*Jonathan Casillas gives his takes on the upcoming roster cutdown day: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jonathan Casillas has a complete perspective of NFL cutdown day, because he has seen it from both sides.
He entered the NFL eight years ago as a rookie free agent with the New Orleans Saints, so his pro career began with no job security. He is now the Giants' starting weakside linebacker and was the team's defensive captain last season, meaning he has no worries about being one of the departing players when the Giants reduce their roster from 90 players to the league-mandated 53-man limit by 4 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday.
But first, the Giants must play their final preseason game Thursday night in New England.
"There's really no week in the NFL like this fourth preseason game/beginning of opening week," Casillas said today. "There's nothing really like that at all, besides this time of the year. The worst day in the NFL is coming up, which is the cut day, and this year is different. We're going from 90 to 53. It used to be in increments (the NFL this year eliminated a mandatory roster cut to 75). I don't know if we're going to be prepared for that. There's always some stuff that goes on – cuts happen where the day is going on and someone gets pulled out of a meeting – just stuff like that.
"You hate to see it, it's part of the game, and I'm not looking forward to it. At the end of the day, it is a business, and we do have to figure out the right 53 to play for the New York Giants. This fourth game is going to be very important, and we're going against the New England Patriots. So, we've got to strap it up and play your A-game."
Casillas is not unique among his teammates in admitting he already has one eye on the Dallas Cowboys, who the Giants will face in the regular-season opener on Sept. 10.
"We've been thinking about them for a long time," Casillas said. "We've been working. Everything's been building for September 10. Whatever we've been doing come April, we've been building for September 10. All the preseason games were important, of course, but we're all building for September 10. So, we've not just started with Dallas this week. We've been talking about Dallas – what they're doing and how we think they're going to attack us. So, we have been thinking about them a lot."
Those two events – the roster cutdown and the first game – are entwined, Casillas said, because the Giants cannot fully prepare for the Cowboys without knowing which players will travel to Dallas.
"Once we figure out who is going to be playing come September 10, who's going to be on the roster, and as we approach that date, we're going to be more and more ready," Casillas said. "As of right now, we don't have our team configured quite yet, so I don't think it would be possible to be ready quite yet."
But the early returns are promising. The starting defense did not allow a touchdown in limited action in the first three preseason games. The first team held the Jets to one field goal in eight first-half possessions in the Giants' 32-31 victory on Saturday night.
"So far, so good," Casillas said. "We've only had, collectively as a first team unit, a couple series together per game. Last game was a very solid outing for us, with the first couple series, but there's still things we need to correct – missed tackles, gap integrity, stuff like that. We're trying to take it to the next level, so we've got to keep improving and crossing our T's and dotting our I's, and I think we're doing a good job of that."
The defense is not at full strength. Linebacker Keenan Robinson has been in the NFL concussion protocol and has yet to play in the preseason. Cornerback Eli Apple has hurt both of his ankles this month and left the Jets game early. So did starting defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who sprained his knee in the game. If Bromley is unavailable, rookie second-round draft choice Dalvin Tomlinson would likely start.
"I've seen some impressive stuff on tape," Casillas said of Tomlinson. "I think we're all ready for him to play. Whether it's behind Snacks (Damon Harrison), rotating at the three (defensive tackle), whatever it is. I'm sure he'll be a solid contributor. It's so early, we don't have anything of his body of work besides college. So, it's hard to say, 'He's done this here,' when he hasn't. From what I've seen so far, he's very strong, he's very physical, and we're going to need that play from him."
"He's a player that's played at a tremendous level in the college game (at Alabama)," coach Ben McAdoo said. "He's come in, he's learned the system very well. He's good with his hands, he plays with leverage, he destroys blocks. We feel he'll be ready to play Week One."