NFL Nation: New York Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has been answering a lot of questions about the poor performance of his team's passing game this preseason. And after reviewing film of the fifth preseason game, he seemed to have a fresh explanation for Eli Manning's struggles.

Manning
"Did we have a game where we just sat back and threw it? Not really," Coughlin said in a conference call Friday. "And that was because last year, we were so poor in the run game that it ruined our balance and we turned the ball over a ridiculous amount. So we didn't want to get away from our run game."

Coughlin said it's possible they could or should have stressed the passing game more in the preseason, and he said he expects things will look better "once we zoom in on an all-encompassing game plan."

Other notes from Coughlin's day-after conference call:
  • He said the timetable on guard Geoff Schwartz's recovery from toe injury is likely to be a bit longer than 3-to-4 weeks. He didn't rule out placing Schwartz on short-term injured reserve, which would keep him out for the first eight weeks of the season, but it sounds as though they hope they don't have to do that.
  • Coughlin said middle linebacker Jon Beason should be cleared to practice Monday. That likely makes Beason available for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Detroit, though it remains to be seen how much he'll be able to play after missing all of training camp with a foot injury.
  • Fullback Henry Hynoski has a "contusion" of his shoulder and felt better Friday than he did after leaving the game Thursday. Sounds as though they have avoided a major problem with Hynoski.
  • Wide receiver Mario Manningham has a strained calf. This likely means the end for Manningham with the Giants, though Coughlin wasn't giving anything away about final decisions on that or any other aspect of the final roster cuts due Saturday.

New York Giants' projected roster

August, 29, 2014
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One final projection of the New York Giants' 53-man roster before the final cuts are made Saturday:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants went into training camp hoping Nassib would beat out Curtis Painter for the backup quarterback job, and he clearly did. Not that they don't like Painter, but they didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year and they won't do it again.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

Either Kendall Gaskins or Michael Cox could make it as a fourth running back, and I think the Giants would prefer to carry four. But the injury situation on the offensive line likely means they have to carry an extra player there, and this is the spot they have to take from.

FULLBACK (1)
Henry Hynoski has this spot locked up if he's healthy, but the shoulder injury that knocked him out of Thursday night's preseason finale could give it to Conner, who's stuck around all camp as a strong fallback option.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Parker makes the team as the sixth wideout because (a) Marcus Harris is on IR, (b) Mario Manningham didn't show enough to make it and (c) he can return punts, and right now Beckham and Trindon Holliday can't because they have hamstring injuries. Holliday's lack of training camp practice time likely knocked him right off the team.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

I believe they will keep and use all four of these guys, though they'll have to rotate them in and out depending on situations. None has emerged as the do-it-all tight end they were hoping they'd find in camp.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Geoff Schwartz's injury has created a real mess here, as he projects to miss a significant amount of time due to a dislocated toe and could start the season on short-term injured reserve. The most likely scenario is that Richburg ascends the starting left guard role, but Mosley remains a question mark at right guard, which is why Reynolds (who can play center or guard) enters the picture here. Jerry is either the starting right guard if Mosley can't go or else at least a more valuable reserve. Brewer, who once appeared gone for sure, becomes more valuable as an all-around backup if he can return to practice this week following a back injury. And the missed opportunity for Eric Herman, who is suspended for the first four games for a drug violation, looms even larger. I don't think they keep 10 offensive linemen long-term, but they may have to at the beginning of the season.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Kuhn's leg injury, should it linger, could open up a spot for a defensive end such as Kerry Wynn to make the team. Bromley has looked surprisingly good in games so far and could slide in for Kuhn in the defensive tackle rotation for the short term.

LINEBACKERS (6)

It sounds as though Beason will be ready to start the season, which makes you wonder whether they might keep only five. If they do, the final cut is either Paysinger or Herzlich, who missed Thursday's preseason finale with a shoulder injury.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer, though Amukamara's groin injury could result in a short-term spot opening.

