Dave Gettleman doesn’t have to form his 53-man roster until Aug. 31, but it isn’t too early to project the 2019 Giants’ depth chart based on their offseason program that wrapped Thursday.
So here is a Daily News projection for the 53-man Giants roster compiled from what we saw and heard this spring at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
QUARTERBACKS (three): Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, Alex Tanney
The Giants could keep only two QBs if Jones excels in the preseason, but with Manning’s focus on winning as the expected Week 1 starter, Pat Shurmur will probably keep Tanney as a veteran Jones can lean on and learn from behind the scenes until he’s ready. I don’t think 2018 fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta makes the team. Whether they’re keeping a third QB whom they trust to play if needed or just to help Jones, Tanney is their preferred option in both scenarios.
RUNNING BACKS (four): Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Rod Smith, Eli Penny
I wouldn’t rule out anyone yet at running back, though this is my early group. I think Rod Smith’s versatility on offense and special teams puts him on this roster as an RB/FB, even with Shurmur-favorite Penny already on it at fullback. I’m intrigued most by the decision about Barkley’s immediate backup. A healthy Paul Perkins could appeal more to Shurmur as a receiving option compared to Gallman, and Rutgers rookie Jon Hilliman will get a crack, too. Backup RB will be an interesting, under-the-radar battle. Gallman has the early lead.
WIDE RECEIVERS (six): Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard
Bennie Fowler is my odd-man out at the moment, but he’s in the thick of it, too. The Giants consider him a reliable receiver and good teammate. It could depend on who stays healthy or whether the Giants decide against keeping three vertical threats in Coleman, Slayton and Latimer.
TIGHT END (four): Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson, Evan Engram, C.J. Conrad
Engram’s and Janoris Jenkins’ names both were floated during last fall’s trade deadline, and I’m still skeptical the Giants are as committed to Engram as they claim. He’s not the prototypical Shurmur tight end, and he has been out with a hamstring injury that Shurmur surprisingly disclosed on Tuesday, seemingly in response to Engram saying on Saturday that sitting out wasn’t his choice and the Giants were holding him back. All of this is to say I’m not sure what the future holds for Engram as a Giant. For now, this is my Giants tight end room. I strongly believe the undrafted rookie Conrad out of Kentucky makes this team. I think the Giants would love Eric Dungey to push the envelope, but he needs to get healthy. Garrett Dickerson could stick around on the practice squad.
OFFENSIVE LINE (nine): Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Kevin Zeitler, Mike Remmers, Spencer Pulley, Chad Wheeler, Nick Gates, George Asafo-Adjei
The Giants kept six interior linemen and three tackles out of camp last year. I have them holding on to four tackles and five interior linemen in this projection, including their seventh-round pick, “Big George.” Gates, a 2018 UDFA guard from Nebraska, spent last year on I.R. He should be able to beat out Evan Brown if he stays healthy, though I’m also intrigued by third-string UDFA center James O’Hagan from Buffalo if he’s versatile enough to play guard. Brian Mihalik has been the first-team left tackle with Solder injured, but keep an eye on Missouri UDFA Paul Adams. He’s the third-string LT for now, but he was a right tackle in college. The Giants’ putting him on the left side this spring might have been a test to see if he can be a true swing tackle. If Adams shows he can do both, he could threaten Wheeler or Asafo-Adjei.
DEFENSIVE LINE (six): Dexter Lawrence, B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, RJ McIntosh, Chris Slayton, Olsen Pierre
Four Gettleman draft picks, a former member of James Bettcher’s Arizona Cardinals defense in Pierre, and the third-year former second-round pick Tomlinson. A young group with a huge task.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (four): Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Kareem Martin, Oshane Ximines
Avery Moss had a good training camp last year and still didn’t make the team. There are high hopes for the second-year edge Carter. I’ll be curious to see if the Giants seek more talent and competition for this position come July and late August. Depending on how Ximines progresses, if Golden stays healthy and if Martin improves dramatically after a disappointing first year with the team, it’s a possibility.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (four): Alec Ogletree, Tae Davis, B.J. Goodson, Ryan Connelly
Nate Stupar was a special teams leader and staple last season, so I surprised myself by leaving him off this early roster, and he very well may wind up on it. But would they really keep five interior LBs when Stupar isn’t truly an option on defense? They really like Connelly, and Ogletree and Davis are the clear first-team LB pair with Goodson rotating in. Would they cut Goodson? He’s a Reese 2016 fourth-round pick. Two other depth guys to keep in mind: Jonathan Anderson, who played in 31 games for the Bears from 2015-17 and signed on a reserve/futures contract in January; and priority UDFA Josiah Tauaefa out of UTSA.
SAFETIES (four): Antoine Bethea, Jabrill Peppers, Michael Thomas, Julian Love
The Giants worked the rookie fourth-round pick Love mostly at corner when I observed this spring, but they’ve spoken a lot about his potential as a safety, and I think he ends up on the depth chart as both a corner and safety. I’m just putting him down here to illustrate that the Giants wouldn’t be thin on the back end. This would mean Sean Chandler, a valuable special teamer last year, misses the cut, along with Kenny Ladler and Kamrin Moore.
CORNERBACKS (six): Janoris Jenkins, DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal, Grant Haley, Corey Ballentine, Antonio Hamilton
I know 10 total defensive backs is a huge number, but that’s how Gettleman’s roster shakes out right now due to his trades and draft picks to address a glaring issue. I’ll be curious to see if Beal stays healthy and wins the slot job over Haley (or proves capable to help outside). Love and veteran Tony Lippett were working recently as the second-string defense’s outside corners. My guess is Lippett misses the cut and Love ends up playing a lot as a reserve at all positions in the secondary, from safety to slot to along the sideline.
SPECIAL TEAMS (three): K Aldrick Rosas, P Riley Dixon, LS Zak DeOssie