New York Giants: Curtis Painter

Each day this week, and then in the week of July 14, we will take a look at one position group and how it looks for the New York Giants as they head into training camp. Today, we start with the quarterbacks.

Starter: Eli Manning

Backups: Ryan Nassib, Curtis Painter

Giants likely to keep: 2

The contest here is for the backup spot. Nassib, the 2013 fourth-round pick, worked as the No. 2 in minicamp, likely because they already know what Painter is and Nassib needs to get reps in order for them to figure out whether he's ready to ascend to the backup role. The Giants would like Nassib to win the job, because if he doesn't, they'll end up either having to cut bait with one of last year's draft picks or have to carry three quarterbacks again as they did last year. There is a school of thought that Nassib is better suited to the West Coast-style of offense the Giants will play this year than the offense in which they operated last year and for the nine years before that. But Nassib hasn't even suited up for an NFL game. So before making him the Week 1 backup, the Giants are going to have to either see something impressive from him in preseason games or be prepared to take a major leap of faith.

As for Manning, he's nothing short of the key to the whole team. The Giants were non-contenders last year as Manning suffered through the worst season of his career, leading the league with his career-high 27 interceptions amid an offensive line meltdown and other offensive calamities. His offseason ankle surgery appears to have been a minor hiccup and didn't cost him much if any spring practice time. So at this point, it's all about results. Manning's ability to master the new offense under coordinator Ben McAdoo and deliver a much higher level of on-field performance than he did in 2013 will go a long way toward determining whether the Giants can be legitimate contenders for a playoff spot in 2014.
You used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week, and I thank you for it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that middle linebacker Jon Beason does not make it back from his foot injury to play for the New York Giants in Week 1 in Detroit. If that is the case (as seems likely), then Jameel McClain is the front-runner to start at middle linebacker.

At this point, the starters on the outside would be Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, but rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard impressed coaches in the spring program and could be in the mix to start on the strong side. What's interesting to me is that linebackers coach Eric Hermann had a lot to say Thursday about the improvement Williams has shown as a weakside linebacker in the Giants' base defense. They already love him on the weak side in their nickel package due to his speed and coverage ability. But if they like him there in the base as well, Williams might be ahead of Paysinger to start there even once Beason returns and McClain moves back to the strong side. So to answer your question, I'd expect to see McClain in the middle, Williams on the weak side and either Paysinger or, if he has a big camp, Kennard on the strong side in Week 1.

@DanGrazianoESPN: No. I mean, obviously the short answer is no at this point, because Ryan Nassib, who didn't play at all as a rookie (by design) is still a work in progress.

Giants coaches like his progress. Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf on Thursday praised Nassib's intelligence and his ability to pick up the new system but said he's still got to work on his accuracy and his timing. Which is understandable, given that he's still a young quarterback who's never played in the league. It's clear they view him as the No. 2 right now behind Eli Manning -- or that they're at least giving him every chance to beat out Curtis Painter for that spot in camp. But no, if Manning got hurt, at this point the Giants would not have honest confidence in Nassib or anyone else who might replace him.

Manning costs the Giants 17 percent of their salary cap. He's the player around whom their team is built. If they don't have him, they simply won't be a remotely competitive team. Even if Nassib comes quickly in camp and becomes a viable No. 2, there's no chance that, in 2014, he offers anything close to what Manning offers as a starting NFL quarterback. All the Giants want from Nassib is continued growth and development, and their hope is that he's a decent backup/emergency option this year and maybe more down the road.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I agree that the Giants' defensive line is questionable behind the starters, and that there's a chance it could be a bad defensive line. They desperately need Jason Pierre-Paul to stay healthy and dominate from the defensive end position, because honestly they're not going to get much pass rush from the other side at this point. Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers are what they are, and they're not the kinds of defensive ends who are going to whip tackles regularly and pile up sacks. And Damontre Moore is still developing.

On the inside, you mention Cullen Jenkins, and I agree he's key because he's the one guy in there who's not a question mark. Coaches were raving this week about the development defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn have shown, and if so then that's a positive thing for them and for the Giants. But there's no way to know until they can practice in pads and play against other teams what they really have in there. To me, the Giants are hoping a lot of people -- namely, Hankins, Kuhn, Moore, Ayers and Kiwanuka -- outperform anything they've yet shown in the league in order to make them strong on the defensive line. It's not nuts to think one or two of them will, but... all of them?