SAFETIES (4)
Cooper Taylor's toe injury landed him on injured reserve. That's unfortunate for Taylor, but it helps Berhe and likely helps someone at another position, such as Adrien Robinson at tight end. The Giants like to have a balanced roster -- 25 offensive players, 25 defensive and three specialists -- but that's not a requirement.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Sure things, all.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin had said his starting offense would play 15 to 18 plays in Thursday night's preseason finale, but they'd only played eight after two possessions and Coughlin decided that was enough.

"If they wanted to play more," the head coach of the New York Giants said, "they should have made some first downs."

Eli Manning
John Minchillo/Associated PressEli Manning and the Giants' first-team offense looked confused again Thursday night.
A fitting epitaph for a five-game preseason in which the Giants won all five games but felt good about none. Starting quarterback Eli Manning played in all five of the games and ended up 20-for-41 for 188 yards and a touchdown. The first-team offense showed some decent signs of being able to run the ball effectively, but the passing game showed nothing but confusion.

After an offseason that brought a new offensive coordinator, a new system and at least six new starters on the offensive side of the ball, the preseason ended with a creepy feeling that very little has been solved. Coughlin locked in Thursday night on a first-quarter Manning incomplete pass intended for Rueben Randle.

"Again, the missed connection between Rueben Randle and Eli," Coughlin said. "'I thought this, he thought that...' Everybody in this room is tired of hearing that stuff. There's no place for that."

That was supposed to be last-year stuff. And the source of Coughlin's frustration is that these five preseason games -- as well as the practices that surrounded them -- did little to convince anyone that the last-year stuff had been left in 2013. The pass protection is still a question mark, Manning's not on the same page as his receivers, and now there are no more exhibition games left and only 10 days until the first game that counts.

"There are things we've got to improve on," Manning shrugged. "But that's why we have another week of practice."

The Giants don't sound worried, and maybe that's because worry isn't going to do them any good at this point. The season's going to start whether they're ready or not, and it's going to start without anyone convinced the offense is going to click right away. Just because they haven't proven anything on the field that would give them confidence doesn't mean they can afford to go into the season without it.

"You have to have confidence," Coughlin said. "We've had preseasons before where we haven't had a lot of numbers with our first offense. Hopefully, we can carry over."

There's a lot of hope around these parts. A lot of relatively blind faith in the ability of these players to perform better in the real games than they did in the fake ones. The one encouraging thing is that the Giants' belief in themselves seems sincere. They do not appear discouraged.

"It was the right route. It just wasn't timed right," Randle said of the play that angered his coach. "I guess he was expecting me to run it quicker since it was press. I'm pretty sure, with something simple like that, we can get it fixed. Not that big of a deal."

The regular season will offer the Giants a chance to prove that their brave preseason talk has been accurate. And it'll do that soon. Rookie offensive lineman Weston Richburg, pressed into duty this week as the starting left guard in place of the injured Geoff Schwartz, might have summed it all up when asked if he was ready to handle that job.

"I don't have a choice," Richburg said.

Ready or not, here the season comes. The Giants believe they're ready, even if they haven't proven it.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 28, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Five preseason games weren't enough for Eli Manning and the New York Giants' passing game to show anything, and they will go into the regular season still wondering about the state of their offense.

Manning was 1-for-4 in two series in Thursday's 16-13 victory over the Patriots. The Giants finished the preseason 5-0, but Manning finished the preseason 20-for-41 for 188 yards and one touchdown across the five games. The Giants have looked all right at times running the ball this summer, but overall the passing game has looked well out of sync and the new Ben McAdoo offense continues to look like a work in progress.

