The NY Giants are making a risky move by exposing promising second-year linebacker Ryan Connelly to waivers after cutting him on Saturday.
When I came up with a list of five players that I thought could be the final roster cuts for the 2020 NY Giants, linebacker Ryan Connelly was the furthest thing from my mind.
Even though he is coming off a torn ACL that he suffered early on in his rookie season in 2019, in my opinion, Connelly showed more than enough to warrant being patient with and giving him a legit opportunity to prove that he could get back to full strength.
Now, after he was waived on Saturday as the NY Giants cut their roster down from 80 to 53 he may never get that chance — at least with Big Blue.
This has the potential to be a massive mistake, as it has been forever since the NY Giants have had a linebacker that could actually cover and Connelly showed he could do that in spades as a rookie as he allowed QB’s to have just a 22.7 QB rating when targeting him during his three starts and four total games as a rookie.
Not only did the former Wisconsin Badger prove he was strong in pass coverage, but he also showed that he was a playmaker as he racked up two picks in those three starts to go along with a sack and two tackles-for-loss in just 187 snaps as a rookie.
In addition, he was a leader as a rookie and even took over defensive play-calling duties which is very rare for a rookie to do.
There hasn’t been much that head coach Joe Judge has done that I vehemently disagreed with so far early on during his tenure, but this is one of them.
Obviously, we’re not all going to agree with every one of the back-end roster moves that the team was going to make, but how Connelly even found himself in that situation is beyond me.
If Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham felt that the 2019 fifth-round pick was still a way off from full strength there were numerous other ways they could have gone about handling his situation.
For starters, they could have taken the same route they chose to take with rookie safety Xavier McKinney and veteran linebacker David Mayo and kept them on the initial 53-man roster for a few days and put him on injured reserve with a designation to return — the NFL and NFLPA agreed to allow players to begin returning from injured reserve after three weeks instead of the usual eight in a non-COVID season.
If I had my preference they could have just kept him on the 53-man roster as he was practicing and by all accounts was progressing normally from his injury — his rookie play surely warranted him at least an opportunity to give him a chance to show what he could do before shutting him down if need be.
Simply put, he showed way too much promise as a rookie to just give up on him one year into his cheap rookie deal.
Now, the entire league will have the chance to put a claim in on him and I expect there will be a team out there that will in fact do that. If I had to guess, I could see the Washington Football Team (man that’s gonna take some time getting used to) putting a claim in on him as they saw first hand what he is capable of last season.
Instead, the NY Giants chose to carry 11 linebackers, and not one of them was named Ryan Connelly.
And, even if they were, that’s a small price to pay when considering the type of potential that Ryan Connelly has proven to have.
Now, all us NY Giants fans can do is pray that he goes unclaimed and that we’re able to sneak him onto the practice squad. However, even if that does happen, it still wasn’t the right way to handle this situation.
Who will the NY Giants start opposite Blake Martinez now?
Make no mistake about it, the NFL is all about passing these days as just about everyone knows, but the NY Giants instead are choosing to go with a defense that’s designed mainly to stop the run.
David Mayo is the most likely candidate to be the long-term starter opposite Blake Martinez at inside linebacker but the earliest he can return is Week 3 and there’s no guarantee he’ll even be ready by then after tearing his meniscus recently.
Devante Downs has drawn rave reviews during training camp but he has amassed just three tackles in parts of two seasons with the Vikings and Giants and thinking he can play at the level that Ryan Connelly displayed last season is wishful thinking at best.
In fact, Downs has yet to play a single defensive snap in either of his first two seasons despite suiting up for 20 career games.
As far as Week 1 goes, the NY Giants will have to choose between three inexperienced seventh-round draft picks to start at inside linebacker which is far from an ideal situation.
Downs appears to have the inside track on the starting job as of now as he is more adept at covering the pass than Crowder or Brunson who are best known for their ability to stop the run much like Blake Martinez.
Martinez and Connelly seemed to be a perfect fit on the surface as Connelly’s specialty is pass coverage while Martinez flourishes in the run game and racking up tackles.
Again, hopefully, Connelly isn’t claimed by another team and he makes his way back onto the NY Giants 53-man roster in short order, but I can’t imagine GM Dave Gettleman is too happy to see one of his best draft picks released heading into his second season.
Torn ACL’s used to be a death wish but these days the surgery is a fairly straight forward one that we see players bounce back to full strength from all the time.
We can only hope Ryan Connelly falls into that category and that the rest of the NFL is as foolish as the NY Giants have been during this situation by him going unclaimed.