@DanGrazianoESPN: The first-team offensive line in minicamp was, left to right: Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh. Which, no, is not good. They believe Chris Snee could play right guard if he had to right now, but he's working his way back from elbow and hip surgeries and they're taking it slowly with him. And they're also hoping Will Beatty is healthy enough to play left tackle in training camp ahead of Brown, who was signed as a backup. Rookie Weston Richburg is in a straight-up competition with Walton for the starting center spot. So it's possible that by Week 1 it's Beatty/Schwartz/Richburg/Snee/Pugh, which would look a lot better than what they ran out there this week. But as of now, that's your starting five.

Mosley's an interesting case. They like him and think his development has been hurt by injuries. But the fact that Snee and John Jerry (knee surgery) haven't been able to get on the field helped Mosley get a lot of first-team reps this spring. And that can only help him if they need to turn to him to play a starting role in camp, in the preseason or in the season.

Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the first weekend of summer. 

Because I know you guys need your Ryan Nassib fix, and because Nassib was one of the players the New York Giants brought out to talk to the media Tuesday, I thought we'd take a look this morning at what Eli Manning's presumptive backup had to say about his situation.

The Giants drafted Nassib in the fourth round in 2013 and, as planned, made his rookie season a redshirt one, leaving him inactive for all 16 games while Curtis Painter served as Manning's backup. Now, though, the Giants would like Nassib to progress this offseason and fight off Painter and newly signed Josh Freeman for the No. 2 quarterback spot.

"That's the goal right now, to secure that backup spot," Nassib said Tuesday. "We have a great competition going on in our room. We have so many great guys in there. We're all learning. We're all grinding right now, helping each other."

Nassib will get his reps this spring. Manning is recovering from ankle surgery and Painter is recovering from knee surgery. Manning has been on the field a bit doing some throwing, but mainly the quarterback reps right now are going to Nassib and Freeman. And the change in offensive coordinator from Kevin Gilbride to Ben McAdoo could work in Nassib's favor, since McAdoo's offense is similar to the West Coast style offense Nassib ran at Syracuse.

"There's some carryover from college to Coach McAdoo's system," Nassib said. "It's something I've done in the past and kind of got away from last year. Now that we're back in, the lessons I've learned in the past are kind of becoming relevant again. It's been nice to have that background now when I'm trying to learn something new. Getting the ball out quick, having a good running game and playing fast, which is something I think I do pretty well and that I fit pretty well into."

The Giants obviously aren't designing an offense around Nassib, since their hope is that he doesn't play a single snap for them this season. Manning hasn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2004, and the Giants expect him to remain their durable, reliable starter. But the extent to which Nassib can develop in a backup role could be helped by his relative fit and familiarity in the new system.

If Nassib does not win the backup job, the Giants will have to decide whether to keep three quarterbacks again and continue Nassib's development, or whether to cut the cord and move on. But that decision is a long way down the road.
Believe it or not (and it seems as though many do not), Ryan Nassib's first year in the NFL went exactly the way the New York Giants planned. The former Syracuse quarterback was inactive for all 16 games of his 2013 rookie season, but that doesn't mean he's a disappointment or a "bust." When the Giants moved up in the fourth round to take Nassib on Day 3 of last year's draft, they didn't plan on playing him as a rookie. They wanted him to sit in meeting rooms, work on the practice field, follow Eli Manning around and watch the way he goes about his business. The Year 1 plan for Nassib, a developmental quarterback prospect, was to show him the NFL ropes and get him comfortable with life as a professional football player.

The Year 2 plan for Nassib is a bit different.

[+] EnlargeRyan Nassib
AP Photo/Seth WenigThe Giants drafted Ryan Nassib knowing he would be a developmental project.
"We expect him to compete for the No. 2 spot," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said at his news conference last week. "I don't think there's any change with respect to him. We expect him to compete for that No. 2 spot."

