The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants may be in for a rude awakening in 2012, having failed to address glaring problems from last season.
Because of the departures of high-profile players such as Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard, the Giants have spent time and resources replacing their big names and have neglected to bolster their 29th-ranked pass defense and 32nd-ranked rush offense.
The team rushed for a league low 1,427 yards in 2011 and then lost key running back Brandon Jacobs to free agency. Though Ahmad Bradshaw had eclipsed Jacobs in workload and talent, Bradshaw's 3.9 average yards per attempt was nearly identical to Jacobs’ 3.8. To counter the loss of Jacobs, the Giants spent their first-round draft pick on David Wilson, a much hyped rookie out of Virgina Tech.
But when a team rushes for 3.5 yards per attempt (the lowest mark in the NFL since 2008) and loses a back who accounted for 37 percent of the team's total carries, drafting one rookie running back is a superficial solution. Unless Wilson has a breakout season, the G-Men's offensive line is going to have to improve their run blocking dramatically.
The Giants parted ways with aging tackle Kareem McKenzie, bringing in long-time Seattle Seahawk Sean Locklear to compete for a starting job. But David Diehl, singled out by Pro Football Focus as having one of the worst seasons of any offensive lineman in the NFL, remains, along with the rest of last year's ragtag crew.
Given the several training camp battles and Big Blue's tendency to shuffle around their offensive linemen, there is no telling how this line will look opening day. The only thing that is certain is that the Giants did not bring in much help in the offseason, so any fix must come from within.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Before the season even started, first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara broke his foot, and starter Terrell Thomas and backups Brian Witherspoon and Bruce Johnson were lost for the season to injury. Amukamara eventually returned, but struggled.
The front office's strategy was to re-sign Thomas and hope that a more experienced Amukamara would be able to fill in for the departed Aaron Ross. They also signed Antwaun Molden, an experienced cornerback who played in all 16 games for the Patriots, making 36 tackles and two interceptions. Jerry Reese has compared third-round pick Jayron Hosley to Pacman Jones and hopes he will contribute in 2012.
However, because Thomas has already re-injured his ACL, it is beginning to look like re-signing him may have been a mistake. Amukamara and Hosley remain talented yet unproven commodities, and nobody is even sure if Molden can be an every down defensive back.
It's beginning to look like the Giants raised more questions than they answered in the secondary this off-season. And now, with Thomas going down early and safety Antrel Rolle being forced to play nickel cornerback, the secondary is already looking thin.
The Giants didn't do much to solve their two weakest areas this offseason, so it may fall to some familiar faces to improve on last year's regular season performance if the Giants are even to think the word "repeat."
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