NFL cutdown day is annually hectic and surprising.
But once the transaction dust settles — though it never really does — and rosters begin to take shape, cutdown day is, most of all, revealing.
Answers to a plethora of offseason questions emerged after Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline to trim rosters down to 53 players. As did fresh expectations for key players whose names are on that list.
While the Jets left little room for surprise in their cuts, the Giants left multiple notable names off their initial 53-man roster. Entering their second year in charge together, Giants head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen have, on paper, improved the team’s talent from a season ago. That, however, required tough decisions about many players previously on the team.
Let’s take a look at some of the Giants’ most surprising and notable roster decisions, and what they say about what Daboll and Schoen envision:
The decision to activate Wan’Dale Robinson off the physically unable to perform list was telling of what the Giants both think of his health and ability to contribute on offense. Robinson had been on the PUP list throughout camp until Tuesday while working his way back from a torn ACL he sustained during his rookie season last year.
Clearly, though it might not be in Week 1, the Giants are confident he is close to being ready for game action just 8 ½ months after the injury. If he remained on the PUP list, Robinson would have been forced to sit the first four games.
And it’s indicative of what Daboll and Schoen believe he adds on offense.
A second-round pick last year (No. 43), Robinson is the fourth-highest draft investment of the Schoen-Daboll regime. He is best working out of the slot, a position at which the Giants are deep, with Sterling Shepard, rookie Jalin Hyatt and new signing Parris Campbell all capable of filling the role.
Robinson’s activation likely prompted Jamison Crowder and Cole Beasley — slot receivers with shorter Giants tenures — to be cut, however the latter returned on the practice squad. Though not a slot receiver, David Sills V was another cut who had a shot at making the roster. All could have helped in Robinson’s absence, suggesting the Giants don’t expect there to be much, if any, of an absence or need to ramp up.
Another member of last year’s draft class, Darrian Beavers, was one of the more surprising cuts, though the writing was perhaps on the wall as the summer progressed. He did return on the practice squad, though.
A sixth-round pick, Beavers impressed during last year’s camp and was on his way to securing a starting job before a torn ACL ended his season before it began. He again started this year’s camp as the presumed starter next to new signing Bobby Okereke, but found himself off the roster by the time camp ended.
He looked slow coming back from his injury, and, at times, confused in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s system.
Cutting Beavers, along with the team’s decision to acquire Isaiah Simmons, reveals what Martindale wants out of the position next to Okereke. Adept at both linebacker and defensive back, Simmons will likely play a hybrid role that Landon Collins and Tony Jefferson played last year — asked to blitz the quarterback and stop the run as well as cover receivers and tight ends. Beavers, on the other hand, is a more traditional inside linebacker.
Micah McFadden, a fifth-round pick last year who enjoyed a strong camp, will also see elevated playing time without Beavers on the roster.
The fact Beavers couldn’t even stick as a backup, while 2020 sixth-round pick Cam Brown did, speaks to how highly the Giants value the latter’s special teams ability.
Matt Peart, entering his fourth season after being drafted in the third round, competed with Tyre Phillips, who signed with the team last year, throughout camp for one of the last spots on the line as a backup swing tackle.
Peart appeared to struggle throughout the summer, and has not shown much in game action throughout his three-year career, while Phillips started five games last year and appeared to have the edge. But Peart notably made the team, while Phillips was cut, though he also returned on the practice squad.
Coming out of UConn with great size and athleticism, Peart was viewed more as a project with high potential due to his physique. Though Schoen and Daboll did not draft him, do they still see something in him, making it worth the risk of cutting a more proven commodity in Phillips?
Their decision certainly suggests so.
The Giants clearly feel the need to have depth at these positions, keeping six players at each.
Defensive line was identified as a weakness this offseason, after the Giants struggled badly stopping the run last year. It shows, as A’Shawn Robinson, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Jordon Riley — half the group — all made the team as new additions.
Jason Pinnock has risen from a waiver claim last year to a projected starter at safety this year, but keeping six there suggests the Giants want options next to Xavier McKinney. Bobby McCain, expected by many to be cut, survived the bubble — for now.