There is competition, to be sure. Last year's backup quarterback, Curtis Painter, is still on the roster (albeit recovering from knee surgery). Because of Manning's recent ankle surgery, the Giants signed former Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman, whose experience obviously makes him a strong candidate for that No. 2 quarterback spot. And after Painter hurt his knee, the Giants also signed former Titans backup Rusty Smith. So even with Manning (and Painter, potentially) out of spring workouts, there will be competition for snaps this offseason. And the Giants will be watching with an open mind about the identity of Manning's 2014 backup.

"There's competition at the No. 2 spot," Reese said. "Obviously, Eli has the ankle, so we wanted to have more competition in the spring and we think Josh is a talented player. We like Nassib. He hasn't really had a chance to do a lot for us, so we're going to take a real good look at him in the spring, but we think he's still a good player. He hasn't had a chance to really play yet, so he's going to get a lot of work this spring, and obviously he'll get a lot of work in the preseason, along with Curtis Painter and Josh Freeman."

How do we handicap Nassib's chances, having not seen him play? Some who evaluated quarterbacks prior to last year's draft believed Nassib's best fit would be in a West Coast-style offense, and new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo appears like to run something that fits that description. If that's the case, maybe there's reason to like Nassib's chances of moving up the depth chart into a No. 2 quarterback role.

On the other hand, Freeman's presence could make that tougher. Freeman's experience and physical ability are likely to help him look very good on the practice field this spring and summer. And if he can answer some of the questions about the extent to which he can be an asset in the meeting rooms as a backup, he likely would be considered the front-runner. It's not as though Nassib can claim familiarity with the Giants' offensive system, since he's learning it along with Freeman and everyone else.

And please forget the idea that the Giants might be able to trade Nassib. I have no idea who came up with this, but how in the world can he possibly have any trade value right now? He was the No. 110 pick in the draft a year ago and hasn't played a competitive football game since clobbering Geno Smith and West Virginia in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl. Sure, if some team is willing to offer a pick better than 110 in this year's draft, the Giants would ship him off. I just can't imagine how a team could convince itself that this particular asset has appreciated over the course of the past calendar year.

No, this is about patience -- a clearly outdated concept when it comes to the NFL and especially quarterbacks. The Giants picked Nassib in the fourth round in April 2013 thinking that maybe he could develop into a useful quarterback. May 2014 is too soon to know whether they were right, and they knew it would be. They're hoping he gives them a little bit more information over the next couple of months so they can figure out whether it's worth it to spend more time on him. If so, great. If not, pfff. It was a fourth-round pick. If Nassib played any other position, we simply wouldn't be writing or reading about him right now.
Because NFL offseason rosters are massive, because their starting quarterback is hurt for the first time and they don't know what to do about it, and maybe because they just hadn't signed anyone in more than a week and we're getting bored, the New York Giants on Monday announced the signing of quarterback Rusty Smith, late of the Tennessee Titans.

Smith
Smith
Smith raises the number of quarterbacks on the Giants' roster to five, which is an eye-popping number for a team whose current starter hasn't missed a game since 2004. But Eli Manning's recovery from ankle surgery could keep him out of some, most or all of the OTA and minicamp workouts scheduled over the next two months, and the Giants need quarterbacks to take the practice snaps Manning will miss.

The list of quarterbacks who can do that now reads as follows:
  • Curtis Painter, their 2013 backup, who finished the shutout losses to Carolina and Seattle and played the second half of the Week 17 victory over Washington after Manning got hurt.
  • Ryan Nassib, the 2013 fourth-round pick who was inactive for all 16 games in what would otherwise have been his rookie season.
  • Josh Freeman, the 2009 first-round pick of the Buccaneers whose one start for the Vikings in 2013 was on "Monday Night Football" against the Giants was one of the worst games an NFL quarterback has ever played.
  • Smith, a former Florida Atlantic standout who was taken in the sixth round of the 2010 draft by the Titans and played three regular-season games (one start) in four seasons in Tennessee.

