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2012 Team Report: New York Giants

Quarterbacks

Starter: Eli Manning
Backup(s): David Carr, Ryan Perrilloux

Starting QB: It seems like a long time ago when NFL pundits questioned whether Eli Manning deserved to be considered an elite quarterback in spite of his postseason success. After all, he had led the league in interceptions twice in four seasons (including 2010) and played in a balanced offense that kept his passing attempts per game toward the middle of the pack. Yet, after last season, there can be no more debate - Eli Manning is among the NFL's best. It started with a regular season that saw record completions (359), yards (4,933) and yards per attempt (8.4) on way to an astounding seven fourth-quarter comebacks. As if that weren't enough to dispel the doubts, Manning then helped his team to a second Super Bowl title in five seasons. Now 31 years old, Manning is one of the safest bets at the position given his experience (119 starts, a pair of Super Bowl victories, 69 regular-season wins) as well as arguably the best wide receiver tandem of his career (Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz). Head coach Tom Coughlin would prefer that Manning not have to throw close to 600 times, but remember that even if his attempts regress a bit, Manning has delivered three consecutive 4,000-yard, 27+ TD seasons.

Backup QB: David Carr was the first overall pick two seasons before Eli Manning, but his career hasn't turned out the same way. Carr has, however, found a comfort zone as Manning's backup after his time in Houston and Carolina and returns for his fourth season as the Giants' No. 2 (he jumped to the 49ers for a season in between his New York stints). Carr has always been an accurate, coachable passer with command of the huddle - and hopefully is far enough away from his years as a tackling dummy in Houston that he can avoid the happy feet that ruined his chances as a full-time starter. Third-stringer Ryan Perrilloux is practice squad fodder and could be unseated depending on the availability of other backups.

Running Backs

Starter: Ahmad Bradshaw
Backup(s): David Wilson [R], Da'Rel Scott, Andre Brown
Fullback(s): Henry Hynoski

Starting RB: Is Ahmad Bradshaw big enough to handle a full NFL workload? That question has plagued the 26-year old tailback for each of his first five seasons and is front and center this year as his long-time running mate, Brandon Jacobs, has moved on to new surroundings. Bradshaw was very much a part-time player in each of his first three seasons, but earned the lead role in 2010 - and delivered to the tune of 1,235 yards rushing, 47 receptions, 314 yards receiving and eight TDs. His 2010 heroics earned Bradshaw an $18 million contract including $9 million in guarantees, but things didn't go according to plan last year. Injuries, particularly with his chronically pained feet, limited Bradshaw to nine starts, 171 carries, 659 yards, and a meager 3.9 yards per rush. Fortunately, Bradshaw played well in the playoffs including a 91-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Super Bowl. This season, with Jacobs out of the picture, GM Jerry Reese has insisted Bradshaw will be the lead dog, but it's important to monitor his health - as he had bone marrow injections into his feet in April which speaks to the potential chronic nature of his injuries.

Backup RBs: With Brandon Jacobs leaving for San Francisco and Ahmad Bradshaw oft injured, the Giants needed to upgrade the backup running back corps; which is why they used their first-round choice on Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. The 5'10", 206-pound dynamo was a home run hitter in college and should find an immediate role in the running back rotation. Whether Wilson eventually pushes for a true time share (or the outright starting job) will depend on his ability to protect the ball and to develop into a weapon in the passing game - two areas that were called into question by college scouts. So far Wilson has done well, and could be a bigger factor as a rookie than many expected. Danny "D.J." Ware was released after a disappointing preseason, leaving Andre Brown and Da'Rel Scott competing for the final roster spot.

Fullback: Henry Hynoski was a feel good story, making the team as an undrafted free agent and earning the starting job. He's a human battering ram and thrives on sacrificing his body to open holes for his backfield mates, but he's not much of an offensive threat in his own right. Hynoski only played a fraction of the team's snaps last year, as the Giants evolved into more of a spread passing attack.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz
Backups: Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle [R]

Starting WRs: Hakeem Nicks has lived up to lofty expectations and cemented himself as one of the better all-around receivers in the NFC. Over the last two seasons, Nicks has averaged 78 receptions for 1,122 yards and nine TDs and yet there's every reason to think he's capable of more. Nicks has no real flaws, as he runs precise routes, has strong hands, and attacks the ball regardless of the coverage. Most teams would love to build around a 24-year old star pass catcher like Nicks. Nicks suffered a broken foot in the preseason, but returned to the active roster several weeks earlier than expected -- he should be fine for the start of the season. The Giants knew they has something special in Nicks entering last year's Super Bowl season, but they could never have imagined that Victor Cruz would be even better. Cruz, a former undrafted free agent, was almost cut in training camp, but he made the team and got an opportunity to play in the slot - punctuating his emergence with a 110-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Eagles in Week 3. By the end of the season, Cruz finished with 82 receptions (ninth in the NFL), 1,536 yards (third), and nine touchdowns (sixth) - and was basically unstoppable over the second half of the season. While it's no sure bet that Cruz will best Hakeem Nicks again in 2012, last year was far too dominant to consider Cruz a fluke.

