It is hard to win championships in the NFL without stable of backups that can contribute. Not only do some of these backups help on special teams, but they are called upon in key situations and to replace injured players.
The New York Giants had a host of players go down due to injuries in 2011, but they rallied to win Super Bowl XLVI anyway. Which players will become important backups for the Giants in 2012?
Here are the seven most important reserves on the Giants roster entering 2012.
One of the most important positions to have depth is along the offensive line, and the Giants certainly have plenty of it entering the 2012 season. With David Baas and Will Beatty each missing a significant amount of games in 2011, depth along the O-line was essential.
While they did add depth in the offseason, the most important backup was on the roster last year and made a real contribution to the team down the stretch. Mitch Petrus took over at left guard for a stretch of games while both Beatty and Baas were out with injuries.
The Giants ran the ball better during that three-game stretch against the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Redskins. They ran for 100, 110, and 91 (5.1 per carry) in those three contests.
Petrus could very well become a starter if he wins the left guard job in training camp, but if not he's a terrific backup to have.
Although Marvin Austin has not played a meaningful down of football since 2009, the Giants need him to be a contributing backup at defensive tackle in 2012.
They did bring back Rocky Bernard, who backed up Linval Joseph and Chris Canty in 2011, but Bernard is getting long in the tooth. Plus, Austin provides a unique blend of size and athleticism that Bernard just doesn't have.
Austin should have been a top-20 pick in the NFL draft, but off-the-field issues dropped him to the second round. If he can show even a glimpse of his potential this year, he will help an already dominant defensive line.
Given how much the Giants struggled in pass coverage in 2011—they finished 29th in the league against the pass—they need Prince Amukamara to live up to his potential. General Manager Jerry Reese said they never expected Amukamara to be available when they picked him at No. 19 in the 2011 draft.
“We thought he was a terrific player and we never dreamed he would be there at that point,” Reese said. Well, Amukamara's rookie season did not go as planned. He broke his foot in just the second day of training camp and sat out until Week 11.
He finished with just 14 tackles and one interception and by the end of the year struggled to get on the field. It was clear he missed not having mini-camp and OTAs due to the lockout, as well as training camp with the injury.
We should see a rejuvenated and active Amukamara this season. With a full year to grasp the defense and understand his coverage duties, the mental errors will begin to fade.
The Giants have some big shoes to fill now that Mario Manningham has bolted for the west coast. They gave themselves an extra option when they drafted Rueben Randle with the 63rd pick in the 2012 draft.
Randle was extremely underrated coming out of LSU because he did not have the gaudy numbers of a Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd, mostly due to LSU's run-first offense and sub-par quarterback play.
The reaction from Giants' brass is enough to make anyone excited about this kid. They believe he is NFL-ready and will make an impact from day one. Here is what Jerry Reese had to say:
He's NFL-ready—he runs the entire route tree. In this day and age in college football, it's all about the spread offense, and guys don't run the full tree. This kid runs the full tree. He kind of looks like a big, pro wide receiver out there with how he runs routes. I think he's going to be a quick fit into the offense with how he plays; he's big, he can post guys up. People mentionedwhen we talked about him in our room. He's not blazing fast; I don't think Hakeem is blazing fast either. He's game fast and he's bigger than Hakeem - very good hands, ball skills. A talented football player.
That's some high praise to be compared to Nicks, who has emerged as a top-10 wide receiver in the game. If Randle learns the offense quickly, the sky is the limit.
The Giants drafted David Wilson with the 32nd pick in the 2012 draft. They insist he was the highest valued player on their board, but make no mistake they needed a running back.
Wilson is incredibly explosive and offers a dynamic to the Giants offense that they haven't had in a while. Bradshaw provided that explosive spark when he was a rookie and backup, but he has dealt with foot problems the past couple of seasons and seemingly lost a step.
Wilson is a smaller back, but he is very tough inside and has the elite speed to be a legitimate home run threat.
There is still a possibility that backup safety Deon Grant could be brought back, but given that it has not happened yet, the chances dwindle with each passing day.
It remains to be seen whether defensive coordinator Perry Fewell would use the three safety set as much with Grant out of the picture, but if he does expect Tyler Sash to be the reason.
Sash spent most of his time on special teams last year, but the 2011 sixth round pick showed flashes during training camp last year. Kenny Phillips sat out a portion of camp and Sash took advantage of that opportunity.
Now with Grant gone he could inherit a bigger role in the defense.
Easily the most important backup for the Giants is Osi Umenyiora, who really doesn't feel like a backup to begin with. He may be the third defensive end on the depth chart, but he plays just as much as Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
If Umenyiora is finally healthy and (relatively) happy with his contract situation, I wouldn't want to be a quarterback facing these Giants.