Not exactly a murderer's row there, but such is the state of quarterback in the NFL in 2014. When presented with a list of substandard options, it's not a bad idea to sign a bunch of them and play the percentages. None of these guys costs the Giants much of anything to have on their roster this spring and summer. They will need to get their other offensive players as many reps as possible in the new offense, so the ability to run drills simultaneously with as many quarterbacks as possible is appealing. And who knows? If Freeman or Smith shows enough, it's possible that one of the newcomers could overtake one or both of the returnees for a regular-season roster spot as a backup quarterback.

So while yes, it seems silly to keep adding random quarterbacks willy-nilly off the street, there are reasons for the Giants to be doing it and, frankly, few reasons not to. I promise they won't still have five quarterbacks on the roster when they open the season in Detroit on Sept. 8. You can hold me to that.

UPDATE: Later in the day Monday, the Giants announced that Painter had arthroscopic right knee surgery Friday and would need about four weeks to recover. This almost certainly led to the Smith signing, as Painter may not be available for the start of OTAs either.
This week's New York Giants Twitter mailbag, thanks to those of you who used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week.

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Herewith, our weekly presentation of the four best New York Giants Twitter questions I got this week using the #nygmail hashtag. Enjoy.

 
The New York Giants have been in contact with the representatives for free-agent quarterback Josh Freeman and could have the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-round pick in for a visit and workout next week, sources familiar with the situation said Friday.

Freeman
Nothing official has been scheduled in terms of a visit, and it's unclear whether the Giants' interest predates Thursday's news that starting quarterback Eli Manning had surgery on his ankle. But the timing of the Freeman news is interesting in light of the possibility that Manning could have to miss time in the offseason as he recovers from his surgery.

As I mentioned in Thursday's analysis of the Manning news, the Giants don't generally employ a fill-in-starter type of backup quarterback. Manning hasn't missed a game since he got the starter's job during his 2004 rookie season, and the Giants count on him to be able to suit up and play every Sunday. In recent years, backups such as Curtis Painter and David Carr have had their jobs mainly because of their abilities to portray opposing quarterbacks on the scout team every week.

But Freeman, who has started 60 NFL games since the Buccaneers took him with the 17th overall pick in 2009, could represent a viable fill-in, either in the preseason if Manning is slow to recover or in the regular season if the Giants are concerned Manning might be at risk of missing games for the first time in his career.

Of course, there's no guarantee Freeman would be a good backup quarterback or the Giants' interest will lead to a signing. Freeman was cut by the Buccaneers last year due to a variety of off-field concerns and a personality conflict with since-fired coach Greg Schiano (who obviously had his own issues). He was signed by the Vikings and started just one game -- a horrible one on "Monday Night Football" in MetLife Stadium that turned out to be the Giants' first victory of the 2013 season. He certainly showed the Giants nothing that night that would make them interested in him, but he has shown some talent and had some degree of success in the league. If the Giants can satisfactorily answer whatever questions they have about those off-field concerns, it's possible they could offer Freeman a job.
The specifics of Eli Manning's ankle injury, which was requiring him to have surgery Thursday, are not really at issue here. His recovery will be what it will be, and the timetable at this point does not seem as though it will conflict with the significant on-field portion of the New York Giants' offseason program. Those who would panic over Thursday's news are no more or less correct than those who would dismiss it outright.

Manning
This is not nothing. The franchise quarterback is being operated on, and there are things he'd normally be doing at this time of the year to prepare for the season that he won't be able to do. But at this point it also does not appear to be something about which to be overly alarmed. If it lingers into June, and the Giants are on the field learning the new offense without Manning, then we can talk about ways in which it might affect the 2014 season. For now, we can give the most durable quarterback in the NFL the benefit of the doubt.

But because Manning is the most durable quarterback in the league, having not missed a game since he got the starter's job as a rookie in 2004, it's worth examining the concept of an Eli Manning injury in general. He doesn't, in any meaningful way, ever have them. Oh, sure, he has played through pain and maybe even an ailment or two that would have sidelined other quarterbacks. But an injury that forces Manning away from the field is not something the Giants have had to confront. Ever.

