The Giants look like a team with Super Bowl potential on paper. Sunday’s release of their star-studded first unofficial depth chart of 2017 confirmed that, ahead of Friday night’s preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
Now, Ben McAdoo hopes that his depth talent will perform strongly in the preseason to fill in the gaps behind Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning, Brandon Marshall, Damon Harrison, Landon Collins and Co., and solidify a roster eyeing Super Bowl LII in Minnesota on Feb. 4.
That particularly goes for players on the Giants’ offense, where there is more competition for jobs given GM Jerry Reese’s offseason additions to augment this team’s weaker unit from 2016.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on the offensive side who are on the bubble,” McAdoo said after Saturday’s practice, prior to a Sunday off day. “The thing about being on the bubble is sometimes it takes your fears to bring out the best in you, and that’s what we’re looking for in those guys. What are you going to do? Are you going to step up, or are you going to step back?”
There are no surprises on the Giants’ initial depth chart, but there are clues to which players are a step ahead in battles on both sides of the ball.
Josh Johnson remains listed as Manning’s primary backup at quarterback, for example, ahead of newcomer Geno Smith on third string. So even though Smith had his strongest practice on Saturday, the depth chart is a reminder that the ex-Jet will need to outperform Johnson in games to win the job.
Free agent signing Rhett Ellison also is slotted as first team tight end ahead of first-round pick Evan Engram. This reflects the veteran Ellison’s versatility handling the position’s many responsibilities in McAdoo’s offense, but Engram still is going to be a major factor. McAdoo’s offense, in fact, frequently should feature Ellison and Engram on the field at the same time this fall.
Will Tye’s presence as the third-string tight end keeps him ahead of taller and faster 2016 sixth-round pick Jerell Adams, and Matt LaCosse and Colin Thompson. It is also significant to see the depth chart confirm, as the Giants have practiced, that rookie offensive tackles Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty truly are the next men up behind maligned starters Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart, respectively.
Jacob Huesman begins ahead of Shane Smith at the fullback position the Giants did not carry in 2016, but they both are competing against the possibility that Ellison’s efficiency as a blocker – and the team’s increased depth at tight end – could push them both out.
And the impressive Orleans Darkwa opens as the Giants’ third-string running back, or basically Paul Perkins’ primary backup as a runner, since Shane Vereen is his own type of dual-threat back. Tavarres King, Roger Lewis Jr. and Harris (slot) are the three lead backup receivers, ahead of Kevin Norwood, Darius Powe and Travis Rudolph (slot).
On defense, most noteworthy is that fourth-year vet Jay Bromley has pushed to be the early starting defensive tackle alongside the All-Pro Harrison, ahead of rookie second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson, who is high on the list of players that need to show more when the games begin. The other two projected starters are middle linebacker B.J. Goodson and free safety Darian Thompson, second-year players and 2016 Reese draft picks.
Nat Berhe’s strong camp has kept him alongside Andrew Adams as the top backup safeties. Converted safety Mykkele Thompson, Michael Hunter and Valentino Blake (slot) lead a new-look depth crop at cornerback.
And defensive end Devin Taylor is a player to watch, because injury has buried the presumed contributor behind not only top backup Romeo Okwara, but Owa Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn and Jordan Williams.
Undrafted rookie Aldrick Rosas, 22, also is listed ahead of veteran Mike Nugent in the kicking battle. Those are details of the depth battles, though. The Giants’ first-string units are nothing short of intimidating.
The Big Blue defense, second in NFL scoring last season, returns nine of its 12 most frequently used starters: Jason Pierre-Paul, Harrison, Olivier Vernon, Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The receiving trio of Beckham, Marshall and Sterling Shepard lead an offense with enormous potential that could flourish with consistent play from an offensive line that remains entirely intact, anchored inside by left guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg and right guard John Jerry.
And punter Brad Wing, long-snapper Zak DeOssie and Harris as return specialists pace the special teams, with Beckham excitingly the Giants’ first backup option on punts.
These are the 2017 Giants as they approach the opening of their preseason. They have work to do to cement their final regular season roster, but it’s clear on paper why they’re thinking big in McAdoo’s second year.
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