The depth chart and 53-man active roster for the New York Giants are not close to being set yet. A lot of moving parts will settle over the next few months. An interesting development did take place yesterday, though, in regards to one man on the roster bubble.
Depth linebacker Mark Herzlich is not a defensive starter. He is a substitute who seemed to expand his usefulness this week. It was announced that Herzlich would be switching jersey numbers from 94 to 44. The reason was more than aesthetics. He would be used some on offense this season, necessitating the jersey change.
Herzlich now seems to have solidified his role on this team. He can potentially fill so many roles, the team can’t help but keep him around. His flexibility will cover defense, special teams coverage and back-up snapping, and now offense. Beyond helping his future on the team, this expansive role could have another added side effect. Herzlich’s usefulness could cost another man his job on the Giants.
Roster spots are incredibly valuable. Teams rotate in so many players these days to keep rushers, runners, receivers, etc. fresh that a spot cannot be “wasted” on a reserve who only does one thing. New York wants backup backs who can cover kicks; it wants tight ends who can block on punts; even, apparently, linebackers who can play fullback. What Herzlich’s flexibility will do is allow the team to jettison someone less flexible who is also on the roster bubble while keeping someone they might not have previously had room for.
It remains to be seen who this dumped player will be. It could be an offensive skill player at a deep position, another linebacker who doesn’t do as much elsewhere, a quarterback who gets pushed out by Davis Webb. Herzlich, if he’s good enough, essentially fills the role of three men: a backup linebacker, backup fullback/tight end, and special teams player. That means New York can get rid of guys of that same ilk and instead keep a player with higher upside.
The upside player Herzlich saves could be Nat Berhe or Rahim Moore at safety. It could be an offensive lineman who would have gotten forced out by a numbers crunch. The fact that the veteran linebacker changed his jersey number feels pretty innocuous, but it could have some major implications on how the Giants arrange their roster for this 2017 NFL season.