That's important. The Giants make their plans, every year, around the idea that Manning won't miss any time. He doesn't miss games, practices or offseason workouts. He is always there, without exception, and that and his two Super Bowl MVP awards are the reasons he's paid as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The Giants don't really employ a backup quarterback in the fill-in-starter sense. What they look for in a backup is a good scout team quarterback. Curtis Painter isn't a real option to play if Manning has to miss a bunch of time, and Ryan Nassib remains what he was on draft day last year -- a long-range project who may or may not ever play for them. If Manning were to have to miss games, the Giants would quite honestly have little reason to show up for those games. He's as important to his team as any player in the league, and the key to that importance is the reliability of his health.

Which is why this is a faint-sounding, long-range alarm bell if not a short-range one. Manning is 33, which isn't old by modern NFL quarterback standards but certainly isn't young. There will come a time when he's not able to answer the bell for every single game and every single practice. Whether that time comes this year, next year or five years down the road, it is coming. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the Giants will have to answer questions at quarterback that Manning's reliability has kept them from having to address for the past decade. News that their indestructible franchise quarterback is having surgery is cause to appreciate what Manning has meant to the Giants, and a warning that he won't always be there for them.
The second day of free agency offered a little bit of everything for the New York Giants. They reached agreement on a new deal with middle linebacker Jon Beason, which was a good thing. They lost out on wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones, who re-signed with the Ravens. Their Tuesday deal with pass-rusher O'Brien Schofield fell apart when questions surfaced about his knee during his physical. And they signed a young center who hasn't played since 2012 but could well be in line to start for them in 2014.

A variety of activity for a team embarking on a major offseason roster rebuild. Here's a look at where things stand with those and other Giants-related situations as we turn our attention to Day 3:

Tuck
The pass rush: Free-agent defensive end Justin Tuck was in Oakland on Wednesday to visit the Raiders. The Giants offered Tuck a contract prior to the start of free agency, but the offer was not to his liking, and he's out testing the market to see whether someone will pay him something closer to what he thinks he's worth. If that doesn't happen -- or if he can generate enough interest elsewhere to convince the Giants to improve their offer -- there remains a chance Tuck could be back with the Giants. But the sense I get is that Tuck is disappointed that the Giants haven't tried harder to keep him and that he's seriously considering leaving.

Odd as it may sound, the Schofield situation could help Tuck's case. The Giants agreed with Schofield on a two-year, $8 million contract on Tuesday because they viewed him as a pass-rusher. Now that that deal has fallen apart, the Giants have to look elsewhere for pass-rush help, and bringing Tuck back might be more important than they thought it was 24 hours ago. Not that Schofield was ever going to be a one-for-one Tuck replacement, but they're hoping to stock up on overall pass-rush depth, and losing Tuck would push them in the other direction.

Tuck was still meeting with the Raiders late Wednesday night, and it's entirely possible they could convince him to stay out there. The Raiders had a bit of a rough day, as you may have heard, and need to spend money on someone.

Schwartz
The offensive line: The Giants announced the signing of free agent Geoff Schwartz, who is slated to play left guard with Chris Snee at right guard and ... well, someone at center. They also announced the signing of J.D. Walton, who was the Broncos' starting center in 2010 and 2011 before a serious ankle injury knocked him out in early 2012. Walton missed the entire 2013 season while recovering from the injury, but he doesn't turn 27 until later this month and could be an upside play for them at center -- a potential right-away and long-term starter at the position if he's healthy.

However, with David Baas having been cut, there's no way the Giants can stand on Walton as their only option at center. They haven't ruled out the possibility of re-signing Kevin Boothe to play center, and the fact remains that the top centers on the market haven't signed anywhere. So it's possible they could still get into the mix for someone like Evan Dietrich-Smith, Brian De La Puente or Ryan Wendell. Remember, Snee is no sure thing coming off his second hip surgery in as many years, and the Giants need offensive line depth in the worst way. If they ended up with a healthy Snee, a healthy Walton, Schwartz and another top-level center as interior line options for 2014, that would be a nice problem to have.

The Giants also had former Rams guard Shelley Smith in for a visit Wednesday. Smith is regarded as a top run-blocker who struggles in pass protection, but he's young still. Smith is scheduled to visit the Patriots today, so he's no sure thing to sign. Point is, the Giants know their needs on the line are extensive, and they're working to fix them.