Backup WRs: The Giants starting tandem is set for years to come, but the backup situation is far less defined. Mario Manningham left for the 49ers, and the projected backups had a combined 13 receptions last year. Domenik Hixon is the savvy veteran, but he is largely a special teams contributor and locker room asset at this point in his career. Jerrel Jernigan didn't register a catch in his rookie season, but GM Jerry Reese believes he can earn the slot role this year with a successful camp. Jernigan is on the smaller side (5'9", 185 pounds) and played for a small school (Troy), so the deck is stacked against him in a battle with rookie Rueben Randle - who flashed moments of dominance at SEC powerhouse LSU. Randle is 6'3" and 210 pounds and should be able to use his strength to help immediately in multiple-WR sets and red zone situations.

Tight Ends

Starters: Bear Pascoe
Backups: Martellus Bennett, Travis Beckum, Adrien Robinson [R]

The Giants may have won the Super Bowl, but it didn't come without a price. Both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum suffered torn ACLs during the big game, which leaves the Giants undermanned entering the 2012 season. Not wanting to count on Beckum (who will start the season on the PUP list), the Giants hedged their bets with a free agent addition (Martellus Bennett) and a draft pick (Adrien Robinson). Yet, it's Bear Pascoe -- the guy already on the roster -- that has opened eyes this preseason. Pascoe is a huge target who won't make many plays in space, but can be a reliable target for Manning, particularly in tight quarters and near the goal line. Bennett has enough talent to become an NFL starter, but he's by no means a proven commodity after contributing very little as Jason Witten's backup in Dallas. Robinson is an intriguing long-term option but profiles as more of an H-back than an in-line tight end. Bear Pascoe, who has seen time at fullback and tight end, will see action in two-TE sets but isn't a dynamic offensive threat, with just 22 receptions in three seasons.

Place Kicker

Lawrence Tynes : The Giants placed the franchise tag on Super Bowl MVP punter Steve Weatherford and then shortly thereafter signed him to a long-term deal. He'll continue to serve as the holder between kicker Lawrence Tynes and long snapper Zac DeOssie. Tynes is coming off a year in which his numbers were a hair below his career averages. He was 19 of 24 (79.2%) on field goals and added 43 extra points. The Giants ranked 24th in kicker scoring opportunities each of the last two years after having been in the Top 5 the two previous years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Da'Rel Scott, Jerrel Jernigan, David Wilson [R]

The departure of wide receiver Devin Thomas results in Da'Rel Scott moving up the depth chart to become the lead kick returner at least for the time being. However, the team drafted Jerrel Jernigan last year to try to improve their return game, and he is expected to compete for kickoff returns this year. Rookie running back David Wilson could also work his way into kick return duties. Wilson has 4.4 speed in the 40 yard dash and shows good vision in the return game.

Punt Returners: Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Jayron Hosley

Wide receiver Domenik Hixon is the incumbent punt returner after returning from last season's torn ACL. Jernigan and cornerback Jayron Hosley will also compete for action.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Will Beatty, RG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT LG David Diehl
Key Backups: T Sean Locklear, C Jim Cordle, T James Brewer, T Brandon Mosley [R] (inj)

UPDATE: Good news/bad news situation for the Giants. The good news: with the move of David Diehl to right tackle and veteran Kevin Boothe at left guard, the starting five for the Giants is trending upward. Bad news: injury prone left tackle Will Beatty is struggling with back issues and should he not be ready, Sean Locklear would start the season in his place. Either way, the unit is improved from last season and currently grade out as the 12th best offensive line in the league. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Left tackle Will Beatty is an athletic pass protector who ended a promising 2011 campaign on the injured reserve due to a detached retina. Beatty is healthy again and looks to do a good job on the left side for the Super Bowl champions. Left guard David Diehl will slide back to his natural position, where he has played at an All-Pro level in 2008. Center David Baas is a steady contributor and really made the line better when he arrived before last season in free agency. Right guard Chris Snee is an underrated stud and one of the players who receives a Pro Bowl backup grade despite not actually receiving the honor. As the team is moving on from Kareem McKenzie at right tackle, there will be an open competition between James Brewer and fourth-round pick Brandon Mosley out of Auburn. Neither of these players have any real experience under their belt, but the early projection is that Brewer wins the starting job. Look for the athletic Mosley to challenge Brewer in preseason, and the loser of this battle will likely still contribute as a swing tackle. Because of the uncertainty at the tackle positions, the Giants cohesion score isn't great. This line will need to learn to play together, and they will do so under the tutelage of line coach Pat Flaherty. Flaherty is one of these grizzled coaches who have made a long career making chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what. There are no elite first-round picks on this line, and at times last year it showed. Few realize how much pressure Eli Manning was really under during the bulk of his Super Bowl run. Still, this Giants line should be better than last season, especially in pass protection.

