Giants Poised to Make Biggest Jump from Rookie to Second-Year
As minicamp comes to a close, the New York Giants are already looking to a flock of incoming second years to play crucial roles in their campaign as defending Super Bowl champions.
Perhaps none more so than offensive tackle James Brewer.
A fourth-round selection in 2011, Brewer was an impact player at Indiana, where he received All-Big Ten honors and 16 career touchdown-resulting blocks. But as a member of Big Blue last season, he failed to see any action.
By opening night, however, Brewer may find himself in the position of starting right tackle.
Brewer heads a throng of Giants looking to improve on their rookie years. Check out five second-years we're eying to make the leap from nascent prospects to big-time players in 2012.
5. Marvin Austin, DT
A dominant interior force at North Carolina, Austin dropped past the first round of last year's draft due to improper conduct and alleged character issues.
The G-Men added him to the ranks of their perpetually-stacked D-line in the second round, and though he did not take the field as a rookie, he shows tremendous upside and could see some playing time this year in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's system.
Standing at 6'2", 312 pounds and tallying 38 combine bench press reps, Austin certainly has the size to make an impact at the pro level. But with Chris Canty and Linvall Joseph at the starting tackle spots, he figures to make less of a second-year jump than some of his teammates.
4. Jacquian Williams, LB
Williams became a Big Apple hero in last season's NFC Championship Game, where he propelled the Giants to the Super Bowl with a forced fumble on San Francisco wide receiver Kyle Williams.
This year, Williams could make a big impact. He notched 78 tackles in 2011, and excelled off the edge in run defense. However, the addition of outside 'backer Keith Rivers takes potential snaps away from Williams, with Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley locked in as starters.
Jacquian Williams will make his way onto the field in 2012, but not enough to make a big second-year jump.
3. Prince Amukamara, CB
The first selection of this 2011 Draft class, Amukamara was a lockdown corner at Nebraska, and appeared in seven regular-season games for Big Blue as a rookie after missing time with a foot injury.
Amukamara intercepted a Vince Young pass in his first professional series, but struggled down the stretch in New York's depleted secondary.
With the return of Corey Webster and a healthy Terrell Thomas, who missed all of 2011 with a torn ACL, Amukamara will be relegated to nickel duties yet again.
The nuances of playing nickelback (perhaps highlighted best by Philadelphia's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) will likely prevent 'Muk from making huge strides this year. However, another year of practice and a stronger supporting cast should net some improvement.
2. Henry Hynoski, FB
An undrafted free agent in 2011, Hynoski's late-season emergence allowed New York's previously-stagnant backfield to jump .7 yards per carry in the playoffs.
The former Pittsburgh Panther had lapses in blocking, but saw success as a receiver, winning over fans with his penchant for hurdling would-be tacklers.
Now slated as the full-time fullback for 2012, Hynoski will have plenty of time to work with New York's younger offensive line on blocking schemes while continuing to improve as a receiver.
1. James Brewer, OT
Competing with veteran Sean Locklear for the right tackle responsibilities, signs point to Brewer as the opening day starter.
After not playing in any games his rookie year, Brewer has the ability to turn around a serious problem spot left by former-Giant Kareem MacKenzie. The running game has nowhere to go but up, and Brewer has the size and strength to produce results on the outside.
Last season, New York ranked 26th in the league in rushing from behind the right tackle position. Brewer can make a serious impact as a second year.