2012 NFC East Way-Too-Early Awards: New York Giants
You know how it is, New York Giants fans. You went through it five years ago.
You win the Super Bowl and you feel really, super-duper great and you celebrate for a few joyous weeks.
And then you lose a small- to medium-sized group of key players because you're up against the cap and free agents from Super Bowl-winning teams are grossly overvalued.
Then there's the draft. You get the last pick. Enjoy.
After that you fall under the largest microscope in the world of sports. You hear a thousand reasons why your team won't be able to repeat, and about seven why you will.
Finally, you take the field again in a usually fruitless attempt to defend your title while trying to rip the proverbial targets from your backs.
Right now, we're in that microscope stage. I won't predict whether the G-men will repeat, but I will reveal my expectations for six individual Giants by handing out half a dozen peculiarly-named, wildly premature awards.
The Al Pacino Award (Offensive MVP): Eli Manning
Confidence is such an important ingredient in elite quarterbacks, and it's strange that it took this long, but you could see Manning gain fortitude as he led the Giants to the Super Bowl in January and February. And since winning Lombardi for the second time in five years, Manning finally began to carry himself like the superstar he is.
I've seen a change in him. I saw it to a lesser degree when the G-men won in 2007. He wasn't elite then, but he started the following season stronger than ever and finished with the best numbers of his career to that point.
I expect Manning to get a similar boost from this championship. Don't be surprised if 2012 is a career year.
The L.T. Award (Defensive MVP): Jason Pierre-Paul
Not only did Pierre-Paul register a ridiculous 16.5 sacks in 2011, but the 23-year-old defined athleticism and versatility with his efforts against the run.
He absolutely benefits from the pass rush he was drafted into, but you still have to make the plays, and JPP has the finishing ability to challenge for the league's defensive player of the year award until about 2025.
Oh, and that single-season sack record that is somehow still living on Michael Strahan's résumé? This man now leads my list of potential record breakers.
The Emmy Rossum Award (Offensive Rookie of the Year): Rueben Randle
If you aren't watching Rossum's championship-worthy debut on Showtime's Shameless, you're missing out on television gold.
There's a lot to like about the potential in the Giants' offensive draft class. Adrien Robinson is supposed to be—say it with me now—the Jason Pierre-Paul of tight ends, and first-round pick David Wilson has the speed and skill to push Ahmad Bradshaw for carries. But it's Randle who is getting rave early reviews, and there just so happens to be an open No. 3 receiver spot on the depth chart.
The 6'3", 210-pound wideout from LSU is NFL ready and the Giants apparently are in love with him.
Look for Wilson and Randle both to make early impacts.
The Robert Downey, Jr. Award (Defensive Rookie of the Year): Jayron Hosley
With German seventh-round pick Markus Kuhn likely to be buried on the depth chart up front, Hosley is the only defensive player in this draft class that has a chance to make his presence known early.
He slid in the draft due to injury concerns and a failed drug test, but if he can get past those potential downfalls, he'll compete to get a lot of nickel and dime reps. With Aaron Ross gone and Terrell Thomas not certain to stay healthy, there's definitely an opportunity.
It'll be interesting to see if Hosley can make life a little more difficult for last year's first-rounder, Prince Amukamara.
The Steve Buscemi Award (Most Improved Player): Mitch Petrus
Because there's a chance to steal a starting spot at guard, but also because Petrus is a beast. Dude tied the scouting combine bench press record and appears to be pushing even harder as a pro.
The 2010 fifth-round pick has always impressed in practice and camp, but now he might finally have an opportunity to shine on the field in his third season.
The Derek Brown Award (Most Disappointing Player): Will Beatty
I know Beatty's already been somewhat of a disappointment, but there's a belief that injuries are the reason he has yet to emerge as a formidable left tackle.
And sure, injuries have definitely been part of the reason Beatty hasn't delivered early in his Giants career, even when he has been on the field he's lacked consistency and hasn't produced as a starting-caliber blindside protector.
It's a put-up-or-shut-up year for the fourth-year tackle who has missed as many games as he's played the last two years. I don't have a lot of confidence that he'll put up.