Team Defense

Jason Pierre-Paul had a breakout year, and with Justin Tuck returning healthy, the defensive line looks awfully good this year. Don't expect a repeat of 17 sacks by Pierre-Paul, but he will be in the quarterback's face as often as possible. The secondary is a tad unsettled, but only because they're deep at the position which is a nice problem to have. Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas (returning from injury), and Prince Amukamara are all solid cornerbacks, while Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle had great 2011 seasons at safety. The biggest issue on this squad is health as last year the secondary was racked with injuries. A second concern is the linebacker position. Maybe it was because Pierre-Paul was compiling so many sacks, maybe it was because the Giants tend to utilize their ends not their linebackers in pass rush. Whatever the cause, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jacquian Williams and Michael Boley will all be looking to add more pressure to opposing quarterbacks this coming season.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Justin Tuck, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Chris Canty, DT Linval Joseph
Backups: DE Osi Umenyiora, DE Justin Trattou, DE Craig Marshall, DT Marvin Austin, DT Shaun Rogers [IR], DT Markus Kuhn

Starting DL: The Giants have assembled one of the most formidable defensive lines to come along in recent memory. Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and company were a major reason for the Giants Super Bowl run last year. In only his second season, Pierre-Paul established himself as perhaps the best all-around defensive end in the league. Justin Tuck struggled through a debilitating neck injury last season but should return to DL1 status now that he's fully healthy. The Giants managed to sign Umenyiora to a one year contract extension which should keep him happy and motivated for the time being. Linval Joseph graded out as a Top 5 interior lineman against the run and should only get better as he gains more experience. In his second full season in blue, Chris Canty recorded the best stats of his career with four sacks, a safety, a batted-down pass, and 47 tackles. Look for the Giants defensive line to once again to be near the top of the league in almost every category.

Backup DL: Both Chris Canty and Linval Joseph had off-season cleanup surgery while rookie Marvin Austin missed all of 2011 with a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the team's preseason opener. Austin, who was suspended for his final season at North Carolina, is now two years removed from his last game played. The Giants were obviously concerned about the overall health of this group heading in to this season, which led them to bring in 33-year old veteran defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and at one point during the offseason were strongly considering Albert Haynesworth.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Chase Blackburn, MLB Michael Boley, OLB Mathias Kiwanuka
Backups: OLB Keith Rivers, MLB Greg Jones, MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Clint Sintim, OLB Spencer Paysinger, OLB Jacquian Williams, OLB Adrian Tracy

Starting LBs: There were some indications that Michael Boley may be moved to middle linebacker this season; however defensive coordinator Perry Fewell recently stated that Boley will be staying on the weak side. Boley benefited last season from being the lone linebacker in many of the Giants subpackages. Mathias Kiwanuka will man the strong side linebacker position in running situations and slide down to end on third downs. The Giants have a plethora of options at MLB (albeit not fantastic choices). Incumbent Chase Blackburn will begin training camp as the starter in the middle, but he will receive competition for the job from Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich, and possibly Keith Rivers. Rivers is the most talented of the group but projects more as a weak side linebacker. Regardless of who ends up with the starting job, they likely aren't worth a roster spot in most fantasy leagues.

Backup LBs: New York has several run-of-the-mill talents rounding out the edges of the starting linebacker unit. Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich, Clint Sintim, Keith Rivers, and Jacquian Williams all have the potential to see a decent amount of snaps this season but won't be much of a factor in fantasy leagues.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Corey Webster,CB Prince Amukamara, SS Kenny Phillips, FS Antrel Rolle
Backups: CB Terrell Thomas (inj), CB Jayron Hosley, CB Antwaun Molden, CB Michael Coe, CB Justin Tryon, CB Brandon Bing, S Tyler Sash, S Stevie Brown, S Chris Horton, S Will Hill

Starting DBs: The Giants secondary was hit hard with injuries in 2011 losing both Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara to injuries very early in the season. Amukamara did return halfway through the season and made as much progress as could be expected in the 11 games he played. Aaron Ross graded out as one of the poorest all-around cornerbacks last season and was consequently not re-signed by the team. Safety Antrel Rolle's versatility in coverage proved to be quite useful for the Giants as he was relied upon to play cornerback in obvious passing situations. An aggravation to his surgically-repaired ACL will keep Terrell Thomas sidelined for the first few regular season games. 2nd year cornerback Prince Amukamara will take Thomas' spot for as long as he's out. Fourth-year starter Kenny Phillips continues to be a solid presence at strong safety for the Giants and is a steady, but not spectacular, DB3 option in balanced IDP leagues.

Backup DBs: Due to the injury to Terrell Thomas, Prince Amukamara will enter the regular season as the starting CB for the Giants. However, he will likely head back to a nickel cornerback role once Thomas is healthy enough to return. Jayron Hosley was a day two selection in this year's draft and will see time in the team's dime packages. Antwaun Molden was brought in from New England and will serve as depth. Tyler Sash is one of the team's better special teams players and will likely be to first to see game action if Rolle or Phillips goes down with an injury.

Last modified: 2012-09-02 20:20:10

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