Three Giants writers discuss their biggest surprises from the 53-man roster:
The New York Giants have finalized their 53-man roster for the 2017 season.
Across the league, clubs had to reduce their active rosters to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday with the regular season just days away. In this week's Cover 3, our writers analyze the biggest surprises and toughest decisions on the Giants' roster.
I have to admit, there wasn't a whole lot that surprised me from the Giants roster cuts. I thought they would add a defensive back from the outside, which they did. The two spots that caught me a little by surprise were the decisions to keep Roger Lewis Jr. over Travis Rudolph, and Chad Wheeler over Adam Bisnowaty. But in retrospect, Wheeler played left tackle all summer, giving the team a backup for Ereck Flowers on the active roster. Lewis, meanwhile, offers more on coverage special teams than Rudolph.
With nearly every starter returning to a playoff-caliber roster, this summer wasn't a major overhaul like it was last year when the Giants ushered in a new head coach along with one of the most impactful free agent classes in recent memory. Rather, it was about tweaking it in order to go deeper into January. One position that can't be – but is often – overlooked is the fullback. The Giants didn't keep a true one last year as fullbacks and tight ends can be interchangeable in Ben McAdoo's system. This year, they did. Sure, the arrivals of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram will soften some of the coverages, but you know what else does that? Running the ball. Bringing in a veteran pro like tight end Rhett Ellison to block and now keeping a true fullback will make the offense more physical. Just look at what Shane Smith did on Thursday night as he helped pave the way for the Giants' biggest rushing game of the preseason.
If you don't think sometimes one play in the preseason can be the difference between making or missing out on the final 53-man roster, then all you need to do is look at Geno Smith's 25-yard touchdown pass to Matt LaCosse in the first quarter of Thursday's night's 40-38 preseason finale victory over the Patriots. Smith wound up beating out Josh Johnson for the backup quarterback job and LaCosse edged out Will Tye for the fourth tight end spot. Last year, the Giants kept three tight ends, but given the depth and versatility of this year's group, I'm not surprised they kept four. Rhett Ellison and LaCosse both have experience lining up in different spots and their presence on the roster, along with fullback Shane Smith, will provide the team different options, especially in the run game. Let's not forget if fullback Will Johnson didn't get hurt last preseason, in all likelihood, the Giants would have had a fullback on the roster.
In addition to tight end, the competition at wide receiver was just as fierce, which is why it was going to be very difficult for undrafted rookie Travis Rudolph to make the roster. The Giants are essentially bringing back the same receiving corps with Brandon Marshall replacing Victor Cruz as the only exception. Tavarres King and Roger Lewis both have experience in the system and both made plays in 2016, especially King, who hauled in a deep touchdown pass from Eli Manning in the wild card playoff game against the Packers. I don't think the team was going to overlook their contributions in 2016 and that gave them both a significant edge.
My biggest surprise cut was defensive lineman Devin Taylor. I thought his experience and flashes during the preseason would have given him a strong chance to make the team or, perhaps, provide the Giants a reason to keep an extra player on the line. You can say the same thing about corner Donte Deayon, who also had a strong preseason but given the acquisition of Ross Cockrell from the Steelers and his additional size/experience that created another hurdle for Deayon.