New York Giants: Predictions for Key Offensive Starters in 2012
The march to Super Bowl XLVII begins one month from today, with the first of four preseason games.
Few are predicting a Giants repeat, and it's easy to understand why. The Giants eked into the playoffs at 9-7, and during one five-game stretch their defense gave up an average of 33 points a game.
But, for now, I will leave the season predictions up to the, well, seasoned prognosticators.
But no time like the present to offer up some predictions on how key Giants offensive players will fare in 2012. So, on to the list.
Giants Have High Hopes for Their No. 1 Draft Pick, RB David Wilson
New York selected Wilson in the first round of the 2012 draft. Coming out of Virginia Tech, Wilson was described as explosive and a hard worker.
Those traits seem to have transferred to the pro level, at least so far. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride recently told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that Wilson was as exciting an acquisition as New York had made in years:
"'I don’t know if we’ve had a guy as explosive, regardless of position, here. That’s kind of exciting to see,'" Gilbride said.
Wilson is expected to catch and run from scrimmage and to help out on special teams, too, though the Giants have not said whether it would be on punts, kickoffs or both.
Prediction: 750 yards rushing on 175-plus carries, 500 yards kickoff/punt returns.
G-Men Looking for Ahmad Bradshaw to Rebound from Foot Problems
Bradshaw, who for several years teamed with recently departed Brandon Jacobs to give the Giants a potent one-two punch, saw a major decline last year in total yards and yards per carry, dropping below four yards per carry for the first time in his career.
Despite that, and after missing four games last season with foot problems, he had a career-high nine touchdowns. So, while Bradshaw was less effective, he was clutch when it mattered.
And one would be wise not to read too much into Bradshaw's diminished yardage in 2011—Jacobs also wilted late last season, as the Giants' offensive line became ever unreliable as the year went on.
Bradshaw appears healthy, finally, after undergoing treatment for a foot ailment that kept him from four games and limited him throughout the year.
Prediction: 1,000 yards rushing on 220-plus carries.
A Better Ground Game Should Help Wideout Hakeem Nicks Go Deep More Often
Nicks had a solid 2011, with 76 catches for 1,192 yards and a 15.7-yards-per-catch clip.
While the absence of Mario Manningham will put most of the pressure back on Nicks and Victor Cruz, the G-Men also expect to have a more versatile running game and more help at tight end.
That means quarterback Eli Manning should have more success at throwing under coverage with screen passes, short crosses and outside flares. He won't have to rely as heavily on Nicks (and Cruz) to get the G-Men out of trouble in short-yardage situations.
Nicks will easily eclipse 1,000 yards again, and he should see his yards per catch grow, as Manning can turn to him as a deep threat more often than a possession receiver.
Prediction: 72 catches, 1,250 yards, 17.4 yards per catch and seven touchdowns.
Victor Cruz Will Only Get Better in 2012, and That Could Be Dangerous
Cruz helped take the Giants' passing game from solid to spectacular in 2011. His 82 catches for 1,536 yards and an impressive 18.7 yards per catch will be hard to top.
But if anyone can do it, Cruz can.
He is the nearly perfect tandem for Eli, with blazing speed, soft hands and a willingness to come back for the ball when necessary.
Cruz won't have it easy in 2012, as opposing defenses will try to check him at the line and double-team him deep now that Mario Manningham is in San Francisco. But he's just too good.
Expect big things from Cruz in 2012. He does.
Prediction: 93 catches, 1,600 yards, 17.2 yards per catch and 11 touchdowns.
Eli Manning Will Be Great in 2012, Just Not 'Gaudy' Great
Manning is coming off his best season ever. He completed 61 percent of his passes for 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 4,933 yards.
He did that with an underwhelming run game and an offensive line decimated by injury.
With a healthy line, it's easy to predict even bigger things for Eli in 2012, but that would mean a 5,000-plus-yard season. Don't expect that.
An improved line means more time for Manning to sit back and find his third and fourth options.
It also means, hopefully, more holes for a running game that should improve this year, taking the pressure off him to go deep so often.
This year, though—every week—opposing defenses will be teeing off on Manning and the Giants, so whatever he accomplishes will be hard-earned.
Prediction: 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, a 62 percent completion ratio and 4,300 yards passing.