Cornerback: The Giants did place an exploratory call to the Buccaneers a few days ago when they put Darrelle Revis on the market. But those talks went nowhere, and the Giants weren't a factor once Revis was cut Wednesday. He signed with the Patriots almost immediately, as though that had been the plan all along.

The Giants continue to look for a cornerback to go with Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride, and they had Tracy Porter in for a visit Wednesday. Porter left the building without a deal, but that doesn't mean he won't sign. Several other cornerback options remain available on the market, and it's possible the Giants could find one in the first or second round of the draft.

Jilted by Jacoby: The Giants wanted Jones. They saw him as a game-changer as a return man, and they desperately want to upgrade their return units in 2014. But they also saw Jones as someone who could help as a wide receiver -- something that, say, Devin Hester doesn't offer. So while they could go out and get someone like Hester for returns, they have been hoping their answer for the return game could also contribute something else. I haven't heard what Plan B is on this. Maybe someone like Ted Ginn Jr. We shall see. They'll still need a wide receiver to replace Hakeem Nicks, unless they think Rueben Randle can elevate himself to that level in time for 2014.

Assorted tidbits: Cornerback Terrell Thomas was also scheduled to visit the Raiders. Thomas has not received any contract offer from the Giants, who seem content to let him walk. ... Linebacker Keith Rivers signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. ... The Giants re-signed Curtis Painter, who was Eli Manning's backup quarterback in 2013. Training camp will tell whether Ryan Nassib is ready to beat him out or will have to spend another year as the No. 3 quarterback. ... In answer to many of your Twitter questions, I'm hearing nothing about the Giants and tight ends. No tight ends have signed yet, though.
Why did the New York Giants keep Curtis Painter as their backup quarterback ahead of longtime Eli Manning backup David Carr? My first thought was that it may have had something to do with Painter being six years younger than Carr, but Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in the team's official news release that the decision was based entirely on preseason performance.

"We simply based it on the preseason," Coughlin said. "From the standpoint of all the evaluations, it pointed to the fact that Painter had a better preseason.

"We'll miss David Carr around here, to be honest with you. He's done an outstanding job directing our second offense and our scout team. He has the ability to do whatever we ask of him in that regard. He can run the option, he can be the running quarterback if you want him to do that. Ryan Nassib is going to have to step up and be that guy when you're talking about the teams we play that have a running quarterback."

The Giants drafted Nassib in the fourth round of this year's draft and view him as a developmental prospect. That's why they needed to keep three quarterbacks this year instead of just two -- can't cut Nassib if you intend to develop him, and he's not ready to go into a game if starter Eli Manning gets hurt.

The upshot, of course, is that if Manning has to miss any significant amount of time, the Giants are burnt toast. But since they presumably would not just forfeit the remainder of the season, they would need someone with some NFL experience to take the snaps. As of now, with eight days left before the regular-season opener, it's Painter, who used to back up Manning's older brother in Indianapolis.

New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
6:40
PM ET
Most significant move: It was 2011 second-round draft pick Marvin Austin who was the odd man out of the numbers game at defensive tackle when the New York Giants announced their final roster cuts Saturday night. Austin was beaten out for a roster spot by former Eagle Mike Patterson, whose final two years in Philadelphia were negatively impacted by a brain condition for which he underwent surgery. Patterson and veteran Shaun Rogers were impressive in camp and will join a deep defensive tackle rotation along with starters Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins as well as 2013 second-rounder Johnathan Hankins. The reason the move is possibly significant is that this was the position from which the Giants were most likely to cut someone who could be of use to another team. If I'm the Dallas Cowboys, who are banged-up and shorthanded on the defensive line and play the Giants eight days from right now I'm looking into Austin if only for some intel on the enemy. Austin showed potential, but early-career injury issues held back his development, and he didn't perform well enough this offseason to earn a place on the team.

