This is far from final, but there are certainly signs that Joe Judge’s touch is all over the initial 53-man roster the Giants got down to Saturday, as they parted ways (for now) with 28 players on cut-down day.
There are 23 players who were not with the organization in 2019 that made it through, though not all of them will stay around for the start of the regular season. Upheaval was expected for a team that won four games last season, especially with a first-year head coach intent on putting his stamp on a franchise that has lost more games (36) than any team in the NFL the past three years.
Thus, nine of the 10 draft picks from 2020 are on the roster. Thus, a promising member of the 2019 draft class, linebacker Ryan Connelly, did not make it. Thus, most of the veteran free agents Judge signed off on during the spring and summer survived.
There was no established veteran to get the axe. For now, the Giants have two quarterbacks, Daniel Jones and backup Colt McCoy, as Alex Tanney and Cooper Rush were both let go.
The majority, or very close to the majority, of the players cut on Saturday will work their way back to the newly expanded practice squad. In deference to the strict COVID-19 protocols, the practice squad now includes 16 players. Six players can have extensive NFL experience and four more can have limited NFL experience, making this year’s practice squad more of a true extension of the roster.
There are only five wide receivers on the roster, including C.J. Board — the former Jaguar whose speed showed up in camp — and Corey Coleman, making a successful comeback from a torn Achilles. The young brigade of receivers, many of whom were impressive, were all waived.
The only one of the 10 rookie draft picks to get cut was defensive back Chris Williamson, a seventh-round selection. Safety Xavier McKinney (broken foot), the second -round pick, along with another injured player, veteran linebacker David Mayo (torn meniscus), had to be included on the initial roster. Both underwent surgery and might be able to return at some point late in the season. They will be placed on injured reserve on Sunday, with a designation to return, which will allow the Giants to add two more players to their 53-man roster.
“Ultimately, we’re looking to keep as many good players in our program as possible,’’ Judge said recently. “That’s true for our 53-man roster, the practice squad, and whatever other means we have.’’
In addition to Connelly, the only other former Giants draft pick to get cut was defensive tackle Chris Slayton (seventh round, 2019).
The Giants waived John Halapio, their starting center last season, after re-signing him on Wednesday. Halapio, coming off a torn Achilles tendon, likely was signed so he is eligible to be placed on the practice squad immediately.
There are only three tight ends — Evan Engram, Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo — a bit of a surprise for an offense run by Jason Garrett that will often use two tight end sets.
Given Judge’s history as a special teams coordinator, it was expected he would load up on linebackers. There are 11 of them (10 after Mayo goes to injured reserve) on the roster, including four rookie draft picks: Cam Brown, TJ Brunson, Carter Coughlin and Tae Crowder (Mr. Irrelevant as the last player selected in the entire draft).
Three rookie draft picks — Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux — made it on the offensive line. There are 10 defensive backs, including cornerback Isaac Yiodom, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Broncos in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Yiodom made the cut despite not even practicing with his new team. The 2018 third-round pick out of Boston College was a two-year disappointment with the Broncos.
“The thing you have to keep in mind is there are 16 games, multiple opponents,’’ Judge said. “I think by nature, you build your roster most for your division initially. But that’s going to change throughout the season. Throughout stretches, you’re going to have opportunities to bring people up from the practice squad, you’re going to deal with injuries, you’re going to deal with sickness. A lot of things you’re going to deal with throughout the year. Really the biggest thing we’re working on as far as building this roster is building the versatility on both sides of the ball, and that factors into the kicking game as well.’’