Here are some other thoughts on the Giants' final preseason game of the year:
  • This game was wide receiver Mario Manningham's last chance to show he belonged on the roster after a disappointing preseason. Unfortunately for Manningham, he played only four plays before injuring his calf muscle. It's hard to imagine him and his creaky legs on the final roster.
  • Henry Hynoski, however, was looking like a good bet to win the fullback job. But he had to leave Thursday's game with a shoulder injury. It's unclear how serious it is at this point, but Hynoski missed the bulk of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, so it's a legitimate concern. John Conner would be his replacement.
  • Preston Parker looks to be in line for one of those wide receiver spots with Manningham likely out of the picture and Marcus Harris already on injured reserve. Parker is helped by his ability as a return man, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday out with hamstring injuries. Parker was the primary punt returner Thursday and even lined up to return a couple of kickoffs. It didn't help him, though, that he muffed a punt in the fourth quarter.
  • Weston Richburg and John Jerry started at left guard and right guard, respectively, in place of the injured Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley. Both played deep into the second half, long after the starting tackles and center J.D. Walton left the game. It's possible both will have to start the regular-season opener Sept. 8 in Detroit.
  • Early-game defensive standouts included Jason Pierre-Paul, who batted down Jimmy Garoppolo's pass intended for new tight end Tim Wright on the game's first play, Stevie Brown, who tackled running back James White behind the line of scrimmage, and Zack Bowman, who would have had two interceptions if the first hadn't been called back for an illegal contact penalty.
  • Tight end Adrien Robinson fumbled a ball away after a 17-yard reception at the end of the third quarter, underlining the troubling fact that neither he nor anyone else has separated himself from the uninspiring pack at tight end. Kellen Davis started the game Thursday, and Daniel Fells and Larry Donnell each had his moments, but the Giants are going to have to rotate these guys.

W2W4: New York Giants

August, 28, 2014
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The New York Giants (4-0) and the New England Patriots (2-1) conclude their 2014 preseason schedules Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at MetLife Stadium.

1. How will Eli Manning look in his final tune-up? Starting quarterbacks in the NFL typically play in three preseason games. This will be Manning's fifth of this preseason, and the main reason is that he and the first-team offense haven't looked sharp in any of the first four. The Giants' first-team offense has run the ball well in spurts, but the passing game has looked a mess except for the final drive of the first half of Friday's game against the Jets. Manning, his receivers and his pass protection will want to show in the first couple of drives against the Patriots that they're in sync to an extent they have not been throughout this training camp and preseason.

2. Can the offensive line keep Manning clean? The pass protection has been a major issue in every game thus far. Left tackle Will Beatty has looked very shaky in his first two games and will try to show he's knocked the rust off after an offseason spent rehabbing a broken leg. Rookie Weston Richburg replaces the injured Geoff Schwartz at left guard while John Jerry replaces the injured Brandon Mosley at right guard. The offensive line continues to be a trouble spot loaded with question marks, and the extent to which this new group of five can play together and keep the Patriots' pass rush away from Manning will determine a lot about how the Giants' offense looks.

3. Final decisions at wide receiver. The Giants are looking for playmakers at the wide receiver position. Fourth-quarter preseason star Corey Washington could get a chance to show what he can do earlier in the game. Veteran Mario Manningham has this one final chance to prove he's healthy and explosive enough on the outside to merit a roster spot. Jerrel Jernigan has been coasting through camp as a guy who assumes he has a roster spot locked up, but the Giants would very much like to see him perform the way he did last December, even for one drive. Lots still to sort out at these positions with a week and a half to go.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Manningham was not one of the 15 players on the cut-down list Tuesday when the New York Giants reduced their roster from 90 to 75 players, but that doesn't mean he's making the team. The Giants still have a lot of sorting out to do at the wide receiver position before final cuts are made Saturday, and Manningham and his balky knee still have to show they belong.

Manningham
"He's had some spurts the last couple of weeks where he's done some things on the practice field, but it hasn't carried over into games," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Tuesday's practice. "He'll get another chance."

The Giants used Manningham a fair bit with their first-team offense in Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, and they're likely to give him a good look in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener, camp star Marcus Harris was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and there remain some open spots on the roster at wide receiver.

"Any of the guys who are left know it goes from 75 to 53," Coughlin said. "You're ending up in a numbers game, and it is competitive."

Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Beckham are sure things to make the roster at wide receiver. Jerrel Jernigan, who's been running with the first team in Beckham's place all summer, looks like a strong bet as well, especially since he's Cruz's primary backup at the slot receiver position. Undrafted rookie Corey Washington has caught a touchdown pass in each of the Giants' first four preseason games and has obviously helped his cause. Preston Parker, who caught 40 passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of football last season, appears to be the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday hurt, and that could help him earn a spot as a wide receiver as well. Julian Talley also survived Tuesday's cuts and therefore remains a candidate to be kept.

The Giants are likely to keep four tight ends when they cut the roster to 53 on Saturday, which might make it tough to keep six wide receivers, but if they need Parker for punt returns (or as a reserve wideout) while Beckham gets healthy, they may not have a choice.

Regardless, the numbers game doesn't seem to favor Manningham unless he blows the Giants away with a strong showing Thursday night. Maybe the fact the opponent is the Patriots, the team against which Manningham's career highlight came, will inspire him before it's too late.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said rookie Weston Richburg and veteran John Jerry would start at left guard and right guard, respectively, in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. Richburg is replacing Geoff Schwartz, who will miss at least a few weeks, if not more, with a toe injury he suffered in Friday's preseason game. Jerry is replacing Brandon Mosley, who has missed the last three days of practice with a back injury.

"He's up and moving, so obviously that's a good sign," Coughlin said of Mosley, who's been the first-team right guard since Chris Snee retired on the eve of training camp.

Jerry
Mosley's injury has offered a fresh chance for Jerry, who missed the start of camp following spring knee surgery and hasn't shown much. If he looks good Thursday night, there's certainly a chance he could steal the job from Mosley. It's also possible that Richburg will lock down left guard in Schwartz's absence and that Schwartz could play right guard upon his return.

The Giants got good news Tuesday when they learned Schwartz would not need surgery, but it remains unclear how much time they can expect him to miss.

"He's very optimistic, and hopefully that's going to mean the recovery will be as fast as possible," Coughlin said of Schwartz. "Obviously, we can't rush him back. It certainly would be good to get him back as soon as possible, but it's not going to be easy."

In other Giants injury news:
  • First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. and kick returner Trindon Holliday missed practice again with hamstring injuries. Tackle Charles Brown and tackle/guard James Brewer sat out with shoulder and back injuries, respectively.
  • Cornerback Prince Amukamara is making good progress in his return from a groin injury, but he won't play Thursday night.
  • Running back Peyton Hillis appeared to be practicing in full. Hillis missed a few weeks of camp with an ankle injury but has returned to practice this week. He made a nice juggling catch on a wheel route with Jacquian Williams covering him in practice Tuesday.

New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
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Most significant move: Marcus Harris had done enough to make the New York Giants at wide receiver, but he suffered an injury in Friday's preseason game and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Giants and Harris said Friday his injury was to his shoulder, but in placing him on IR on Tuesday they announced it as a hip injury. Harris will have to miss the entire 2014 season. The injury and resulting move open up a spot for someone such as Corey Washington or Preston Parker to make the team at receiver. Veteran wide receiver Mario Manningham, who continues to struggle with a knee injury, also survived Tuesday's cuts, though he remains likely to be cut when the roster is reduced to 53 on Saturday.

Injuries change the plan: Usually, players cut in this first wave aren't practice squad candidates, but guys such as Charles James and Jerome Cunningham could be exceptions. The Giants certainly didn't want to cut James on Tuesday. But they've had so many injuries on the offensive line in the past week -- Geoff Schwartz, Brandon Mosley, James Brewer, Charles Brown -- that they find themselves having to keep back-of-the-roster offensive linemen (A) so that they have enough to use in Thursday's preseason finale and (B) in case one of them (Rogers Gaines?) ends up having to be on the final roster. So there could be an offensive lineman or two cut Saturday who's a less likely practice squad candidate than someone who was cut Tuesday.

