The Giants announced their first official depth chart ahead of their Friday night preseason opener in Cincinnati. And while there aren’t many major surprises, there are a couple of moves that may arouse attention.
Big Blue is heading to Cincinnati for mixed full-scale practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, so head coach Tom Coughlin certainly wanted to have some semblance of a depth chart for when the squads engage in sessions.
Veteran running back Rashad Jennings, thought to be somewhat sliding down the depth chart after not seeing much first-team reps in camp so far, has been named the starter as of right now. Second-year back Andre Williams, who was the recipient of those first-team reps, has been relegated Jennings’s backup for the time being. Shane Vereen looks to be manning his usual role as the third-down receiving back – a role he excelled at during his time with the New England Patriots where he totaled 107 career catches.
The Giants actually listed 12 starters on offense, even though only 11 are allowed. It’s likely because offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo will display a balance all season between the traditional two wideout, running back, fullback, tight end formation, and the three-wide formation that lists Rueben Randle as a starter, too. When the Giants go to the three-wide look, Randle will replace fullback Henry Hynoski. Veteran tight end Daniel Fells has leapfrogged last year’s starter Larry Donnell, but that’s likely more to do with Donnell’s slow Achilles recovery.
The offensive line, a unit altered by injury, will boast rookie Ereck Flowers at left tackle – whenever the first-round pick’s hip flexor heals – and veteran Marshall Newhouse at the other tackle. Newhouse played for the Bengals last season. The guards are Justin Pugh on the left and Geoff Schwartz on the right, with Weston Richburg at center.
Defensively, there are a couple of surprises, as Kerry Wynn is currently atop the left defensive end spot. Wynn, who came on strong towards the end of last season, is ahead of rookie Owa Odighizuwa. Robert Ayers Jr. is slotted at the right defensive end – the usual spot reserved for the injured, and still unsigned, Jason Pierre-Paul.
The safety position, a spot of consternation among fans and coaches alike, will see rookie Landon Collins at free safety, and Bennett Jackson at strong safety. The former has basically been penciled in as a starter since the day he was drafted, while the latter is a bit of an unknown – a pleasant unknown, according to coaches – because he’s a converted cornerback.
While the first depth chart is somewhat meaningless, as it can change almost daily, it’s still a good gauge in how the coaches feel about a player’s progress.
Jackson said he knows from experience that anything can happen at an instance, which is why he’s cherishing every moment. The second-year player was on-and-off the roster last season, via the practice squad, so he knows how tenuous the depth chart is.
“It’s all still stressful. I remember the day I got that text to get cut, it’s definitely humbling. You just have to continue to work, believe you belong, and just make the best of all your opportunities,” Jackson said. “Regardless of it [the depth chart] you’ve just got to make the best out of each day. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So, my motto is always try to make today your best day, because you never know what’s going to come tomorrow.”
The former Notre Dame star said the transition from cornerback to safety has been going well. The coaches have been impressed with him, which speaks to how he’s already atop the safety board over players who’ve played the position their entire football careers.
“I’m a little more confident [and] things are going smoothly right now. I’m just more comfortable, so I’m able to play a little faster,” Jackson said, adding there are still some speed bumps along the way. “The biggest obstacle to me is probably giving the checks. Last year at corner and at nickel, I was the one who received all the checks, so I relied on the safety. Now, it’s just more of I’ve got to be the one to process the formation, give out the checks, [and] make sure everyone is aligned … A lot of it [defensive success in this system] relies on the linebackers and the safeties. I think coach Spags [defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] and all the defensive coaches are doing a good job getting the information to us and allowing us the opportunities to get the information to everybody else.”
So far, guys like Jackson and Wynn have taken every advantage of the opportunities, and soon they’ll be able to play in actual games to justify the coaching staff’s faith.