Giants 2019 Depth Chart: New York's Week 1 starters vs. Cowboys revealed, Golden rises back up

The New York Giants have shifted their assets on offense to fit a plan of attack that stresses physical play on the line and a system that runs through 2018 Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley. You can expect the running back's role in the passing game to grow in Year 2. It has been a process, but the Giants' first-team offensive line looks light years ahead of where they were at the start of the 2017 season. Quite frankly, they are light years ahead of where they were at the start of 2018, a regular season where they soon released two Week 1 starters on the right side in offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and guard Patrick Omameh.

The Daniel Jones era is coming, but not in Week 1. Time will tell when the Giants get their rookie in, but he has quite obviously passed the eye test in his first preseason.

On defense, the Giants have shifted assets away from the front seven to their secondary with premium draft picks in the last two draft classes. Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher used a subpackage defense (five or more defensive backs) on 84 percent of the team's snaps in 2018.

The Giants released their first edition of the 53-man roster prior to Saturday's deadline and we will break it down below while projecting the first look at the Week 1 depth chart. It's important to remember that this 53-man roster is fluid. Since then, the Giants have made several changes to the roster -- they will be reflected below. The Giants have also since released an unofficial depth chart. This will also be reflected below.

Let's jump right into it.

Offense


StarterBackupDepthDepth
QB Eli Manning Daniel Jones Alex Tanney
RB Saquon Barkley Wayne Gallman Paul PerkinsEli Penny
LWR Sterling Shepard Darius SlaytonCody Core
RWR Cody Latimer Russell Shepard

SWR Bennie FowlerGolden Tate (SUS)

TE Evan Engram Rhett Ellison Garrett DickersonEric Tomlinson
LT Nate Solder Chad Slade

LG Will Hernandez


C Jon Halapio Spencer Pulley

RG Kevin Zeitler Nick Gates

RT Mike Remmers Eric Smith

For better or worse, several key roster decisions on the offensive side of the ball came to the Giants' injury situation -- one that has developed since the team's preseason finale. 

These injuries played a large role in the 53-man roster that was announced on Saturday, but on Sunday, less than 24 hours later, the Giants reshaped their roster with six transactions on the offensive side of the ball.

The Giants signed wide receiver Cody Core off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals, and in turn, released wide receiver Alonzo Russell. Core was originally selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Bengals. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound wide receiver has made a name for himself as one of the best special teams players on the Bengals' roster over the past three seasons, and that is the core (no pun intended) role he will play for the Giants. 

The decision to move on from Russell for Core runs in line with everything general manager Dave Gettleman has preached since arriving when it comes to the importance of special teams. In 2018, the Giants improved from the No. 32 overall special teams (in 2017) unit in Football Outsiders' DVOA to No. 3 overall.

The Giants also signed offensive tackle Eric Smith after he was waived by the New York Jets. The 6-foot-4 and 308-pound offensive tackle prospect was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins after the 2017 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Patriots and Jets, but he has never played in the NFL. This is a developmental prospect who likely caught Gettleman's attention when the Giants played the Jets this preseason. In a corresponding move, the Giants released offensive lineman Brian Mihalik.

Lastly, the Giants signed the massive blocking tight end Eric Tomlinson after he was cut by the Jets and cleared waivers. The 6-foot-6 and 263-pound tight end was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2015 NFL Draft. He hasn't done much as a receiving option in the NFL, but he can block. Tomlinson was signed to fill a need for a block-first tight end in Pat Shurmur's offensive system as the Giants transition to more of a run-first approach with multiple tight ends on the field at the same time.

At quarterback, Tanney made the roster despite being outperformed by Kyle Lauletta in the preseason.

At wide receiver, the Giants are dealing with injuries to roster hopefuls Brittan Golden and T.J. Jones. On Saturday, they waived Jones. Later, they placed Golden on injured reserve. Russell's tireless work ethic and production on special teams, blocking downfield on big plays, and as a receiver earned him one of the final roster spots -- catching the game-winning touchdown in the preseason finale didn't hurt either.

Tate is suspended for the first four games and will not count against the initial 53-man roster.

At tight end, if you asked me before the preseason finale, I would have told you that Scott Simonson rounds out the position behind Engram and Ellison. Simonson was unfortunately in a lot of pain after his touchdown catch in the preseason finale -- the Giants are awaiting results on his injury after further testing. As of now, reports suggest Simonson suffered a high-ankle sprain. The Giants placed him on injured reserve on Saturday.

The Giants plan to maintain Barkley's workload, or even increase it, as Shurmur suggested earlier in OTAs in 2019. He will become a focal point of the passing game. Behind Barkley, Rod Smith was placed on injured reserve which opened up the door for Perkins. Although Perkins struggled at times with a fumble, dropped pass, and failed fourth-down conversion on the ground, he impressed as a receiving option out of the backfield.

