New York Giants: Top 5 Players Who Really Need to Step Up in 2012
The New York Giants were nothing if not unlucky during the 2011 regular season.
Last season was like a three-act play.
Act 1 lasted 14 games and was wrought with injuries, inconsistent play and, at times, bonehead coaching.
Act 2 lasted two games and was marked by two scrappy wins that showed promise and fueled optimism for another great run a la 2008.
Act 3, well, we all know how that worked out.
The Giants opened the playoffs by shutting down the Atlanta Falcons' offense, handled Green Bay and the 49ers on the road, then, with relative ease, took care of the vaunted New England Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI.
But for their late-season good fortune to carry over into next year, they need several players to come back from off years and a handful of up-and-comers to bring their game to the next level.
So, onto the list.
Mario Manningham Wants to Return to NY and NY Wants Him to Return to Form
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If he stays with the Giants, Mario Manningham needs to step up in a big way.
Manningham was average at best during the regular season, taking a step backward from a solid 2010 season.
He caught 39 passes for 523 yards and four touchdowns, compared with 800-plus yards and nine touchdowns a year earlier.
While he won't be the go-to guy in 2012, there is no reason he can't eclipse 1,000 yards as the No. 3 receiver.
Only one of them had a Manning pulling the trigger. So, no reason Manningham can't join Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks in the 1,000-yard club with Eli slinging the ball around.
Justin Tuck's Return to Pro Bowl Form Is Key to a Giant Repeat
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Defensive end Justin Tuck must return to his Pro Bowl form in 2012 to bolster what is already a key strength for the Giants.
Tuck's season was marred by injuries to his toe, groin, neck and shoulder.
But he showed flashes of brilliance, reminding coaches of his 2008 and 2010 Pro Bowl seasons.
Tuck had minor surgery on his shoulder after Super Bowl XLVI; beyond that he is expected to be healthy going into next year.
Tuck tweeted recently about the surgery, claiming he would be "more than ready to defend the title."
A return to form—and double-digit sacks—are a must for the Giants to return to the big game.
Terrell Thomas Must Step in and Step Up as If Nothing Has Changed Since 2010
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You can't blame Terrell Thomas for being a non-factor in 2011.
But if that happens in 2012, it's all on him.
Thomas tore his ACL in the 2011 preseason and missed the entire year after leading the Giants' secondary a year earlier with 81 tackles, five interceptions and two fumbles recovered.
The Giants need Thomas to step in immediately and become that same force again.
No time for a re-learning curve, not when the rest of the NFC is fighting to improve and catch up with the Giants this offseason.
Thomas must be as good, if not better, for the Giants to have a chance at repeating.
Giants Need the Pre-Big-Contract Ahmad Bradshaw to Show Up in 2012
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After a breakout year in 2010 in which he gained over 1,200 yards—and an offseason in which he signed a $16 million contract—Ahmad Bradshaw disappeared in 2011.
It would be an understatement to say the Giants made it to the Super Bowl in spite of him, not because of him.
That cannot happen again.
Bradshaw, like his running mate Brandon Jacobs (if he returns), needs to regain his form if New York is to be a force in the playoffs again.
He struggled in short yardage in 2011 and saw his yards per carry slip below 4.0 for the first time in his career. He needs to get that pre-contract edge back and fight for those yards after the catch.
If Bradshaw gains over 1,200 yards again, the Giants should be just about unstoppable.
Jonathan Goff's Return Will Give the Giants Much-Needed Depth at Linebacker
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The Giants are depending on middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, who missed the 2011 season with a torn ACL, to rejoin the team next year.
Goff is expected to help bolster a linebacking corps that for the last several years has had to take a back seat to the defensive line when it comes to Pro Bowl numbers and headline-grabbing sacks.
Coming off a promising 2010 season in which he had 52 tackles, Goff was expected to be a force in 2011.
But it never materialized, after Goff tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a preseason practice.
A healthy Goff will give the Giants some depth at linebacker and allow defensive coordinator Perry Fewell some wiggle room in his game plan.