Shorthanded September?: Obviously, there are always more moves to come in the next few days as the Giants sort through the waiver process and see which players who just became available today could be of use to them. One spot where the Giants likely will look to beef up is at running back. They terminated the contract of Ryan Torain, leaving them with four running backs on the roster -- starter David Wilson, backups Michael Cox and Da'Rel Scott and "co-starter" Andre Brown, who's likely out four to six weeks with a fracture in his left leg. Keeping Brown indicates that the Giants do indeed expect him back at some point during the season, but it also leaves them with only three healthy backs to start the season. It's possible they could put Brown on injured reserve with a designation to return this season, but they can't do that until Tuesday. If they did, they could add a running back (or a player at some other position). Brown is one of at least seven players (along with Victor Cruz, Henry Hynoski, David Baas, David Diehl, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore) whose status for the early part of the season is in doubt or worse due to injury, so there may not be a lot of wiggle room in picking inactives for the opener.

What's next: Based on performance, the release of Tyler Sash isn't overly surprising, but it does leave the Giants thin at the safety position and leads you to believe they'll try to acquire another safety at some point this week. The first name that will jump to mind is that of former Giant Kenny Phillips, who obviously knows the defense and was released by the Eagles last week. But don't assume they'll view Phillips as their best option. The main reason they let him go this offseason was their concern that he'd never be able to get his knee fully healthy, and the reason the Eagles (who aren't exactly strong at safety themselves) let him go was because he couldn't get healthy enough to practice. The Giants like what rookie Cooper Taylor has shown lately, and they like Will Hill as an option at safety, so they may decide they only need to weather the four games for which Hill is suspended to start the season. While Phillips is a possibility, there will be other choices, and likely a few the Giants like better.

Giants moves:

Waived: DE Matt Broha, OT Stephen Goodin, S David Caldwell, OL Matt McCants, CB Charles James, CB Terrence Frederick, WR Julian Talley, LB Kyle Bosworth, DE Adrian Tracy, DE Adewale Ojomo, DT Marvin Austin, OL Eric Herman, OL Bryant Browning, WR Kevin Hardy, WR Marcus Harris

Contracts terminated: QB David Carr, RB Ryan Torain

Waived/injured: S Tyler Sash, OL Selvish Capers

Reserve/physically unable to perform list: DT Markus Kuhn (knee)

Injured reserve: WR Ramses Barden (knee)

Suspended: S Will Hill

Welcome to cut-down day

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
11:15
AM ET
Ah, yes. That gloriously inexplicable day for fans to obsess over players who are either not good enough or barely good enough to make their team. NFL teams must trim their rosters from 75 to 53 by 6 p.m. ET, and I shall, of course, be here to track all of the New York Giants' moves. The agent for defensive end Matt Broha, for instance, has already tweeted that Broha will be hitting the waiver wire. Possible practice squad candidate if he gets through waivers, but certainly not a surprise cut.

Brown
The interesting story of the day to me is what the Giants do with regard to running back Andre Brown, who fractured his left leg in Thursday night's preseason game in New England. The early timetable for Brown's recovery is four to six weeks, which would seem to indicate they could keep him on the 53-man roster and wait it out. But if they're concerned the recovery might last longer than that, they could place him on injured reserve.

Now, there are two types of injured reserve. The first is the season-ending type. If the Giants put Brown on IR today, he's out for the year, no questions asked. The other type is the injured reserve with a designation for return, which would allow Brown to return as long as he sits out at least six weeks of practice and at least eight weeks' worth of games. But teams can't use that designation until Tuesday, which means Brown would have to first make the 53-man roster today and then be designated Tuesday. At that time, the Giants could add a player, but they'd have to cut someone today to hold a spot for Brown. Also, teams may only use the IR/designated for return on one player per season, so if they used it on Brown and someone else suffered a six-week or eight-week injury in September, they would face a tough decision on that player.

Other key decisions loom at backup quarterback, where Curtis Painter and David Carr have fought it out for one spot, and at defensive tackle, where the team may be debating whether to give up on 2011 second-round pick Marvin Austin in favor of impressive veteran Mike Patterson.

As I said, I'll keep you posted throughout the day.
A look at some of the tough decisions confronting the New York Giants in advance of Saturday's 6 p.m. ET deadline to reduce their roster to 53 players.