Giants' cuts: K Brandon McManus, CB Charles James, TE Xavier Grimble, TE Jerome Cunningham, LB Spencer Adkins, DE Emmanuel Dieke, LB Justin Anderson, S Kyle Sebetic, CB Ross Weaver, WR Travis Harvey, OL John Sullen, S C.J. Barnett, DT Everett Dawkins, S Cooper Taylor (placed on season-ending injured reserve), WR Marcus Harris (placed on season-ending injured reserve).
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said quarterback Eli Manning and the rest of the starters would play about 15-18 snaps in Thursday's preseason finale against the New England Patriots. It will be the fifth preseason game for Manning and most of the starters, who have spent this offseason trying to learn a new offense with so-far disappointing results.

Manning
"Sounds right," Manning said after Monday's practice. "I hadn't heard a number yet, so just preparing for them and for however much he wants to keep us in. But we expect to go out there and try to move the ball and see if we can do something. See if we can get into a good rhythm early in the game instead of having to wait until later."

The Giants' offense has struggled all preseason, and Manning hadn't thrown a touchdown pass until his final play of Friday night's preseason game against the New York Jets. That 15-yarder to Rueben Randle capped a successful two-minute-drill drive at the end of the first half of that game and left the Giants encouraged about their progress on offense.

"I think everybody knows what to do. It's just the pace it needs to be done, and everything done precisely," Manning said. "So every day we're trying to get better at that. We're making small steps. We're probably not all the way where we need to be, and I think there'll always be things we're going to improve on. It's not something you're going to master in four weeks. As the season goes on, we'll know what we do well, we'll progress, we'll put different things in."

The idea that the Giants will arrive at the regular season in two weeks without a full command of their new offense isn't shocking. It's even understandable. What's more alarming is the current state of the offensive personnel. Injuries on the already-questionable offensive line this week have resulted in new starters at both guard positions, and it's difficult for Manning to know for sure which five guys will be lining up in front of him two weeks from now in Detroit.

"Those might be the guys who are playing for us, so the more reps they can get together, the better it'll be," Manning said of the newly configured line, which has rookie Weston Richburg at left guard and John Jerry at right guard at the moment. "Making calls, guys communicating. We don't know who's going to be there that first game, so we've got to be ready and get a lot of guys ready to play. So it'll be good to work with this group. The more options we can have at offensive line to step into different roles, the better off we'll be."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's now been a week since the setback that wasn't a setback, and New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham still isn't practicing with the team. Obviously, this means the team's first-round draft pick won't play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots, which means he won't have played in any of the Giants' five preseason games.

"He's not going to play," an obviously frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Monday's practice, during which Beckham once again worked on a side field with the training staff. "Have you seen him practice? How about practicing first?"

Beckham's last full training camp practice was when he was still at LSU. He injured his hamstring in the first practice of Giants training camp July 22 and hasn't practiced in full with the team since. He returned to the field a bit a couple of weeks ago and was working his way into 11-on-11 drills, but then he hurt himself in practice again last Monday and hasn't practiced since.

"I think he's very frustrated," Coughlin said. "I think his whole personality's held in check because he's not able to do the things that he wants to do."

With Beckham out, the Giants have been using Jerrel Jernigan in his outside receiver spot. It's possible that preseason star Corey Washington could get a look there with the first team Thursday, but we thought that was possible last week and Washington didn't play until the fourth quarter against the Jets.

Obviously, Beckham's availability for the Sept. 8 "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit is in serious doubt. The Giants don't like to rush rookies into action in the first place, and that's especially true when the rookie hasn't had a training camp.

In other Giants injury news:
  • Guard Geoff Schwartz was seeing a foot specialist Monday to determine the severity of his toe injury. The Giants should have news on Schwartz at some point early this week, but it's safe to assume he'll have to miss at least the first few games of the regular season, if not many more.
  • Guard Brandon Mosley missed a second straight day of practice due to a back injury and was getting examined by a doctor, according to Coughlin. John Jerry played with the first-team line in Mosley's right guard spot while rookie Weston Richburg manned Schwartz's left guard spot.
  • Offensive lineman James Brewer remains out with a back injury, which could damage his chances of making the 53-man roster. Brewer was on the bubble to begin with.
  • Return specialist Trindon Holliday also sat out of practice with a hamstring injury. Holliday did some individual work Sunday but did not appear to work at all Monday. With Holliday and Beckham both sidelined, the Giants are hurting at punt returner and may keep wide receiver Preston Parker because has experience in that role.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Down seven spots from No. 34 to No. 41 in our annual ranking of the top 100 offensive NFL players, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz nonetheless enters 2014 as one of the few sure things on a New York Giants' offense with tons of question marks. My question is whether Cruz can be productive enough in the Giants' new West Coast offense to move back into the top 40 next summer.

