5 Best Red Zone Options for the New York Giants in 2012
Sure, Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown on Christmas Eve last season was impressive, but we all know that it's what an offense can accomplish in the red zone that counts.
The Giants need to look no further than their QB Eli Manning, as he was dominant last season in his opponents' red zone.
When on his opponents' 19-yard line or closer, Manning compiled 15 touchdowns and four interceptions and even scored a rushing touchdown.
He has a few new targets to look to this season, so let's get into it.
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With a mid-August return scheduled for Hakeem Nicks (via NJ.com), the Giants look like they'll have arguably their best red zone target back in time to open the season against the rival Dallas Cowboys.
Nicks and teammate Victor Cruz were one of the best receiving tandems in 2011, each compiling more than 1,000 yards and combining for 16 touchdowns, but it was Nicks who was dominant in the red zone.
Of his seven touchdowns last season, five of them came in the red zone, making him one of Eli Manning's go-to guys in the end zone.
At 6'1", Nicks was not only blessed with some height, but he also possesses excellent speed and enormous hands that help him reel in some of the most difficult passes.
Given his propensity for big-time plays in the red zone, you can expect Nicks to be Manning's number one option when the Giants are inside the opponents' 20.
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There's no doubt that Ahmad Bradshaw is the starting running back in New York, but there is a competition going on to see who will be his backup.
One name that comes to mind is David Wilson.
He may be a rookie, but Wilson already has caught the eye of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, as ESPN's Dan Graziano quotes Gilbride as saying, "I don’t know if we’ve had a guy as explosive, regardless of position, here. That’s kind of exciting to see."
It is indeed exciting for the Giants, who are looking to regain the ground game in 2012 after ranking dead-last in the NFL in 2011, at just 89.2 YPG.
Not only is Wilson a speedy and powerful runner, but his career at Virginia Tech displayed his receiving skills out of the backfield, which will undoubtedly aid the Giants in the red zone this season.
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Yes, Martellus Bennett is known as a run-blocker and unproven as a receiver, but he's 6'6" and we all know how much Eli Manning loves his tight ends.
Manning did it with Jeremy Shockey and Kevin Boss, and last season it was Jake Ballard who Manning turned into an offensive weapon.
Ballard's first season in the NFL saw him go for 604 yards and four touchdowns, all of which came in the red zone.
There's no doubt that New York will be looking for Bennett to help in the running game, but I also believe he's going to be a viable scoring option.
While Bennett has yet to see a starter's role due to playing behind Pro Bowler Jason Witten, you have to like his chances given his size and the fact that Manning will be the one distributing the football.
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After missing four games in 2011 with a broken foot and collecting just 659 yards, I think Ahmad Bradshaw is going to have a bounce-back season for Big Blue.
Despite playing in just 12 games, Bradshaw still racked up nine scores, all of which came inside the red zone for the Giants.
He can run it up the middle, bounce it to the outside and catch passes out of the backfield, making him a serious threat to opposing defenses.
Bradshaw took two Manning passes to the house last season from inside the red zone and you'll see more of that in 2012 if Bradshaw can stay on the field.
No. 3 WR (Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Rueben Randle)
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
I'm really not sure who's going to come out of the preseason as the Giants' No. 3 wideout behind Nicks and Cruz, but my money is on anyone but Ramses Barden, who has been nothing but a disappointment thus far.
At 6'6", you'd think he'd be an ideal red-zone threat, but that just hasn't been the case for New York during the past three seasons.
According to ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk, Jerrel Jernigan has been impressive so far during camp and has a shot to be the Giants' No. 3 WR.
Domenik Hixon obviously has the most experience out of any of the four receivers, but it remains to see if he can remain healthy enough to contribute to the offense.
Personally, I'd like to see rookie wideout Rueben Randle—who has also been impressive during camp (via NJ.com)—win the position battle and start alongside Nicks and Cruz.
Regardless, whoever wins that third spot is going to be a threat in the red zone because of who they have around them.
Opposing defensive backs will be looking to shut down Nicks and Cruz while linebackers will be looking to contain Martellus Bennett, Ahmad Bradshaw/David Wilson and Henry Hynoski, and somewhere in there, I think the Giants' No. 3 wideout gets lost in the shuffle and becomes a serious red-zone threat in 2012.
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