The New York Giants won their second Super Bowl in four years this past season. As would be the case for any team, it is fair to assume their hope for a repeat is high atop their priority list for the upcoming NFL season.
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck confirmed that assumption at the team’s Super Bowl ring ceremony, stating how the world champions would, of course, like to make it a dynasty.
For that to happen, Tuck and his teammates would have to acquire their third Lombardi Trophy in six seasons—not an easy accomplishment by any means.
Of course, the team’s aspirations will weigh heavily on the shoulders of Tuck, Eli Manning, Pro Bowl cornerback Corey Webster and the dynamic duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. But—as with any team—it will be the “unsung heroes” who lift the Giants to monumental heights in a manner often overlooked despite its outstanding impact.
Here is a look at five players who could fill the role as under-appreciated yet valuable commodities while helping to cement a Giants dynasty in the NFL.
The one-time substitute math teacher Chase Blackburn emerged as a late-season hero at the middle linebacker position en route to the New York Giants’ Super Bowl triumph over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
This season, though admired by Giants fans for his overachieving performance in 2011, Blackburn’s expectations are no higher than they have ever been.
Blackburn will, however, be the Giants starting middle linebacker heading into the season. If his play last season is an indication of anything, it is that Blackburn has the ability to be a integral piece of the Giants success when he is on the field.
In the NFL, the quality of an offense can often be gauged by the effectiveness of the offensive line. In 2011, the Giants had a terrible offensive line but managed to excel despite it.
Much of the offensive line’s dismal play came due to the loss of left tackle Will Beatty, who missed the final six games of the regular season and the playoffs due to an eye injury suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Entering his fourth season, Beatty has much to prove as the Giants left tackle. Prior to his injury, his play was not up to par and the Giants rushing attack suffered for it.
After finishing dead-last in the NFL last season, the Giants' success in the run game, protection of Eli Manning and in the win column relies heavily on what quality of play they receive from Beatty.
Few fans pay any mind to their punters and their seemingly miniscule contributions to their team. After the debacle that was “The Miracle at the New Meadowlands” in 2010, however, Giants fans could not be any more thankful for veteran Steve Weatherford last season.
Weatherford was near-perfect in punting situations for the Giants over the course of the regular season. His performance in the postseason was even more impressive.
Whether it was catching a low-and-inside snap, getting it down in time and watching it fly through the uprights of the foot of Lawrence Tynes, or placing three of his four punts within the Patriots’ 10-yard line, Weatherford was one of the Giants’ most valuable players.
He is a quality player, an even better person and a prime candidate to be a vastly overlooked contributor in a hopeful run to being a part of the NFL’s first dynasty since the New England Patriots of the early 2000s.
For a team that was once lauded for its longstanding offensive line unit, the New York Giants have gone through quite a few changes these past two seasons. The departure of veteran right tackle Kareem McKenzie makes three longtime Giants offensive linemen let go in the past two seasons, joining Rich Seubert and Shaun O’Hara.
Much like Will Beatty, Locklear should have high expectations heading into the season. The Giants do not wish to boast such a poor rushing attack as they did in 2011 and, though he has not always been the most renowned run blocker, Locklear will be expected to help open up some holes for Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson in the running game.
If he can contribute as a serviceable run blocker from the right tackle position, his addition to the Giants should give a much-needed boost in their run for a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
Henry Hynoski is a beast on the gridiron so it is only fitting that his nickname would be “The Hynocerous.”
The undrafted fullback proved to be another overlooked, valuable commodity this past season as he contributed in every phase of the game for the Giants offense.
He tallied nine catches for 65 yards in the final six regular season games and played especially well in both of the Giants’ key victories over the Dallas Cowboys.
Hynoski’s best game came in Super Bowl XLVI against the New England Patriots, though, where he smashed through defenders on two receptions and opened up holes all evening for Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs.
Hynoski’s presence was missed early in the season and will bring a very evident boost to the Giants' ground game in 2012. Playing fullback, Hynoski may not gain a lot of notice on most Sundays, but he will be a vital key to the Giants success as they battle for their second consecutive Lombardi Trophy and the respected title of “dynasty.”
Louis Musto is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.