EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A little more than 12 hours after the conclusion of the Giants' preseason-ending victory in New England, coach Pat Shurmur this morning addressed his team. When he next meets with the players, it will be a much smaller gathering.
Like all NFL teams, the Giants have until 4 p.m. tomorrow to pare their roster to the 53-player regular-season limit. For the Giants, that means releasing, trading or placing on injured reserve 35 players (they finished the preseason with 89 players, one under the league limit, and wide receiver Golden Tate is beginning his four-game NFL suspension for violating the league policy on performance enhancing substances).
Shurmur wasn't about to offer clues as to what he or anyone else in the organization is thinking.
"Obviously, we are going through the final process of putting the roster together," he said. "I had a meeting with the players this morning at 11:30 to talk about the weekend and some of the final thoughts on the game (a last-second 31-29 triumph that concluded a 4-0 preseason) and some final thoughts on training camp that I'll keep between them and myself. I will say, I appreciate everybody's efforts. I feel like we are starting to develop the type of team we can all be proud of, but we have a long way to go. This weekend's process of trying to establish the first 53 will be very important."
Note that the coach said the "first" 53. Last year, for example, the Giants reduced their roster size from 89 to 53 players on Sept. 1. The following day, they significantly reshaped their roster by adding six players who were released by other teams. At the same time, of course, they released or terminated the contracts of six players, proving again that "final roster" is a misnomer.
All players have been told they must be available to come to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center this weekend. Shurmur could technically start speaking to released players today, but it appears that will not happen.
"I think our initial plan is to do most, if not all, of that tomorrow," he said on a conference call. "I can't say that something won't happen today. Again, with regard to who we are keeping, the process of going through it, I really don't want to speculate, and I don't think it's fair to our process here. I think it's important to remember that since we've had the 90-man roster, we have talked at length about all of the players, frequently. Obviously, last night we learned something about more of the guys that will help add to the conversation. I think we'll keep most of that private until it gets revealed."
Shurmur was asked to provide insight on the process of shaping the roster.
"Generally speaking, we came in this morning, we all watched the tape as coaches, graded it like we would the first three preseason games and like we do any other game, met with the players here at 11:30, and kind of sent them on their way," Shurmur said. "They're finishing up their treatments, and they're finishing up their weightlifting. The players will individually look at the tape and make corrections, so coaches within their little group, given that information, spend time with them. This afternoon, we'll be in meetings discussing who's going to make the 53 - all coaches, (general manager) Dave (Gettleman) and his staff, and anybody who has a good opinion as to what direction we should go."
Tomorrow, we will learn much more about the direction the Giants' opening-day roster will take.
*Eli Manning threw just 13 passes in the four preseason games, by far the fewest of the Giants' four quarterbacks (Daniel Jones was next with 34 passes). But Shurmur said Manning is ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Dallas.
"I think he's had an outstanding offseason," Shurmur said. "It started by what he did by himself before the OTA offseason program started. I think he's had, in my mind, an outstanding camp from the practice setting. He's executed well in the time that he's been in the game. He's certainly a guy that's got a lot of experience, and when I look at him, I just see a guy that's much more comfortable in the system for the second year in a row, and I'm looking forward to him having a really good year."
Safety Jabrill Peppers, who grew up in northern New Jersey and came to the Giants after two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, has become a big Manning fan.
"Eli was everything I thought," Peppers said. "A guy who has seen it all, he has played a ton of ball. A two-time (Super Bowl) MVP, champion, he has played in the tough games, he has basically done everything you want your quarterback to do. I definitely see the greatness that he has, whether it's finding the open guy or putting the ball where only his guy can get it, diagnosing the coverage, checking out to get those guys a better call. I think that in this league if you have a quarterback that can do that and do it at an exceptionally high level it gives you a lot of opportunities to win ball games."
Tight end Evan Engram is beginning his third season with Manning.
"I've definitely seen a lot of improvement with Eli," Engram said. "He's … worked really hard for this camp. There's more confidence, you could tell he's a little bit more comfortable within the pocket and he's been balling out all camp and hasn't slowed down. I'm very excited to get on the road with Eli, and just the things I've seen and the things I'm told about as an offense, we are working towards and we're kind of adding things to the system and putting guys in the right spots and trying our best to make him successful I'm really excited about it. I can't wait to get the first snap going."