The team was told by the NFL that because of the short turnaround time between the third and fourth preseason games, they would be given an exemption on the mandatory cuts that were due yesterday. They will be allowed to carry 85 players into tomorrow night's game vs New England instead of 80.
They came into the process with 89 players, not 90, and that is why you are seeing headlines across the net saying the Giants cut five players. No one bothered to count. They must get to 80 by Friday and then 53 by Saturday, meaning 32 of these guys will be sent packing after tomorrow's game.
That may not really matter much in the scheme of things for some hopefuls. Tom Coughlin said he may sit some his starters (if not all) because the team has not been able to practice due to the hurricane and now the shortened week. Roster decisions will be made with less data on the table.
"You are supposed to be in training camp to prepare and that certainly means to practice," Coughlin said on a conference call yesterday. "Just take a look at the practices we will not have this week. You are talking about a force of nature, you’re not talking about someone making a decision not to practice."
"We were all caught short and we were instructed to play it safe. We got a practice in Saturday, and Sunday and Monday came along. This week, you are only talking about jog throughs. You are into that mode. The only day that you could have done anything was today. Tomorrow you can’t. It is a lot of forced learning and you have a lot of sore people who are going through the idea of sitting right down the next day."
"Are they complaining? No, nobody is complaining. Whatever we are assigned to do, we will do it. It is just not an optimum situation...."
Coughlin also voiced his concern about the Giants' passing game. The rest of the team doesn't appear to be worried, but the coach is. When asked about why the Giants have not attacked the middle of the field, he said the following:
"I can’t think of one time during the preseason, so you bring up a really good point. This is a preseason where I can’t think of us getting to the middle of the field on a play-action or anything where we had the decision after recognizing two deep or three deep and making the proper adjustment. I can’t recall this preseason having that opportunity. We missed one the other night but quite frankly, the receiver was covered so it would have been a great throw just to get the ball in there. That’s the only one I can think of for a whole preseason so when you talk about attacking the middle of the field, we really haven’t had that type of opportunity."
That is partially due to the limited time WR Domenik Hixon has seen with the first-team offense and the lack of a quality TE who can run middle routes. Coughlin still is putting his chips on Travis Beckum, but as our friend Paul Dottino over at WFAN said yesterday, Beckum is too slow for the slot and not big enough to play the position as a blocker.
Dottino pointed out that Beckum could not shake Jets DE Calvin Pace in coverage. If he can't separate from a defensive lineman on a passing route, what good is this guy...?
QB Eli Manning believes it's just circumstantial, not part of some overall strategy:
"I don’t know. This is new to me. I think it depends on the plays being called. It always depends on the defense that teams are running. I know the other day I hit Hakeem [Nicks] on an in-breaking route for about fifteen yards. A few games ago, I hit Mario [Manningham] in an in-breaking route versus Chicago on a third and long. I think we’ve hit some things, but I think that’s getting that slot receiver into the mix a little bit more, hitting him on a few more routes. We’re working over the middle."
The Giants will continue to use rookie WR Jerrel Jernigan on punt returns, even though he has struggled mightily. Coughlin says the other options right now after Jernigan and Hixon would be CB Aaron Ross and WR Victor Cruz.
Putting Ross back there (even though he is the best at it) would be a huge risk, especially now that they are razor-thin at CB. The likely candidate is Hixon, but the Giants don't want to overuse him right now on his surgically-repaired knee.
If Jernigan cannot return kicks or punts, he was a waste as a third-round draft pick. If he gets cut, that means the Giants will open the season without their top three draft picks from April. And fourth-round selection OT James Brewer is no lock for this roster, either.