It is never easy to trim a roster from 90 to 53. This summer, the task is to go from 80 to 53 then figure out how to fill an expanded 16-player practice squad that can be comprised with as many as 10 veterans.
The good news for the Giants on Friday: Defensive back Logan Ryan passed through his COVID-19 testing and officially signed his contract. The bad news: Ryan took the roster spot that opened up when wide receiver David Sills was placed on injured reserve with a fractured right foot, ending his season. Sills, a member of the practice squad last season, made a strong push this summer for a spot on the team.
The Giants have plenty of decisions to make heading into Saturday’s cut-down day. Here is a position-by-position look at what figure to be the key roster decisions for head coach Joe Judge and the Giants to consider:
Quarterback: Daniel Jones and Colt McCoy are set. A third will likely be kept, and Cooper Rush, with knowledge of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s system, could get the nod over survivor Alex Tanney.
Running back: Breaking news: Saquon Barkley will make the team. Veteran pickup Dion Lewis had a strong camp and will be a valuable handyman in reserve. Wayne Gallman deserves to stick around or get traded to a team that will give him a shot. Does a fullback get to stay? If so, Eli Penny is the guy — unless someone who shakes loose around the league is more appealing.
Wide receiver: There are just three locks: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton. As long as Corey Coleman proved he is healthy, he makes sense — especially with his value as a kick returner. Alex Bachman belongs, somewhere. He seems like a pain in the neck to cover. It’s a jump ball with Austin Mack and C.J. Board, though Board’s speed could be a deciding factor. Johnny Holton factors in here as a special teams guy. The season-ending injury to Sills takes one of the hopefuls out of the picture.
Tight end: Evan Engram is in and Kaden Smith should be, as well. Has veteran newcomer Levine Toilolo shown enough as a blocker to make it? Uncertain. Garrett Dickerson had a nice camp. Help from outside the organization could be forthcoming.
Offensive line: The starting unit is all set at guard with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler. Rookie Andrew Thomas and Cam Fleming start at tackle and, most likely, Nick Gates in a new role at center. If Spencer Pulley is not fully healthy, perhaps newly returned Jon Halapio takes his spot. In reserve, rookies Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux should be safe. Does second-year Eric Smith stick as a reserve tackle option? Undrafted rookie Tyler Haycraft has some position versatility.
Defensive line: The starting trio is Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence. Solid group. After that it gets sticky. B.J. Hill did not flash much, if at all, this summer and the 2018 third-round pick needed to impress a new coaching staff. Austin Johnson has experience, Daylon Mack has girth. Chris Slayton has a chance.
Inside linebacker: Blake Martinez is a given. So, it appears, is Devante Downs, who worked a bunch with the starting unit. Ryan Connelly made a strong return from ACL surgery, and this staff will appreciate his instincts. Josiah Tauaefa is active. Practice squad for rookie seventh-round picks Tae Crowder or T.J. Brunson?
Outside linebacker: Lorenzo Carter, Kyler Fackrell, Oshane Ximines and Markus Golden are an intriguing group. Is there strength in numbers? In the rookie battle, Carter Coughlin seems to have the edge over Cam Brown but both could stay around.
Cornerback: This remains a rough area. After James Bradberry, there is, what, exactly? Corey Ballentine had an uneven camp, to be kind. Rookie Darnay Holmes looked as if he belonged right away, and the fourth-round pick factors in the rotation in the slot. No one else really rose to claim a job. Perhaps Grant Haley did enough. The trade for Isaac Yiadom, a former third-round pick of the Broncos, could pay dividends. Maybe practice squad for Jarren Willilams.
Safety: Jabrill Peppers was consistent all summer and looks primed for a big year. The loss of second-round pick Xavier McKinney for 10-12 weeks with a broken foot hurts, but should be mitigated somewhat by the late signing of Logan Ryan, a savvy veteran versatile enough to fill a variety of roles. Watch for Julian Love — his second NFL season promises to be a good one. Sean Ebner makes it but as a special teams ace. Sean Chandler has special teams value, as well.
Specialists: The Giants are set with kicker Graham Gano, punter Riley Dixon and new long snapper Casey Kreiter. Dixon is an ascending player. If Gano is fully healed from his injury issues, he provides power and talent.