Cruz
The first-blush answer to that is yes. Cruz looks to be playing the Randall Cobb role if you compare this offense to that of the Green Bay Packers, which is new coordinator Ben McAdoo's former team. In Green Bay, Cobb lines up in the slot (or sometimes in the backfield) and catches a ton of passes, mainly at short range, and is asked to make plays with the ball in his hands. Cruz profiles as a player who fits that role nicely, and in theory it should mean great things for him.

The rest of the Giants' offense, though, makes you wonder if things can possibly go according to plan. If Cruz is in the slot, are the wide receivers on the outside good enough to make it all work? Can they find a representative tight end who can function as a complementary target to Cruz over the middle and in short range? Do they have enough depth at running back? Can the offensive line keep quarterback Eli Manning upright long enough for the offense to get into a rhythm?

You got a glimpse, during that two-minute drill at the end of the first half of Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, of the manner in which the Giants will use Cruz if things are going well. And if your fantasy draft was Thursday night and you ended up with Cruz, that drive likely made you feel pretty good about the possibilities. He's the No. 15 wide receiver in this year's #NFLRank poll, and he will be playing in an offense that should help his numbers justify that position or even better. As long as enough other things go well around him.

Cruz will be the last Giants player to appear on the lists, as they have no one who ranked in the top 40 on either offense or defense.

Giants on 2014 ESPN #NFLRank lists

WR Victor Cruz, No. 41 offense

DE Jason Pierre-Paul, No. 48 defense

QB Eli Manning, No. 62 offense.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, No. 79 defense

S Antrel Rolle, No. 83 defense
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When we ranked the top 100 defensive players and the top 100 offensive players in the NFL last summer, Jason Pierre-Paul's brilliant 2011 season was still fresh in our minds. Even his 2012 season, without the prior year's gaudy sack totals, was an impressive one from the standpoint of disruption and quarterback hassle. The New York Giants defensive end ranked No. 13 among defensive players in last year's poll.

But the 2013 season was downright damaging to the perception of Pierre-Paul as an elite pass-rusher, and he tumbled 35 spots to No. 48 on defense in this year's rankings.

We have been over this before, and it stands as one of the most important questions the 2014 Giants face: Now fully healthy for the first time since mid-2012, can Pierre-Paul return to his 2011 form and play like one of the best defensive players in the league? He's still just 25 years old, not yet in his prime, and he's motivated to (a) prove last year was an injury-caused fluke and (b) that he deserves a huge new contract in free agency next year.

If Pierre-Paul returns to dominant form, the Giants have a chance to be a very good defense this year. Which would be very important, since the offense clearly remains a work in progress at best. But if Pierre-Paul muddles through another average year, whether for health reasons or other reasons, the pass rush and the defense as a whole will struggle. He's the most important player on the Giants' defense and the one on whom the most pressure rests.

So my prediction is this: If Pierre-Paul isn't much higher on this list next year than he is right now, he won't be a Giant anymore, and neither will a lot of other people.

