New York Giants: Replacing Ryan Connelly After Strange Cut Decision

New York Giants, David Mayo

The New York Giants made their cuts to reach their 53 man roster recently, and Ryan Connelly isn’t on the list of players being kept. It’s kind of a strange decision, because Connelly was expected to compete for a starting spot next to Blake Martinez. And last season before his injury, it looked like Connelly was going to be a top defensive name on the team in his rookie year.

However, all that went up in smoke when the Giants made their cuts and decided Connelly wasn’t good enough. Perhaps it’s because of taking too long to bounce back from the injury properly, but it seems quick for the Giants to give up on a promising player like this. Especially when David Mayo’s injury brings uncertainty to the position.

Who exactly will fill the role that Connelly may have had if his recovery was successful?

Last year’s option, David Mayo

It looks like the Giants are going to rely on one of the players that manned the position last season, David Mayo.

But things are a bit more complicated because Mayo is out with a knee injury right now. That’s one of the reasons it’s so surprising the Giants moved on from Connelly very quickly. Mayo, however, may have gotten lucky with the injury and could make a quick return rather than miss a long period of the season.

Mayo isn’t exactly a bad option, and while he doesn’t look like a player with the breakout potential Connelly showed, he did have 82 tackles last season and isn’t going to actively hurt the Giants at linebacker.

The other option, however, is less certain.

The newcomer, Devante Downs

There’s some talk that Devante Downs was one of the players in direct competition with Connelly, and that the Giants must favor Downs if they cut his rival.

That may be the case, but it’s hard to put too much stock into Devante Downs just yet. Likely, the team isn’t thinking of him as the main option either. Maybe a stopgap before Mayo is back, but not a primary option after that.

That’s not because Downs is a bad player, but because he’s simply inexperienced. He only has 3 total tackles in the NFL. With no track record like this, it’s kind of asking a lot to throw a player like Downs right into the middle of things.

If he’s performing well in camp, Downs should get some kind of shot. But it’s a safer bet to give him time in the rotation first and let him gain some experience while others do the heavy lifting as starters.

With that being said, it’s not uncommon for linebackers to substitute often, so we might see Downs get a decent share of time on the field.

The New York Giants have one linebacker pushing Ryan Connelly for starting job

New York Giants, Devante Downs

The New York Giants signed David Mayo do a three-year extension this off-season, with the goal that he could push Ryan Connelly for a starting job on defense. However, another low-key player has quietly made an impact during practice.

With the Giants enjoying their first week of padded practices, getting a more in-depth look at some of their younger, unproven players, has opened some eyes to potential roster changes.

Head coach Joe Judge made sure to enter the training camp portion of the off-season with a focus on competition. He stated that every player had to earn their spot on the roster, specifically starters. That gave players like Devante Downs, formally a seventh-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, the confidence to compete for starting reps.

Downs, who barely played in his first two years in the NFL, featured primarily on special teams. He recorded 28% of the reps for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 and 26% for the Giants last year after being claimed in October.

The special-teams unit can often be the gateway to starting teams, and Downs has shown an elevation in efficiency in production during practice so far.

New York Giants’ Judge has been impressed by Downs:

“He has good movement skills. I like the way he works,” Judge said of Downs this week. “He’s starting to communicate a lot better with his command in the system and really understanding. That just comes with time. That’s every player in our system. Everyone gets more comfortable and communicates better. But he’s a guy that comes in, you can see his eyes in meetings, he’s very engaged and focused on you when you’re talking.

“Whether you’re talking directly to him or somebody else, he’s taking the same coaching point. He comes on the field every day, ‘Yes sir,’ ‘no sir,’ goes to work, does whatever you ask him to do to the best of his ability. I’m enjoying working with him a whole lot.”

Ultimately, if Downs can even sneak his way into sub-packages on defense, that will be a huge victory for the former seventh-rounder. He has a long way to go before he can be a starter, but with Ryan Connelly coming back from torn ACL, he has a better opportunity than most. Of course, he will have to beat out Mayo, who started in 13 games last year, racking up 82 combine tackles, five tackles for a loss, and two sacks.

An increase in maturity and dedication has seemed to treat Downs well, with Judge noticing him through the first week of practice.