Today’s back page
⚾ Jasson Domínguez, Austin Wells expected to join Yankees on Friday
⚾ Mets plan to call up Ronny Mauricio on Friday when rosters expand
🏈 CANNIZZARO: Aaron Rodgers-Jihad Ward feud adds spice to Giants-Jets battle later in season
🎾 Coco Gauff credits temperament change to Jimmy Butler, Carlos Alcaraz
⚾ BROOKS: Mets, Steve Cohen can’t afford to make this Pete Alonso contract folly
🎾 Caroline Wozniacki upsets Petra Kvitova to reach third round of US Open
A move toward the future
Folarin Balogun’s future is finally settled.
For both the U.S. men’s soccer team and one of its most important players, it’s a perfect opportunity.
English power Arsenal officially announced on Wednesday that it transferred the 22-year-old striker to French side AS Monaco for roughly $33 million, and perhaps as much as $43 million with add-ons, according to esteemed soccer news breaker Fabrizio Romano.
A Brooklyn native, Balogun grew up in London and represented both the USMNT and England national teams at the youth level. This summer, he made the binding decision to play for the USMNT, a major coup to help the Americans’ elevate to another level on the world stage.
After the U.S. men struggled to score goals at the World Cup and featured a revolving door at striker, Balogun figures to slot right in as the starting striker for the foreseeable future.
One of Arsenal’s most talented academy players, Balogun played only two games for the senior team. Instead, he was loaned twice, the second of which helped him break out as a possible rising star.
While on loan last year with French side Reims, Balogun scored 21 goals — fourth-best in the league — and added two assists. But returning to Arsenal, he faced deep competition at the position for playing time on a team with immediate title aspirations.
While playing with Monaco might hold less prestige and be less visible than Arsenal for American fans, it’s likely a much better path forward for his long-term development.
He would have struggled to find playing time at Arsenal, likely behind Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah in the pecking order and having never played significant time in the Premier League.
As an expensive acquisition for Monaco, he’ll have a featured role on offense and should have secured regular playing time. And having already played in the league, there won’t be any adjustment needed.
From the USMNT’s point of view, Balogun playing regularly is crucial to his development — managers often place an emphasis on players who are in form and playing routinely, as there is far less time to ramp up and prepare before international competitions.
While it might have dragged on throughout the summer, Balogun is where he needs to be.
And soon, it should help prepare him to take the USMNT where it needs to be.
A thin line between fair and foul
Big fights and controversy seemingly go hand-in-hand.
The latest delivered a low blow heard ’round the world.
Or was it?
Oleksandr Usyk successfully defended his WBO, WBA and IBF unified heavyweight world titles against Daniel Dubois Saturday night in Poland via a ninth-round TKO. But they nearly didn’t get that far after an uppercut that has split the boxing world in half.
In the fifth round, Dubois sent Usyk stumbling to the ground with what appeared to be a crunching uppercut bodyshot. But Usyk quickly grabbed his groin area and referee Luis Pabon ruled it a low-blow, giving him as much time as needed to get up rather than a 10-count.
For his part, Usyk said he would have gotten up if the referee began counting, but he was visibly hurt and appeared to be shaken up. Dubois, his camp and promoter Frank Warren have called it a robbery, claiming that the punch was legal and that they were cheated out of an upset unified world title.
On replay, Dubois’ right hand appears to be making contact high enough with Usyk’s body, but since it was an uppercut, it’s difficult to gauge exactly where he began to make contact.
Regardless, it underscores a larger problem in the sport. Boxers have increasingly worn their trunks as high as possible, attempting to minimize the amount of space of their body they’re allowed to be hit. Referees in turn often mark a spot on their trunks that indicates what’s too low and what’s legal.
But in real time, it’s often difficult to see a made-up spot on someone’s trunks rather than simply the waist line being the indicator. Usyk was wearing his trunks high against Dubois, and though he could have marked them in the dressing rooms beforehand, Pabon did not mark any spot on Usyk’s shorts when he gave his instructions in the ring.
And as so often happens as a result, what was anticipated as an exciting fight between the current and next generation has now been clouded in controversy and scorn.