There were very few big recognizable names who were shown the door on Tuesday when the Giants, like all other NFL teams, had to trim their roster from 80 to 53 names. Sure, there were some players who people might have heard of parenthetically. Running back Corey Coleman was a Super Bowl hero for the Eagles and is now a former Giant. Linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo received a $1 million signing bonus when he arrived in the spring but has departed without playing a meaningful snap. David Sills and Niko Lalos flashed in training camp and preseason games but were far from certain to make the squad.
Anyone paying attention to the Giants over the past month and a half would have had a good shot at predicting most of the moves they made to get to their initial active roster.
Now, though, come the much more difficult maneuvers on the team’s roster. And these will almost certainly involve some of the most prominent players they have.
As of Wednesday, the Giants can start putting players on injured reserve and have them available to return as soon as Week 4 of the season. After a summer in which so many of the offensive stalwarts spent time on the sideline, all with the Sept. 12 game against the Broncos getting closer and closer, the time has come to determine who will be healthy enough to play in the opener and who will have to wait a little longer before making their 2021 debut.
“We have a couple of guys we are discussing right now [for injured reserve],” Joe Judge said on Tuesday.
Judge was not providing any direct hints about those calls. And Tuesday’s practice, which was at a walk-through tempo, saw just about all of the questionable players participating in some capacity. Tight end Evan Engram, who injured his calf in the preseason finale on Sunday, was the only one of the 51 players who made the team not seen during the workout (newly acquired offensive linemen Ben Bredeson and Billy Price will make it 53 when they arrive).
Judge said Engram is in a “gray area” in terms of being back for Week 1. “We’ll give it a few days, see how he moves around a little bit, see where he’s at,” he said, “and make a decision from there.” Another possibility is wide receiver John Ross (hamstring) who was running on the side Tuesday.
Saquon Barkley (knee) and Kenny Golladay (hamstring) both seem close enough to a full return to avoid injured reserve, but they’re still not cleared for the opener.
“There won’t be a decision made on Saquon until Denver week and it’s probably not going to be Monday either,” Judge said. That will be after Barkley practices with the team Wednesday and Thursday this week then returns from Labor Day weekend when the players are off.
As for Golladay, who has not practiced since Aug. 3 but had a robust pregame workout on Sunday, Judge said: “Reports on him is he’s been improving and working really, really hard. When I’ve seen him with my own eyes, I’ve seen progress from when we first lost him from practice to where he is right now. We’ll see where he is next week. The good news is there’s still a good bit of time between now and a game for what he’s dealing with. We’ll see where that is.”
While the Giants await those medical decisions, there will plenty of roster gymnastics that take place in the coming days. What used to be called the final 53 is now almost always called the initial 53, and there is good reason for that. The Giants are certainly going to be active on the waiver wire and they will need to make several moves to fill some position groups. They have only one fully healthy tight end on the roster in Kaden Smith, and in one of the stranger contortions of the day, they cut their only long-snapper, Casey Kreider, with the team saying he “will re-sign” with the team in the official announcement.
When that happens, someone else will have to be released or put on injured reserve.
The Giants’ 53-man roster has plenty of candidates for either of those options.