Giants roster turns into confusing, never-ending shuffle


Him? No, the other guy.

No, not that other guy. That other guy.

If you are confused, do not feel bad. You are not alone.

Welcome to the New York Giants roster shuffle.

There was always going to be more player movement than usual this season, given there is a new coaching regime. Joe Judge and his staff were going to sort through bodies until they came up with a group that fits the mold they want. There is plenty of truth to a head coach wanting “his players” and Judge is not there yet.

Throw in injuries (they always happen) coronavirus opt-outs (unprecedented) and expanded practice squads (new this year), and the front door at the Giants practice and training facility might as well be replaced by a turnstile. In, out, out, in.

Just look at what is going on at cornerback. The Giants opened the coffers in free agency to sign James Bradberry to solve one problem. At the other starting spot, the Giants figured they had DeAndre Baker (2019 first-round pick), Sam Beal (2018 third-round supplemental pick), Corey Ballentine (2019 sixth-round pick) and Darnay Holmes (2020 fourth-round pick). Not perfect, but enough young talent to perhaps make it work.

Then it unraveled. Baker is facing a mountain of legal troubles and is gone. Beal opted out. Holmes is a rookie operating out of the slot and experiencing predictable ups and downs. There was a trade with the Broncos for Isaac Yiadom, a disappointment in his two years in Denver. Ryan Lewis, who played for Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham with the Dolphins, was signed. So was Madre Harper, off the Raiders practice squad.

Ballentine got the first crack and failed. Yiadom got second crack and failed. Just like that, Lewis got 74 percent of the snaps on defense in the 17-9 loss to the Rams.

Got it?

“To me, the whole label on starter isn’t really the most critical thing,’’ Judge said. “It’s more about who’s finishing the game for us, and a lot of that ties into how we have to play that game due to the flow of it or how we have to adjust.’’

Lewis finished the game in Inglewood, Calif., and it stands to reason he will start the game Sunday against the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.

“He showed a lot of positive things in terms of how he played on outside routes,’’ Judge said. “Look, there are other situations where [Yiadom] is going to have a predominant role based on how we’re trying to match certain things up and really get him worked in.’’

Lewis is a name and number (37) to those outside the Giants sphere, until he shows he can last or is merely passing through. He intercepted DeShaun Watson in college (Pittsburgh vs. Clemson) and intercepted Baker Mayfield in the NFL (Dolphins vs. Browns). He is the cousin of ESPN analyst (and one-time Giants general manager candidate) Louis Riddick.

Maybe the Giants have something in a 26-year-old who was not drafted and bounced around practice squads and on the fringe of rosters with eight NFL teams in the past three years.

This means more of safety Adrian Colbert, suddenly a starter (although he left the Rams game with a neck injury). This means more of Tae Crowder, the last (255th) pick in the 2020 draft and thus designated as Mr. Irrelevant.

Think about what has transpired at the inside linebacker spot alongside Blake Martinez. Promising Ryan Connelly, coming off knee surgery, was waived. David Mayo got hurt and is now eligible to come off injured reserve. Devonte Downs caught the eyes of the coaching staff, moved in as the starter and made little impact. He played four snaps on defense against the Rams; Crowder played 33.

Rookie Matt Peart last Sunday got his feet wet at right tackle. Shane Lemieux in at guard later this season for Kevin Zeitler makes sense. Harper or Jarren Williams off the practice squad at corner? Why not? There are a load of rookie receivers waiting in the wings as well.

“I think we have a lot of young guys right now on the roster who are at least starting to come around,’’ Judge said. “You can kind of see a difference in their eyes.’’

If the light going on leads to some winning, great. At the very least, the Giants need to find out who is in and who should be out.

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