With Training Camp well underway, and the first Giants preseason game one week away, playing time will be crucial for the crowded field of wide receivers. Special teams ability will dictate who makes the 53-man roster.
The projected depth chart at wide receiver is pretty obvious for the first four of a potential six roster spots on the 2021 53-man roster. Kenny Golladay tweaked his hamstring in practice this week. That will put him on the shelf through most of the training camp. Sterling Shepard looks sharp and ready for the season already. Darius Slayton looks recovered from his tough sophomore season. And first-round draft pick, Kadarius Toney is being steadily worked into the practices after starting the camp on the COVID-19 list. That’s where the easy picks end. Two spots left, but who gets them? Let’s get a closer look at the candidates.
CJ Board played in 14 of the 16 games last year but mostly stood out as a gunner on special teams. Austin Mack played in 11 of the games last year. Dante Pettis joined the Giants in November and finished the 2020 season on a strong note as a reliable receiver and returner. David Sills V had a strong camp last year but broke his foot prior to the season. John Ross, signed as a free agent this year, is looking to resurrect his status as a former first-round pick of the Bengals. Alex Bachman also impressed the coaches in the 2020 camp and finished on the practice squad. The Giants recently signed Damion Willis and Andy Jones to compete for playing time.
That gives the Giants eight players vying for one or two roster spots. For the team, this is a wonderful problem to have. The 2021 depth at wide receiver is vastly improved from 2020. Yet, effectively the added depth leaves an enviable glut of talented players one step from turning in their playbooks/tablets and seeking employment elsewhere. So, how does the coaching staff move through the process of deciding who stays? Special teams ability and overall effort on the field. And Coach Judge knows a little about special teams, right?
Ross and Pettis have a lot of experience returning kicks and punts. Both have excelled in the return department. But Toney is also a returner. So is return-ability a critical factor? That may save one of these two. Gunners are also a critical need on special teams. As stated earlier, Board did well for the Giants last year. The wide receivers will be competing with defensive secondary players for gunner spots as well. Look for the Giants to audition Board, Mack, Sills, and Bachman in gunner roles during preseason games. “Versatility” is the magic word used by this coaching staff.
Regarding effort on the field, it started with offseason effort in addition to what happens at camp. Here is where Sills has already set himself apart from most of the others. Wherever Daniel Jones traveled and held informal workouts and passing camps, so did Sills. This is not lost on Coach Judge at all. Sills is showing great chemistry with Jones in camp. What happens in the three preseason games will dictate Sills’ future with the Giants. He’s putting his heart and skill on full display. Mack is doing some post-workout on field work with the QBs too. Is it enough?
Attrition through injury may play a part in the coaches’ decisions. But the players cannot count on that. Game performance will be the deciding factor. Three auditions, eight players, one or two slots. It’ll be quite the battle.