1997 New York Giants Roster Analysis Heading into Training Camp
The following is an attempt to predict what the Giants’ final 53-man roster may look like by the end of training camp. After first listing the likely number of roster spots spent at each position (in bold), we will list each player and breakdown each unit. In this way, it is hoped that we will be able to identify the key upcoming roster battles. Please note, of course, that our predictions cannot take into account injuries any current player may suffer in the future — injuries which may influence this analysis.
Quarterback (3): Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, and Mike Cherry.
This one is easy. Even if Stan White had not injured his shoulder in the World League, he was not likely to beat out Mike Cherry, who has impressed the Giant coaches early.
Halfback (3): Rodney Hampton, Tyrone Wheatley, Tiki Barber, and Robert Walker.
Another easy one. Hampton and Wheatley will battle for the starting spot, with the “loser” probably receiving just as much playing time as the “winner.” Tiki Barber will be the 3rd-down back and probably the primary punt returner. Robert Walker has talent, but he has trouble holding onto the ball and is most likely on the wrong team at the wrong time.
Fullback (2): Charles Way, Matt Calhoun, and Eric Lane.
Charles Way is on the verge of stardom. With the elimination of the H-Back system, there is now a need for a true back-up fullback. Calhoun is a big back and a good blocker. Lane is not as bulky, but does more damage with the ball in his hands. The Calhoun versus Lane battle will be an interesting one to watch.
Tight End (3): Howard Cross, Aaron Pierce, Brian Saxton, and Brandon Jessie.
One gets the sense that Fassel would like a true receiving threat at the tight end position. Who wouldn’t? The question is whether or not the Giants have that type of player on the roster. Howard Cross obviously isn’t the answer. Cross is a superb blocker and at times can hurt a defense with his receiving skills (see the 1993 and 1994 seasons), but he really doesn’t scare anyone. Aaron Pierce isn’t the blocker that Cross is, but he does have better receiving skills. Whether he can step it up another notch and win the starting position is a matter open for debate. Brian Saxton and Jesse Brandon will most likely battle for the final roster spot. Saxton has flashed ability as a receiver and Jessie is a great natural athlete who is as green as they come (he didn’t play football in college). If Jessie doesn’t make the final roster, look for the Giants to stash him on the practice squad — his physical tools are that good.
Wide Receiver (6): Thomas Lewis, Chris Calloway, Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Kevin Alexander, Omar Douglas, David Patten, Brian Roberson, John Washington, Van Johnson, and Alfonzo Browning.
The obvious players who will make it are Lewis, Toomer, and Hilliard. After that, the questions start. Hilliard is a rookie and Toomer had only one catch before he got hurt and thus is practically a rookie. Moreover, in Lewis’ three years with the team, he has been hurt more often than not. All this inexperience would seem to indicate the Giants would have to keep a hold of the relatively expensive Calloway for at least one more year. On the next level, it seems like Alexander, Douglas, and Patten are ahead of the others. Patten, a free agent signing from the Arena League of all places, has been reportedly impressed the coaches early. Alexander showed some nice things late in the season and Giants’ management continues to be high on Douglas. All three are short, but fast and quick players. The Giants will keep five or six receivers (probably six) and there should be a heck of a battle for the 5th and 6th spots. Any player who shows something in the return game is bound to help his cause.
Offensive Line (10): OC’s Brian Williams, Adam Screiber, and Derek Engler; OG’s Ron Stone, Lance Smith, Rob Zatechka, Jamie Sumner, and Cayetano Castro; OT’s Scott Gragg (R), Greg Bishop (L), Roman Oben (L), Jerry Reynolds (R/L), Deron Thorp (R), Alan Kline (L), and Dave Rilatt (?).
The obvious players? Williams, Schreiber (if the Giants can re-sign him), Stone, Smith (if they can re-sign him), Zatechka, Gragg, Bishop, and Oben. That’s eight — leaving two roster spots. Deron Thorp has been extremely impressive in the World League and is most likely going to make the roster. Ideally, the Giants would like another guard, but are Sumner or Castro worth a roster spot? Reynolds and Kline will most likely battle for the final roster spot. If Thorp, Reynolds, or Kline could also play guard, they would really help their cause. On the other hand, the Giants may decide to go with nine players here and use the extra roster spot at outside linebacker or defensive back.
Defensive Tackle (4): Keith Hamilton, Robert Harris, Christian Peter, Bernard Holsey, Matt Keneley, Darnell Gilliard, and Ramon Okoli.
Hamilton, Harris, and Peter will make the roster. The final spot will be a battle royale between the remaining four players. Holsey has the quickness, Keneley the intangibles (intensity/work ethic), and Gilliard and Okoli the size.
Defensive End (4): Michael Strahan, Cedric Jones, Jamal Duff, Chad Bratzke, Harold Gragg, Charles Estes, and Ryan Smith.
Obvious if all are healthy — Strahan, Jones, Duff, and Bratzke. However, the Giants would like one of the remaining players to flash so they can stash him on the practice squad — the Giants may not be able to hold onto Bratzke next year.
Middle Linebacker (3): Corey Widmer, Pete Monty, and Doug Colman.
All three will make the team.
Outside Linebacker (4): Jessie Armstead, Corey Miller, Ryan Phillips, Scott Galyon, Marcus Buckley, and Ben Talley.
Armstead, Miller, Phillips, and Galyon make the squad. Buckley and Talley are out of luck unless the Giants can come up with another roster spot from another position (i.e., wide receiver or offensive line). Between the two, Buckley is more likely to stick because of his versatility (he can play both strongside and weakside) and experience. Talley is most likely not the same player since his injury.
Safety (5): FS’s Percy Ellsworth, Tito Wooten, Brandon Sanders, and Typail McMullen; SS’s Maurice Douglass, Rodney Young, Sam Garnes, Picasso Nelson, and James Johnson.
Free safety is obvious and the Giants will most likely only keep two players there — Ellsworth and Wooten. Strong safety is a confusing mess. Douglass (if they can re-sign him) has the lead because of his experience. The Giants have a lot invested in Young (1995 3rd rounder), Garnes is a 1997 draft pick, and Nelson has been impressive early, according to some reports. Strong safety will be one of the hottest battles in all of camp.
Cornerback (4): Phillippi Sparks, Jason Sehorn, Thomas Randolph, Conrad Hamilton, Kory Blackwell, and Marc Williams.
Easy — Sparks, Sehorn, Randolph, and Hamilton. However, like the situation at DE, the Giants may not be able to hold onto Randolph after this year. Thus, it would be great if Blackwell or Williams show enough to hang around on the practice squad.
Punter and Kicker (2): PK’s Brad Daluiso and Brion Hurley; P’s Brad Maynard and Scott Player.
Daluiso and Maynard form the kicking team.