The New York Giants will begin a new era when they open pre-season play (Aug. 12) against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants, under first-year head coach Ben McAdoo, will be doing a lot of evaluating as Jordan Raanan of ESPN is reporting that the Giants have about 20 open spots on their 53-man roster.
Obviously, QB Eli Manning, WRs Odell Beckham, Jr. and Victor Cruz, DE’s Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, and LB Devon Kennard are locks to make the G-Men’s opening day roster.
However, there are several players such as TE Matt LaCosse, DE/LB Ishaq Williams, and WR Tavarres King that must make an impact during their time on the field over the course of the four-game exhibition schedule to have a chance to make the team.
LaCosse, who went undrafted out of Illinois in 2015, has seen time with the first-team offensive unit this summer and has looked good as a receiver as well as a blocker, according to Raanan.
“He brings a knowledge of the position, number one, and he’s a big target,” tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said. “I would say overall, as far as him going into his second season, he does everything pretty well. So when we talk about getting those tight ends, to get them in the position that we want them in, to execute their jobs, he can execute all of the jobs. But with that being said, there might be someone who’s a better run-blocker, a better threat down the field, but Matt executes everything well.”
LaCosse is currently in a battle with veteran Will Johnson as well as rookies Jerrell Adams — the Giants 2016 sixth-round draft pick — and Ryan Malleck for the final tight end spots. Veteran TEs Larry Donnell and Will Tye appear to be roster locks.
LaCosse spent parts of last season on the Giants practice squad before being promoted to the team’s 53-man roster during the final two weeks of the season. The 23-year-old caught three passes, with two being for first downs, accounting for 22-yards in his NFL debut versus the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 27.
Williams has been one of the biggest surprises this summer for the Giants. The 23-year-old, who had not played since being involved in a cheating scandal at Notre Dame in 2013, impressed the G-Men enough to earn a contract after rookie mini-camp and has continued his stellar showing during training camp. The 6-foot-4, 253-pounder was named as one of the three standout players following the team’s Aug. 9 practice by the NFL’s Dan Salomone.
“He’ll be an interesting guy to see play in the [first preseason] game,” McAdoo said of Williams. “I’m looking forward to watching him. “He’s a big man that can cover a lot of ground. He’s raw, hasn’t played a lot of football. So the more reps we can get him, the better.”
Williams is currently listed as the No. 3 weakside linebacker on New York’s depth chart, behind Keenan Robinson and ahead of veteran J.T. Thomas. Robinson started eight of the 12 games he appeared in for the Washington Redskins a season ago, making 63 stops and picking off one pass, while Thomas — entering his fifth season — collected 46 tackles in 12 games for the Giants in 2015.
King is in a battle with several other receivers to make the squad. The 26-year-old has been solid this summer but is listed fifth or sixth on the depth chart. He and Roger Lewis, who is also on the bubble, had touchdown receptions during 7-on-7 drills today. Darius Powe, Anthony Dable, Myles White, K.J. Maye, and Kadron Boone are the other wide-outs vying for a roster spot.
King spent the entire season on the Giants’ practice squad last year. The former 2013 fifth-round selection of the Denver Broncos has two career receptions for a total of 13 yards.
“He is a guy that grew on us last year when we had him on the practice squad,” McAdoo said. “He’s champing at the bit. I know he had a couple different opportunities and he feels like — I know I’m speaking for him — but he’s walking around like a guy who seems like he’s earned his stripes and he’s ready to take that next jump.”
LB Brad Bars, CB Donte Deayon, and C Adam Gettis also are relatively unknown players that could make the G-Men’s opening day roster.
Bars is in a battle with veteran Mark Herzlich for the No. 2 spot at strongside linebacker as well as special-teams ace. The 24-year-old converted defensive end has been making plays on a regular basis during training camp. Bars has the ability to rush the passer as well as defend the run.
Bars went undrafted out of Penn State in 2015 and spent the majority of last season on the Giants’ practice squad. He did accumulate two regular season tackles after being promoted to the 53-man squad late in the season.
Deayon probably has the toughest road among the players listed here — particularly with the recent addition of Leon Hall, although he has reportedly been getting his hands on a lot of balls during training camp. The undrafted 22-year-old rookie, out of Boise State, is kind of on the small side, standing at just 5-foot-9 tall and weighing 158 pounds.
Gettis is currently listed as the third center on the depth chart, but he also has the ability to play guard, which likely enhances his chances of making the team. The 27-year-old was a fifth-round selection of the Washington Redskins in 2012 though he has just played in 14 NFL games, including one appearance last year with the Giants.
In other news, Cruz left Tuesday’s practice with a tight groin and will likely not play against the Dolphins on Friday. Also, the G-Men are expected to start two rookies in their opening pre-season game — WR Sterling Shepard and FS Darian Thompson.
New York will also play exhibition games against the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 20, the New York Jets on Aug. 27, and the New England Patriots on Sept. 1.
[Photo by Mel Evans/AP Images]