The Giants entered training camp with the most uncertainty at the center position after Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley traded first-team snaps throughout spring OTAs. However, Halapio has established himself as the starter this preseason. Shurmur referred to it as having "two starting centers" but Halapio is the one you'll see against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1.

As a whole, the Giants' first-team offensive line performed more consistently during the 2019 preseason than at any point over the last decade. It's clear second-year left guard Will Hernandez has taken a leap forward, but that is to be expected of any second-year offensive lineman. The biggest difference on the offensive line comes on the right side. The Giants have been an improved unit in both pass protection and the run game after upgrading from Omameh at right guard to Zeitler and Flowers at right tackle to Remmers. These two have made the biggest difference.

Depth wise, it would not surprise us to see the Giants target an offensive lineman to sign from another team's final cuts similar to what they did when they claimed Pulley off waivers last September. In fact, we think this is a likely scenario.

Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley closed out the final four games of the 2018 regular season as Manning's top targets (alongside Shepard). Their heavy involvement in the passing game has carried over to spring OTAs and the training camp. The Giants offense minus Beckham will most likely funnel through these three skill position players. Shurmur kept the bubble wrap on both this preseason. Barkley didn't play a single snap and Engram finally saw his first action -- albeit briefly -- in the third preseason game.

Defense


StarterBackupDepth
DE B.J. Hill RJ McIntosh
NT Dalvin Tomlinson

DE Dexter Lawrence Olsen Pierre
OLB Markus GoldenKareem Martin
ILB Alec Ogletree Nate StuparDavid Mayo
ILB Tae Davis Ryan Connelly
OLB Lorenzo Carter Oshane Ximines
LCB Janoris Jenkins Grant HaleySam Beal (IR)
RCB Deandre Baker Antonio HamiltonCorey Ballentine
SCB Grant Haley Antonio Hamilton
FS Antoine Bethea Sean ChandlerJulian Love
SS Jabrill Peppers Michael Thomas

Markus Golden was listed behind Kareem Martin during the regular season, but when the Giants revealed their initial Week 1 "unofficial" depth chart, the 2019 free agent signing was listed as the starter opposite promising second-year outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter.

The Giants made the surprising decision to place Sam Beal on injured reserve on Sunday. The 2018 Supplemental third-round draft pick has been dealing with a hamstring injury this summer that was apparently more severe than reported. The Giants had high hopes for Beal heading into the 2019 season, even after he missed his entire rookie 2018 season with a shoulder injury, but that's on hold for now.

On Monday, the Giants announced that they had traded linebacker B.J. Goodson to the Packers and signed former San Francisco 49ers, and before that, Carolina Panthers linebacker David Mayo.

The Giants will once again keep more players on defense than offense -- similar to Year 1 of the Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman regime. While injuries won't play as great of a role in deciding which defensive players the team moves forward with in Week 1, we expect the Giants to be active on the free agent market -- on the defensive side of the ball -- as teams make their final cuts.

Giants head coach Pat Shurmur released a statement after the final cuts deadline, via Giants.com, that echoed a similar sentiment.

"We are in the second year of building the kind of team we all want," Shurmur said. "The process never stops. The communication between (general manager) Dave (Gettleman) and I and our coaches and Dave's staff is really good. The group of 90 that was with us through the spring and summer bought into what we are building here and created the kind of competition that makes for tough decisions.

"For the players who were released today, we thank them for their effort and commitment, and we told them to stay ready because you never know when your next opportunity will come, either here or somewhere else."

Just like they'll have an eye on offensive linemen for depth, it would not surprise us to see the Giants have the same eye for linebackers in the coming hours after final cuts across the league are in. The Giants could use depth at both inside and outside linebacker. Keep an eye on the waiver wire.

As mentioned above, Bettcher used a subpackage (of at least five defensive backs on the field) on 84% of the Giants' defensive snaps in 2018. We expect that to remain the same in 2019 -- it's the foundation of his system. With that said, the Giants will keep 11 total defensive backs -- with Love operating as a hybrid safety-cornerback. Hamilton is arguably the team's best special teams ace and he grabbed one of the final roster spots because of that alone. 

Special teams


StarterBackup
K Aldrick Rosas
P Riley Dixon
LS Zak DeOssie
KR Cody LatimerCorey Ballentine
PR Jabrill PeppersDarius Slayton

Fresh off a first-team All-Pro season from Aldrick Rosas, the Giants are locked in at the kicker position. The Giants have mixed and matched with their return specialists during the preseason, but we expect Ballentine and Peppers to open the season in the starting roles. The Giants had no reason to risk Peppers as a return man during the preseason, but he offers far too much upside in the regular season to ignore him in this role. Although the Giants named Peppers as their starting punt returner, Cody Latimer grabbed the kick returner job in spite of Ballentine holding down the role for the majority of the preseason.

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