be the next Michael Strahan is that a guy has to show progress against higher competition levels starting in practice. That the coaches didn’t try Ojomo against the twos or the starters said a lot, as did the fact that in practice against the threes, there were plenty of times when Ojomo went unnoticed.

I had high hopes for Tracy, who had a strong spring and who appeared to be cut from the same cloth as former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, but I’m not so sure he did enough to edge out Trattou for a roster spot.

The benefits of keeping Tracy is that he can standup and rush, having had some linebacker experience in his rookie season –an experiment, which by the way, never sprouted wings.

Tracy has talent – there’s no denying that – and I think he’s going to be a fine player in this league. However, I’ve always thought he might be a better fit for a 3-4 defense.

Defensive Tackles: 5
In: Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Marvin Austin, Mike Patterson
Out: Shaun Rogers, Markus Kuhn (PUP)

I thought about keeping four at this spot but in the end I went with the extra guy because I think Patterson has had  a strong showing this year. With that said, he’s 29 years old and coming back from a serious health scare.

While obviously, you hope for the best, it would probably be in the best interest of the team to keep an eye on the future, which is Austin, if he stays healthy and if he builds on what he accomplished last week.

Austin has been a disappointment to date, and it can even be argued that his showing last week against the Jets came against guys who probably won’t make the last roster cut.

However, he has speed and talent, and I think that, along with his second-round pedigree, will be enough for the Giants justifying giving him one last chance to earn his keep.

Kuhn is headed for PUP. If Patterson makes the team as I project, then I don’t’ see the Giants passing up the youth of Austin for two guys who are on one-year deals and who are up there in age.

Linebackers: 6
In: Keith Rivers, Dan Connor, Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Kyle Bosworth
Out: N/A

This position was settled with the first round of cuts involving veteran and former first round draft pick Aaron Curry, who three days after being cut announced his retirement from the NFL.

With my proposed configuration, the Giants not only have backups to each starter, but also good versatility to move guys around in the different sub packages.

Safeties: 4
In: Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy, Tyler Sash, Cooper Taylor
Out: Stevie Brown (IR), David Caldwell, Will Hill (suspended)

I believe the season-ending ACL tear suffered by Brown might have saved Taylor from potentially heading to IR with a hamstring injury that has severely limited his training camp and preseason snaps.

With that said, I also think that if Taylor does indeed make the 53, he’s going to be one of the weekly inactives, as Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross can always move over to safety.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Perry Fewell’s three-safety set can work with the current personnel, or if we will need to wait for Hill to return before we see this alignment.

Cornerbacks: 6
In: Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Aaron Ross, Jayron Hosley, Terrell Thomas. Charles James
Out: Trumaine McBride, Terrence Frederick

I really wanted to find a way to keep James on the roster, as I think he’s done enough to earn a spot. After thinking this though, I think  that, in addition to James’ showing, injuries are going to help his chances of sticking.

Hosley, the team’s punt returner, is working his way back from an ankle sprain. While the Giants have other options at punt returner if Hosley isn’t ready to go – Randle and Ross are two of those options – my guess is the coaches will try to avoid putting Randle back there if the plan is to get him more a snaps in the offense this year.

Also, Webster has dealt with groin and MCL issues the latter part of the summer. If Webster has any issues moving forward, that leaves the Giants down a man at this position, not a good situation to be in given the pass happy nature of the NFL.

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