Grading New York Giants' Positional Units at 1st-Quarter Mark

Steven GoldsteinContributor IOctober 2, 2012

Grading New York Giants' Positional Units at 1st-Quarter Mark

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    It's been a serpentine start to 2012 for the New York Giants, who stumbled to 2-2 after a Sunday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Big Blue sits tied for second in the trafficked NFC East, and through four weeks, it's apparent that this team boasts little parity across the line of scrimmage. The Giants offer some of the league's best and worst positional units, and will look to balance them out out as the season rolls on.

    Check out a full September report card for each group of G-Men.

Quarterbacks: A

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    Reigning Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning has put out a scintillate start to the season, posting a career-high 94.3 quarterbacking rating through four games.

    Manning's been able to split the middle with tight end Martellus Bennett and wideout Domenik Hixon, while still keeping a vertical touch with receiver Victor Cruz. Eli's averaging a whopping 330 yards per contest—second-best in the NFL—despite spending the past two weeks without No. 1 option Hakeem Nicks (foot).

    Aside from dishing out three second-quarter interceptions against the Buccaneers in Week 2, Manning's been able to limit his turnovers and establish an efficient offense. He continues to excel in play-action as well.

Running Backs: A-

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    Halfbacks Andre Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw have been able to make the most of what their O-line has given them. Both have touted some explosive speed and shifty running through Week 4.

    Bradshaw's penchant for fumbles appears to be a thing of the past, while Brown's notched three touchdowns and over five yards per carry in six quarters of starting reps.

    While neither back has been much of a factor in the flat or in pass protection, Giants fans have to applaud a vastly-improved ground game. Big Blue ranked dead-last the NFL in total rushing a year ago.

    Meanwhile, fullback Henry Hynoski continues to play at a high physical level, opening some huge inside holes in Weeks 2 and 3.

Wide Receivers: A+

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    You can't say enough about these guys.

    Victor Cruz has somehow become even better, improving his route-running and mid-level timing with Manning.

    Both Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden have stepped up this year, to the tune of a combined 22 catches for 379 yards.

    Hakeem Nicks' hobbled Week 2 effort could go down as one of the best single-game performances in franchise history.

    The Giants' receivers are finding space, splitting coverage and, for the most part, hanging on to the football. Not much more you can ask for here.

Tight Ends: A+

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    TE Bear Pascoe continues to be a viable option in protection, while newcomer Martellus Bennett has exceeded expectations. His three receiving scores are tops on the team.

    Manning and Bennett have developed a rapport quickly, and Bennett's physicality is a perfect fit for the red zone.

Offensive Line: A-

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    Statistically, the offensive line has been sound, allowing just three sacks and a league-best 10 quarterback hits in four games thus far.

    Tackle Sean Locklear has been a huge addition, filling in on both sides of the line, while center David Baas continues to improve as well.

    However, this group remains a bit shoddy in run-blocking, where guard Kevin Boothe and tackle Will Beatty have been wild cards.

    All in all, the Giants are maintaining a cleaner pocket and are winning the push on the outside, looking like a completely different unit from a year ago.  

Defensive Line: B-

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    The G-Men came into 2012 with arguably the best pass rush in football.

    Through September, however, the Giants have been surprisingly average up front, tied for just 18th in the league in total sacks. Former Pro Bowler Justin Tuck remains without a sack, while DT Chris Canty (knee) has yet to see his first snap of the season.

    Tackles Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph have excelled, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul remains active in run defense. Meanwhile, end Osi Umenyiora now has back-to-back games with a sack.

    Still, this unit has not been as dominant as advertised. The Giants' ends failed to contain QB Michael Vick on the edge Sunday, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been dialing more blitzes than usual of late.

Linebackers: B+

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    OLB Michael Boley became the first Giant this decade to start the season with an interception in three consecutive games, while middle linebacker Chase Blackburn's 10-tackle effort Sunday capped off a solid first quarter of the 2012 season.

    The Giants' linebackers, particularly Blackburn and Mathias Kiwanuka, have been prone to over-pursuit and play-action bites, but this unit is still standing on its own thus far.

    Outside linebacker Jacquian Williams has been utilized in blitz packages, while Keith Rivers (hamstring) continues to battle injuries.

    Big Blue ranks 21st in run defense, but New York's linebackers have excelled in shutting down opponents' receiving backs and tight ends. 

Defensive Backs: D+

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    The unquestionable weak spot on this team. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 254 yards per game against the Giants' secondary thus far, and the loss of hard-hitting corner Terrell Thomas (ACL) continues to sting.

    Second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara has stopped the bleeding a bit since his Week 3 return, but No. 1 CB Corey Webster has been burned by opposing wideouts all year long. Fellow corners Justin Tryon and Michael Coe haven't seen much success either, while rookie Jayron Hosley continues to adjust to the pro level.

    Safety Antrel Rolle has struggled in pass defense, failing to help out over the top on long balls. Kenny Phillips, the team's most reliable defensive back, left Sunday's game early with an MCL sprain.

    The Giants welcome suspended safety Tyler Sash back into the fold, but Perry Fewell still has some adjustments to make here. New York has tried everything from a three-zone scheme to a slot corner spot for Rolle. 

Special Teams: A+

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    Yes, kicker Lawrence Tynes fell short on a potential game-winning 54-yard field goal Sunday, but this special teams unit has still been dominant through Week 4.

    Tynes sits on an impressive 11-for-12 field-goal line, while punter Steve Weatherford flashes one of the strongest legs in football. He booted a 60-yarder in Philly Sunday.

    Meanwhile, rookie David Wilson has galvanized the Giants' once-ineffective return game, averaging over 30 yards a go, good for third in the league thus far. Punt returner Rueben Randle's no slouch either, averaging 9.7 yards per return.