New York Giants' projected roster

August, 25, 2014
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One final projection of the New York Giants' 53-man roster before the final cuts are made Saturday:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Nassib's performances in the past two preseason games make the Giants far more confident about keeping him -- and only him -- as the backup to Manning.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Hillis' sprained ankle could help Gaskins and Michael Cox make the team if it lingers, but if they're picking between Cox and Gaskins for that fourth spot, Gaskins looks like the better player so far in camp. Tom Coughlin also keeps saying that the fullbacks can play running back, and they have been using Henry Hynoski all over the formation in practice, so it's possible they could carry just three here, especially if they can get Gaskins on the practice squad.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, and I don't think the Giants will keep both. There was even some talk early in camp that they could go without a fullback, but the continued poor showing by the tight ends likely has put that to bed.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Marcus Harris is ahead of both Washington and Parker, but he injured his shoulder Friday night and is likely to miss the start of the season, if not more. Parker sneaks onto the list this week because (a) with Beckham's hamstring injury continuing to be a problem, they may need to carry six wide receivers just to have five and (b) Parker is the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday laid up.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Donnell, Davis and Robinson each got exactly 14 snaps in the first half Friday night, and Robinson was the only tight end in the game on the successful two-minute drill at the end of the first half. What's it all mean? Really just that no one has separated himself in this group. Davis was the starter ahead of Donnell for the first time Friday, but there's still no clarity on this situation.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
Geoff Schwartz's injury has created a real mess here, as he projects to miss a significant amount of time due to a dislocated toe. The most likely scenario is that Richburg ascends the starting left guard role, but Mosley remains a question mark at right guard, which is why Reynolds (who can play center or guard) enters the picture here. Jerry could claim one of the starting guard spots, but at the very least, he becomes a more valuable reserve. Brewer, who once appeared gone for sure, becomes more valuable as an all-around backup. And the missed opportunity for Eric Herman, who's suspended for the first four games for a drug violation, looms even larger.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Very few changes here, though if Kuhn's leg injury ends up costing him practice time, it could open up a spot for someone like defensive end Kerry Wynn to make the team. Bromley has looked surprisingly good in games so far and could slide in for Kuhn in the defensive tackle rotation for the short term.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Kennard has been so good so far that, if they only keep five, you wonder about Paysinger's spot a little bit. Williams is the starter at the weakside spot, even in the base defense, as long as he can stay healthy. And Kennard is a first-teamer right now on the strong side, with McClain manning the middle in place of the injured Beason. I wonder if Kennard could keep the spot ahead of McClain even once Beason comes back. Herzlich is on the squad for special teams, where he has great value.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer, though recent injuries to Amukamara and Bowman could result in a short-term spot opening.

SAFETIES (4)
Cooper Taylor's toe injury is serious enough to keep him out for a long time, possibly even the whole season. That's unfortunate for Taylor, but it helps Berhe and likely helps someone at another position, such as Charles James at cornerback or Adrien Robinson at tight end. The Giants like to have a balanced roster -- 25 offensive players, 25 defensive and three specialists -- but that's not a requirement.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Brown isn't home-free yet, as Brandon McManus is hitting bombs in practice and has shown well in games. But Brown hasn't done anything to lose his spot, and as long as he remains reliable, my bet is he keeps it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Two days after losing left guard Geoff Schwartz to a toe injury, the New York Giants practiced Sunday without starting right guard Brandon Mosley.

"His back tightened up," Giants coach Tom Coughlin explained after practice. "He came out here ready to go, but then he couldn't."

As a result, John Jerry worked at right guard with the first-team offensive line while Weston Richburg, the most likely long-term replacement for Schwartz, worked at left guard. The Giants have major problems in this area, as detailed here earlier Sunday. Coughlin offered no insight on how long Mosley could be expected to be out.

