Super Bowl 2012: Giants' Undrafted Warriors Will Affect the Game
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Some of those players have very successful careers, and all of them are probably told the stories of Warren Moon and John Randle, both of whom were overlooked on draft day.
The battle of undrafted players in the Super Bowl this year—the one the media loves—is Wes Welker vs. Victor Cruz. Rightfully so, Welker led the NFL in receptions (122) and was second in yards (1,569.)
And Cruz, playing what was essentially his rookie season after he spent the bulk of last year on IR, was ninth in receptions (82) and third in yards (1,536.)
But Cruz is not the lone undrafted Giant who will have a huge impact in the Super Bowl this weekend.
DJ Ware, Undrafted Free Agent Running Back
DJ Ware carries the ball against the Atlanta Falcons.
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At times when a Giants' fan sees DJ Ware in the backfield, they wonder why Kevin Gilbride is not using speedster rookie Da'Rel Scott (five carries, one fumble).
It could be the one fumble, it could be the Giants' traditional hesitancy for playing rookies—particularly in skilled positions on the offensive side of the ball.
Whatever the reason, Ware has improved through the season—particularly in pass-blocking—and has shown himself to be trustworthy with the ball in his hands.
And remember, it is unfair to blame Ware for the third down shut-gun draws that are called. In fact, those are Eli Manning checks for the most part.
I agree with fans who would rather see Scott—better yet—Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs. Until any of us are called in to replace Kevin Gilbride though, we must admit that Ware will have a role in this Super Bowl.
If he continues to do what he has done throughout the regular season, his net affect on the game will be a positive one. He average 3.5 yards per carry and caught the ball 27 times for 170 yards.
Again, zero fumbles.
Henry Hynoski Brings Toughness Back to the FB Position
Henry "Hops?" Hynoski
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Anytime a rookie misses games during the season, it will slow his learning curve. Henry Hynoski is no different.
Giants' fans were disappointed early on in the season when the running game was struggling, and Hynoski took his fair share of criticism for the poor performances.
As the season went on, and since coming back from his injury, fans and analysts alike have nothing but positive things to say about this young fullback.
The Giants will need to run to keep the ball away from Tom Brady this Sunday. The timing could not be better for the backfield. Jacobs, Bradshaw and Hynoski are coming into this game as healthy as the unit has been since...maybe ever. Their combined health has made the Giants running game scarier and scarier for each opponent.
Hynoski has greatly improved as a blocker as he has adjusted to the speed of the NFL. What many people fail to realize is that he was a third down back in college.
He caught the ball only 12 times this season, nine of them coming in the last six games with three of them against Dallas in the final game of the year.
As a draft prospect, Hynoski was rated the best lead blocker, being compared to Lorenzo Neal. If teams were apt to draft FBs in the current NFL, he would have been drafted—luckily for the Giants, he was not.
Substitute Math Teacher; Chase Blackburn.
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What can be said about cancer survivor Mark Herzlich that hasn't already been said? The pure determination and drive he has to play football is beyond inspirational.
He and fellow undrafted rookie linebacker, Spencer Paysinger, will be instrumental to the Giants' success on special teams this Sunday. They may also split about 10 or so reps at LB.
And do not underestimate the importance that Tom Quinn's special teams units will play in this game. Just ask Kyle Williams.
The real story, though, is Chase Blackburn, a veteran and special teams specialist for many years with the Giants. He was released before the season started, being told the team wanted to go in a youthful direction at the LB position.
Since that phone call, the Giant's defense has been different unit. A much better unit.
Blackburn is a highly intelligent linebacker with experience at all LB positions. He's able to make the calls much better than the younger players on the team.
At the time he was signed, it looked to most analysts like the Giants were tossing a bucket of water into the ocean—that there would be gain or improvement to the defense.
Everyone was wrong.
Blackburn, for his limited time, has to be considered one of the main reasons the Giants are in the Super Bowl.
This Sunday it will not be what he does on the field so much as what he calls, where he lines his teammates up and what mistakes he doesn't make that the rookies may have in his position.
Cruz shows moves beyond Salsa dancing.
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Another year like this year and Victor Cruz will be talked about as one of the best receivers in the league, and he will be in the talk for one of the greatest non-drafted free agents in the league's modern era.
He does not come in at No. 1 on this list for two reasons: Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.
Cruz is quickly becoming one of the best slot receivers in the league, in part due to the offense he finds himself in and the quarterback who loves throwing option routes.
Cruz has become a quick study, and after correcting some drops earlier in the season, he looks every part of the No. 1 receiver that many feel he would be on 90 percent of the teams in the league.
The Giants are different though, the slot will usually see the most passes and always be considered the No. 2 receivers.
Semantics. That's all it is. Cruz and Nicks are as powerful of a one-two punch at receiver as the Giants have ever had.
During the Super Bowl, Cruz may turn any catch into a touchdown. He's not the fastest, strongest or shiftiest receiver—what he is is a gamer.
He has a nose for big plays and he will show up Sunday in a big way, no matter what the Patriots do to stop him. He will sneak up and make plays.
You will hear; "Cruuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzz," at least three times this week. He's even an outside contender for MVP, should the Giants win.
The All Leg Squad
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It is not unusual for kickers to go undrafted and have very successful NFL careers. Both Lawrence Tynes and Steve Weatherford went undrafted and they will handle every single kick the Giants have on Super Bowl Sunday.
This game could be a very high-scoring affair. Each defense spent the season wavering between pretty bad and horrible.
As of late those sentiments have changed—the Patriots and Giants have improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball, which means the special teams will play an even bigger role.
Field position could be huge, and since the red-zone defense of the Patriots has been so dynamic, field goals will be hugely important.
Cruz, Blackburn, DJ Ware and Hynoski all have back ups, Tynes and Weatherford do not.
Tynes has had some trouble with blocked kicks this season—the Giants' offense needs to get in close, but he has proven that in the clutch he can make it happen.
In the NFC championship game he kicked the Giants to victory on a 31-yard field goal. It may seem like a chip shot, but not in the clutch. Billy Cundiff will tell you how difficult of a kick that can be, except Cundiff had a clean field—Tynes has a sloppy San Francisco turf.
Weatherford is exactly the type of punter Tom Coughlin longed for after Jeff Feagles' retirement. His placement has been great all season long, and even though he has a great leg, he is best at picking a spot, hanging the ball in the air and allowing the gunners to get down field.
Also, he isn't Matt Dodge.