*The Giants must reduce their roster to 53 by 4:00 PM ET Saturday: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Slashing dozens of players from their rosters is annually one of the most difficult days of the year for NFL coaches. But it's a better problem than not having enough good players to fill a 53-man regular-season roster.
The Giants removed nine players from their roster today, leaving them with 80. Twenty-seven more must go by 4 p.m. tomorrow, when every NFL roster must be reduced to 53 players.
Ben McAdoo and Co. have numerous decisions to make in the coming hours, a job seemingly made more difficult by several performances in the 40-38 victory against the New England Patriots last night that concluded the preseason schedule.
"I think it's challenging, because we feel that we have more than 53 who can play," McAdoo said today. "That's what's going to make it challenging for us. We like where we're at from a roster standpoint. We feel we have some depth, we had some good competition and at the positions we needed to see a lot out of last night, they stood up and they played and they competed. It was exciting to watch and it made our job even harder, but that's good. That's a great problem to have."
Some of the toughest choices will be at backup quarterback, kicker, and tight end.
Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants starters did not play against the Patriots. Geno Smith started and completed 10 of 11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. He was relieved by Josh Johnson, who hit 11 of 14 passes for 135 yards and a score. Not to be ignored, rookie Davis Webb completed four passes on the game-winning drive.
"They both graded out high," McAdoo said of Smith and Johnson. "They played well. Again, it's going to be a tough decision."
Smith spent the previous four seasons with the Jets, who chose not to retain him when he became a free agent. Johnson has been with nine teams since 2008. Each veteran said he wasn't nervous about the looming cutdown day.
"I am not really an emotional person," Smith said after the game. "I've been blessed to play this game. I appreciate every single rep that I get, every single chance I get to play. I didn't put any extra incentive going into this game and I am not going to do it going forward. I want to play good football all the time. I believe in myself, have a lot of confidence in myself, but at the end of the day, I can control the things that I can control and I let God handle the rest."
"I've been down this road a million times," said Johnson, who was with the Giants for the entire 2016 season. "…They know who I am now in practice and in the classroom. They know how I prepare, they know what I bring to the table. The last thing I just really wanted them to feel like I can show them how I can really play when I get in a groove and really get out there and play for a long, extended period of time and just really cut it loose. That is what I really wanted to go out and do tonight, just cut it loose and just play free and I was able to do that."
McAdoo wouldn't hint which way he's leaning.
"We were going to let it play out," he said. "We weren't going to rush to any decisions. We're continuing the evaluation process today and we'll make a decision tomorrow."
Aldrick Rosas kicked four field goals, including the game-winning 48-yarder as time expired, and finished the preseason eight-for-eight, plus six-for-six on extra points. But he is 22 years old and has never kicked in a regular-season game. The other contender is Mike Nugent, who is a 35-year-old, 13-season veteran. He didn't kick in New England but hit all five of his field goal attempts in August, including 50 and 54-yarders against the Jets.
"I think experience is a big factor, whether you look at lack of experience or an experienced player," McAdoo said. "I don't know that age really matters all that much. I think experience does, especially at that position. But both men have done exactly what we've asked them to do and performed and played at a high level. Mike had a tremendous game last week versus the Jets, and we wanted to see how Aldrick responded and he responded very well last night. We're taking a look at it right now."
Nugent will not be pacing and worrying while waiting to learn his fate tomorrow.
"At this point, I am just very lucky to keep doing what I really enjoy doing," he said. "I really enjoy working on my craft. Whether that is here or somewhere else, I am excited to keep on going."
The Giants today have five tight ends on the roster – Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, Will Tye, Jerell Adams and Matt LaCosse, who led the team with five receptions and scored two touchdown last night. He set up Rosas' game-winner with two big catches. The Giants also have two fullbacks in rookie free agents Shane Smith and Jacob Huesman. The Giants did not have a fullback last season, and to keep one this year would likely mean releasing another tight end.
"We have some tough decisions to make at that fullback spot and tight end spot," McAdoo said. "It was good to see LaCosse produce. We've been seeing that in the OTA's and in training camp – him producing, making plays and having a chance to score a couple times, as well as contributing in the two-minute drive, was good to see. We've been seeing that all along in practice. It's nice for it to show up on game day. Jerell blocked very physical. He was a physical player. Didn't get many opportunities in the pass game, but came on as a blocker yesterday in the ball game. Will Tye. You take the second play of the game (when he lost a fumble) out of the mix – he had a nice night."
It's going to be a very interesting night and day for the Giants' decision-makers.