One of the most underrated aspects of a successful football team is depth. It is great to look at starters and think your team will be great, but a team never stays 100% healthy.
If you need an example of this, look at the 2017 Giants. Remember? This was a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Now, there were many more reasons that the team fell apart, but having no depth hurt, especially in the receiving core. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all went down with injuries in Week 5, and the wheels largely came off after that.
A better example may have been the 2020 San Francisco 49ers. That team went from NFC Champions to missing the playoffs largely in part to injury.
The Giants are facing these problems early but have made moves to combat these problems.
Within the first few days of practice, Giants fans already had to hold their breath when it was reported Shane Lemieux was carted off the field. Thankfully, Lemieux was able to get back on the field last night. Behind him, the projected backup is either Zach Fulton or Kenny Wiggins. These two have plenty of NFL experience and would at least make fans feel a little bit better if an injury along our line occurred during the season. When backup center Jonnothan Harrison came into camp on the PUP list, Joe Looney was signed but has since retired. Harrison has returned to practice, but the Giants have also brought in former Kansas City Chief Austin Reiter for a visit. Lamont Galliard was also someone the Giants attempted to claim but lost him to the Bengals. It is refreshing to see the Giants continue to try and add to their interior offensive line depth, which is already in good shape.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the projected starting right tackle, Matt Peart, opened camp on the PUP list. He has since returned, but having veteran Nate Solder as the expected swing tackle is huge. Behind Solder, there is former Colts 7thround draft pick Jackson Barton and versatile lineman Chad Slade and Kyle Murphy. Having a young offensive lineman behind a former Super Bowl starter like Solder is very valuable. The depth on the offensive line as a whole looks good on paper.
The 2017 Giants skill positions taking the hit they did is a prime example of why depth is important. The receiving core this year is probably the deepest position on the team. Kenny Golladay injuring his hamstring is the last thing Giants fans want to hear, but the depth we have at that position makes you feel a little bit better. Behind Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, and Kadarius Toney, there will be one heck of a fight to see who makes this roster.
Former college teammates and high draft pick John Ross and Dante Pettis will be fighting to make the team with current and former training camp standouts David Sills V, Alex Bachman, and Austin Mack. CJ Board will also be in the mix at that position. If that is the bottom of the barrel, then Giants fans should be thrilled with that depth. To a lesser degree, the same could be said about our running backs.
Saquon is coming off a major injury, and the Giants invested arguably too much money in a viable backup in Devontae Booker (two years, 5.5 million), as Wayne Gallman signed for even less money in San Francisco (1 year, 990,000). With that being said, the recent signing of Alfred Morris and veteran Corey Clement, and 6th round draft pick Gary Brightwell create good, solid depth at the running back spot. Last year’s Giants showed why having depth at running back is so important. This year, they invested heavily in making sure they had it.
Another position on this team being tested depth-wise is tight end. Newly signed tight end Kyle Rudolph has been out with a foot injury and has yet to practice. Last night, second-year Giant, Levine Toilolo, tore his Achilles and is out for the year. With Toilolo now out, the three tight ends that are shoo-ins to make the team are Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and Kaden Smith. These were the three that should have made the team from the start, but Smith has little completion now that Toilolo is out.
Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Cole Hikutini, and newly signed quarterback turned tight end Tommy Stevens are the other tight ends on the roster. Let’s hope they can provide quality depth, as at least one will make the practice squad.
Defensively, the inside linebacker spot has been hit HARD early in training camp. Blake Martinez has returned but originally opened camp on the COVID list, and Reggie Ragland has been on the reserve/non-football injury list since the start of camp. Tae Crowder had an excellent rookie year, but no Giant fan should be completely comfortable with him leading the defense.
Behind him is TJ Brunson, who failed to get many snaps last year, Devontae Downs, who did not play well last year, and Cale Garrett, who has yet to play an NFL snap. Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown have also been taking snaps at inside linebackers, but it is a position that neither has yet to play in the NFL consistently.
The Giants attempted to add depth in signing veteran linebacker Todd Davis, but he has since retired. If Ragland can get healthy, a combination of Martinez, Crowder, Ragland, and Coughlin or Brown should make fans feel better. Early in camp, this position shows more than any other why depth is important.
One position on defense that has plenty of depth is cornerback. Rookie third-round draft pick Aaron Robinson, who is expected to compete for the starting slot cornerback, has been out with a core injury since the start of camp. Last year’s starter at slot cornerback, Darnay Holmes, remains on the roster, and Xavier McKinney, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love can also play the slot. Outside of them, depth pieces, Rodarius Williams, Quincy Wilson, and Jarren Williams can play some slot corner, if necessary. Cornerback and defensive back as a whole give the wide receiver a run for their money in terms of depth.
The Bottom Line
The Giants have been tested early at several positions. They have done a good job at making sure there is depth at these spots and the positions that weren’t discussed (Edge, Safety, Outside Corner, and Special Teams).
Yes, the inside linebacker has some question marks there, but any position that gets hit as hard as they have been will have question marks. Depth is key in the NFL; as Dave Gettleman always says, the roster-building season never really ends.
Featured Image: Kathleen Malone/Newsday