Defensive tackle: Could they keep six? Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers and Johnathan Hankins look like locks. They may not be ready to give up on 2011 second-round pick Marvin Austin. And veteran Mike Patterson has played well in the preseason. (Markus Kuhn, we assume, will start the season on the physically unable to perform list.) To keep both Austin and Patterson, the Giants likely would have to give up a roster spot at linebacker or defensive back, and honestly my current 53-man projection doesn't include a spot for defensive end Adrian Tracy. So the odds say the Giants will have to cut at least one defensive lineman they like, and who could be snatched up quickly by another team (cough * Cowboys * cough) looking for help on the defensive line.

Running back: The Andre Brown injury clouds this, because he may or may not need a 53-man roster spot depending on the severity of his injury. But assuming Brown and his fractured left leg aren't on the 53, there's no reason they can't keep all five from the group of David Wilson, Henry Hynoski, Ryan Torain, Da'Rel Scott and Michael Cox. Torain is a guy they like as a pass protector, and Cox may well be the new kickoff returner. If they cut someone from the Scott/Torain/Cox group, it's likely because they decided they needed a sixth wide receiver or a fourth tight end.

Offensive line: I have them keeping nine, including injured David Diehl, and if they only keep nine, that likely means good-bye to prospect Eric Herman, whom they like as a project guard.

Quarterback: Assuming they keep fourth-round pick Ryan Nassib, they have to take three quarterbacks, because Nassib isn't ready yet to fill in as the backup if something happens to Eli Manning. The competition for QB2 is between David Carr and Curtis Painter. Flip a coin, honestly. And part of me even wonders how sure we should be about Nassib's spot. He didn't show a lot in camp or preseason. Are they really so bound and determined to develop a young quarterback behind Manning that they'd spend that roster spot on a guy who probably won't play all year?

Defensive back: Charles James was getting a lot of punt-return work in the preseason and would give the Giants 10 defensive backs (six cornerbacks and four safeties) if they kept him. They'll need a spot for Will Hill after Week 4, so somebody from this group could be a short-timer. Tyler Sash's concussion bears watching, but if he has to miss time, they probably have to go and get a safety from somewhere else.

W2W4: Giants at Patriots

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
9:00
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Even though the starters will play sparingly, there should be plenty to watch for when the New York Giants visit the New England Patriots for the preseason finale (7:30 p.m. ET).

What have you done for me lately? It's a meaningless final preseason game, but the real drama will be at certain position battles. Tonight is one final opportunity for some players to stake a claim for a roster spot.

I broke down the roster position-by-position and who could be on the bubble entering tonight. Keep a close eye on defensive tackle, where guys like Marvin Austin and Mike Patterson could be fighting for a roster spot. Can fan favorite Adewale Ojomo or fellow defensive end Justin Trattou make the final 53 with a sack or two in the finale? Also, will Dan Connor hold on to the starting middle linebacker job or can Mark Herzlich do enough tonight to get back in the mix there?

David Carr is expected to hold off Curtis Painter for backup quarterback while Ryan Nassib could be taking the last live snap of the season with the second team.

Get offensive: The starters may only play 12-to-15 snaps but Tom Coughlin desperately wants to see a spark from his starting offense. After struggling in the red zone repeatedly this preseason, Eli Manning would love nothing more than to punch it into the end zone on one of his two or three drives.

The new line: After the first revamped offensive line struggled against the Jets, Coughlin opted to move Kevin Boothe to center and insert James Brewer in at left guard. Justin Pugh will remain at right tackle alongside right guard Chris Snee. And Will Beatty will stay at left tackle.

We'll get to see how this line does and if the communication will be better than it was against the Jets. We fully expect this to be the offensive line moving forward until David Baas and David Diehl get healthy.

Safety dance: This will be the Giants' first game without the injured Stevie Brown. Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy are now the starters, but the Giants will need to figure out the depth behind them. Tyler Sash, Cooper Taylor and Will Hill should all get an opportunity to show what they can do against the Patriots. For Hill, this will be his last action before serving a four-game suspension when the regular season begins.

Get lucky: More than anything, the Giants just need to finish the preseason without another notable injury. So far, Baas, Victor Cruz, Diehl and Brown are among the starters who have suffered injuries during preseason games. It would be nice to leave Foxborough in one piece.

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