In order to repeat as NFL champions, the New York Giants will have to have a host of players step into roles they didn't have last season. So far the Giants have lost Brandon Jacobs, Aaron Ross, Mario Manningham and (for now) Deon Grant off the roster from last year.
But which new players will make the most of those opportunities? They weren't that active in free agency—their biggest acquisition was Martellus Bennett from the Dallas Cowboys—but they added some rookies who could make a huge difference in 2012.
Here are six new acquisitions that could help the Giants repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2012.
Though Shaun Rogers is a shadow of his former self, which was one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the business before age and injuries slowed him down, he should be able to help the Giants defense.
The Giants were questionable against the run in 2011, ranking 23rd at 4.5 yards per carry allowed. Adding a run-stuffer like Rogers who can play first and second downs in a reserve role might help improve in that area. At 33, no one is expecting Rogers to start or even play a majority of the snaps, but the Giants love to rotate that defensive line.
Rogers would also be a huge addition to the goal-line defense, playing over the center like he's used to.
The New York Giants got Jayron Hosley in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, but they may have gotten second- or even first-round talent with his acquisition. He had some off-the-field issues, but in terms of talent the Giants could have gotten quite the steal.
Multiple reports coming out of the mandatory minicamp in mid-June had Hosley playing very well against the Giants top receivers (h/t Giants.com).
He could see time as the nickel corner—he and Prince Amukamara will battle it out for that spot in training camp.
With Ahmad Bradshaw being slowed by foot injuries since the 2009 season, the Giants have lacked a real home run threat. At least one that puts the fear in the opposing defensive coordinator's eyes each and every week.
David Wilson could be that guy for the Giants, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride says he is incredibly explosive. Via Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com:
"I don’t know if we’ve had a guy as explosive, regardless of position, here," said Gilbride. "That’s kind of exciting to see."
With Bradshaw having missed four games last year, Wilson could be called upon to carry the load for a game here and there. The Giants seem confident he can hold the torch should that happen.
Though the Giants do not use the tight end like some of the top teams in the league, it's not hard to see where Martellus Bennett fits in to the Giants offense. The Giants like their tight ends to be able to block and be a receiver second, but that's not to say Eli doesn't need a security blanket.
Jake Ballard played this role beautifully last season, but Bennett is an upgrade from a blocking and athletic standpoint. Bennett's numbers may not be overwhelming, but he'll contribute in a way that won't be seen in the box score.
Hopefully his addition will allow for an improvement in the rushing game, which clearly suffered last season.
The New York Giants traded their 2012 fifth-round pick for Keith Rivers, a former No. 9 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Why was he available for so little? Both because of injuries and the fact that the Cincinnati Bengals viewed him as expendable.
Rivers is eager to prove he is a steal, but where do the Giants put him? They already have Michael Boley playing the weak side and a combination of Mathias Kiwanuka and Jacquian Williams playing the strong side.
The only place he would seem to fit is the middle. Chase Blackburn is manning that spot, but don't be surprised to see Rivers take over at some point. Blackburn is a leader and knows the playbook, but Rivers' talent is on another level and he won't ride the bench long.
Rivers is just ready to do whatever the team asks of him, according to Kevin Patra from NFL.com:
"Hopefully I can come in there and contribute and do whatever they need me to do, whatever position at linebacker they need me to be," he said. "I've been working really hard this offseason to get out there and make the plays I need to on the field and stay healthy."
It could be a linebacker by committee this season, which is unprecedented in the NFL. With teams going further from traditional offenses, the defense cannot afford to stay conventional.
Though Rueben Randle was not the team's first pick in 2012, he'll have the most impact of the new acquisitions this season. A lot of that has to do with the team's philosophy; the Giants love to throw the ball around.
Obviously they will be a run-first team if they can, but I don't imagine the 2011 32nd-ranked rush offense will fix itself overnight. As one of the top choices to be Mario Manningham's replacement as the team's third receiver, Randle has an opportunity to be a viable part of the offense.
Randle made a living making big plays for LSU's offense, especially in the red zone. With his addition, Victor Cruz can continue to play the slot while Randle and Hakeem Nicks play the outsides.
Reports from mandatory minicamp had Randle making a ton of great plays over the middle (h/t Giants.com). He is definitely taking advantage of the absence of Nicks. Hopefully that chemistry he is developing with Eli Manning translates onto the field this season.