Some other notes from Coughlin and Sunday's practice:
  • From the My God This Could Be Even Worse Than We Think Department: Coughlin was asked what he thought of left tackle Will Beatty's performance Friday and he said Beatty was working very hard every day in practice. Asked if he was happy with Beatty's work since returning from his injury, Coughlin said this: "'Happy' and 'satisfied' are not the words I would use to describe it, but I do recognize the progress and I do recognize that he's working hard at his trade." All righty, then.
  • Matter of fact, let's just keep profiling Coughlin quotes. This one on rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who missed yet another practice with a hamstring injury: "I would like to see the young man practice before we start talking about him playing in the regular season. That would be a good thing."
  • Running back Peyton Hillis returned to practice after missing a couple of weeks with an ankle injury, and Coughlin described him as "rusty." Return man Trindon Holliday also did some work in punt return and individual drills but remains hobbled a bit by his own hamstring problems. Cornerback Prince Amukamara worked on the side with trainers as he continues to deal with a groin injury.
  • Yes, Ryan Nassib did work some at quarterback with the first-team offense in Sunday's practice. No, there's obviously no chance they're considering any kind of change. Nassib is certainly going to get a lot more work in Thursday night's preseason finale than Eli Manning is, and that's why he's practicing more this week. The third-teamers spent more time on the field Sunday than the first-teamers did for similar reasons.

Giants have a problem at guard

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
2:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In an offseason in which fixing the offensive line was the New York Giants' clear No. 1 priority, Geoff Schwartz was their first call.

They targeted Schwartz early and signed him as soon as free agency began. They viewed him not as a cure-all but as a foundation piece -- a reliable veteran whose presence at left guard would help make the rest of their line problems easier to solve.

So while injuries happen and you can't fault the Giants if Schwartz's toe injury keeps him out for a significant period of time, it is a major problem for them, and they may struggle more than you think to solve it.

Schwartz
 The "next man up," to borrow from strained NFL parlance, is rookie Weston Richburg, a second-round pick who played center in college but has been working throughout camp at guard behind Schwartz and Brandon Mosley. Richburg obviously has talent. There was some thought when he was drafted that he might be a better option at center than current projected starter J.D. Walton. But he's also a rookie, and even he admits he's not where he'd like to be at this point in his development.

"Oh, no," Richburg said Sunday morning. "If you're content with how you're playing, I think you're cheating yourself. I always want to get better. I made some mistakes in the last game that I know I need to correct."

He may have no choice but to correct them on the fly. The Giants don't like to lean on rookies as starters, but they showed last season with right tackle Justin Pugh that they will if they have no other choice. Pugh played well enough as a 16-game rookie starter that it worked out. Problem is, there's no guarantee that it will work out again. Even if Richburg is an eventual Pro Bowler, no one can be sure he'll develop as quickly as Pugh did.

"What I'm doing best right now is having a short memory," Richburg said. "If I make a mistake, just clap it off and go on to the next play and not let it affect me. I think I'm doing a good job of forgetting about it and just playing fast and continuing."

Great, but the issue is that the understandable rookie mistakes are happening, and that mistakes on the offensive line are hazardous to the health and effectiveness of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. This wouldn't be as serious a concern if left guard were the only spot at which there was concern. But the Giants have had pass-protection issues with Walton, Mosley and left tackle Will Beatty this preseason as well. Adding a still-green Richburg to the starting mix leaves Pugh as the surest commodity, and even he is a second-year player whose growing pains likely aren't all the way behind him. There are still talent evaluators around the league who view Pugh as a guard playing out of position and think the Giants' line will be better once he's moved inside, but at this point they don't have any better options at tackle.

No, the issue here continues to be depth, and that's a failing of the organization's offseason. They brought in John Jerry on the premise that he'd be a quality veteran backup should something happen at guard, yet after Chris Snee retired and Schwartz got hurt Jerry remains in a backup role while Richburg and Mosley line up with the starters. Charles Brown, signed as the veteran depth at tackle, played terribly in relief of Beatty early and is now hurt, which has resulted in Pugh having to take some left tackle snaps in practice with Mosley moved out to right tackle. Reserve guard/center Eric Herman is suspended for four games, and reserve guard/tackle James Brewer is hurt.

It's thin, folks, and it's still very thin at the interior positions that were supposed to be upgraded this year. There's a lot of book from last year on how easy and effective it is to pressure Manning from the A-gap, and if the Giants don't get things figured out in there, defenses aren't going to need to alter last year's plan very much to beat them. After all the work that was done in the offseason, the Giants' biggest 2014 problem may end up being exactly the same as the one that sunk them in 2013.

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