New York Giants: 5 Grittiest Players Through First 5 Games

Kevin Boilard@@KevinBoilardCorrespondent IOctober 11, 2012

New York Giants: 5 Grittiest Players Through First 5 Games

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    For a team that is only one game above .500, the New York Giants have had to show a great deal of determination to get to where they are today. While the results haven’t always been perfect for the 3-2 Giants, the effort along the way has been admirable.

    New York has been one of the league’s most banged-up teams this season. In fact, it's only had less than 10 players on the injury report for one game this season (at Panthers, Week 3). The most notable injuries New York has dealt with this season have been to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot/knee), who has missed three games in a row, and defensive tackle Chris Canty, who is scheduled to be released from the physically unable to perform list after the San Francisco game.

    The Giants have done their best to push through the setbacks, though, showing a remarkable amount of resiliency so far in 2012. The team has counted on multiple players to provide tough performances this season, and a few have really come through and delivered. 

    This article will rank the New York Giants’ grittiest players through the first five games of the season.

No. 5: Corey Webster

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    Eighth-year cornerback Corey Webster is the most seasoned member of the Giants’ secondary. Webster has appeared in over 100 games with the Giants since he was selected in the second round (No. 43 overall) of the 2005 NFL draft.

    The veteran corner played the best football of his career a season ago, recording six interceptions and 45 tackles while starting all 16 games. Webster hasn’t been able to match that level of play so far in 2012, but he has provided a struggling New York secondary with some valuable leadership.

    Webster’s coverage was inconsistent for the first couple games, and after breaking his hand against the Carolina Panthers, he seemed to have hit rock bottom. A lesser corner may have backed down from the challenge, but Webster opted to wear a cast rather than remove himself from the starting lineup.

    Despite his inconsistent play at times, Webster’s determination to stay on the field has bolstered a cornerback unit that has also weathered injuries to Prince Amukamara, Michael Coe and Jayron Hosley. Without Webster’s presence in the defensive backfield, the Giants’ pass defense might be a lot worse off than it already is.

No. 4: Michael Boley

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    Linebacker Michael Boley has quickly become one of the Giants’ most consistent and impactful players on defense. As the Giants’ signal-caller, Boley has provided leadership from the linebacker position ever since the departure of Antonio Pierce in 2009.

    Boley spent the first four years of his career with the Atlanta Falcons, but he has been a New York Giant for the past three. Last season, Boley collected 74 tackles on his way to earning a Super Bowl ring.

    Coming into the season, Boley knew he needed to continue to lead on the field, but a lingering hamstring issue that sidelined him for most of training camp made that very hard to do. Heading into Week 1 of the regular season, Boley’s hamstring was still hurting, earning him a “questionable” game status for the team’s season opener.

    There has been nothing questionable about Boley’s play this year, however. The reliable ‘backer recorded an interception in each of the team's first three games, showing everyone that he is still a difference-maker even when he’s playing at less than 100 percent.

    Boley managed to avoid the injury report in Weeks 2-4, but a hip injury did limit his participation in practice during the week leading up to the Browns game. The injury hasn’t cost Boley any time yet, but it will be interesting to see if his perseverance continues to outweigh the pain he’s surely feeling.

No. 3: Will Beatty

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    Left tackle Will Beatty was once a second-round draft pick way back in 2009, but you’d never know that just by looking at his production. Before this season, Beatty had only started 16 of a possible 48 games with the Giants.

    Last season was definitely Beatty’s most promising season. After starting the first 10 games, Beatty’s 2011 season was cut short by a detached retina. The word “bust” started to float around Beatty this past offseason, as the fourth-year tackle was entering a contract year and his team had just won a Super Bowl without his services.

    A bothersome sciatic nerve in Beatty’s lower back forced him out of action for nearly all of training camp, making the possibility of a comeback in 2012 all the less likely. The back issue cost him a start against the Cowboys, but when David Diehl went down with a knee injury in Week 2, Beatty was readily inserted into the lineup.

    With Diehl out, Sean Locklear was bumped over to right tackle where he has started opposite Beatty for the past four games. Beatty has played such a huge part in Eli Manning’s protection that it’ll be nearly impossible for Locklear to reclaim his job at left tackle once Diehl returns.

    Often times, Beatty has to handle the opposing team’s best pass-rusher, including Philadelphia’s Trent Cole, whom he manhandled in Week 4. Manning has only been sacked four times this season, and Beatty’s tough play has been one of the reasons why.

No. 2: Ahmad Bradshaw

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    Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has displayed great toughness throughout his career with the Giants. His 4.6 yards per carry over the span of six seasons is a direct result of the compact back’s hard-nosed style of running.

    Two seasons ago, Bradshaw had a career year, rushing for over 1,200 yards. He followed that up, however, with a disappointing 659-yard season in 2011. The dropoff was so huge that Bradshaw quickly fell from coveted fantasy option to featured back on a team with the league’s worst rushing attack in only one year’s time.

    Earlier this season, the running game was just as ineffective as it was a year ago, and to make matters worse for Bradshaw, a neck injury caused him to miss the Panthers game in Week 3. In his relief, Andre Brown had an incredible game, rushing for 113 yards on 20 carries.

    With his support dwindling, Bradshaw needed to make a statement. Against the Browns, Bradshaw tried to make one but was immediately setback by a fumble on the first play of the game. In the end, that only served as added motivation for Bradshaw, who finished the day with 200 rushing yards off of 30 carries.

    Bradshaw, who has earned his role in the Giants’ offensive backfield through his reliability as a pass protector, silenced his doubters against the Browns. The sixth-year running back has proven that he hasn't lost an ounce of passion or determination while running with the ball.

No. 1: Martellus Bennett

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    Since joining the Giants in March, ex-Cowboy tight end Martellus Bennett has done everything that the team has asked of him. After four years in Dallas, Bennett developed a reputation as a head case, but New York has yet to have an issue with him.

    The 6’7” tight end does have a particularly loud and interesting personality—he has even referred to himself in interviews as a “black unicorn”—but nothing he has said or done has adversely affected the team. Instead, Bennett has done all he can to make the Giants an all-around better team, starting with his weight loss.

    Bennett entered minicamp in June weighing 291 pounds, which immediately put his quickness and speed in question. Bennett worked hard to rectify the situation, though, and he is now officially listed on the Giants website as weighing 265 pounds.

    Despite Bennett’s tireless efforts to get in shape, even his own offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, was knocking him in the days leading up to the season opener, calling him “raw for a guy who’s been in the league.”

    But Bennett has not allowed the criticism to seep into his production; he scored a touchdown in each of the team’s first three games. After racking up 185 yards as a pass-catcher through the first three weeks, Bennett took on different roles against Philadelphia and Cleveland in Weeks 4 and 5.

    Against the Eagles, Bennett played a large role in pass protection, helping the offensive tackles hold Philadelphia’s dangerous defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin to zero sacks each. And against Cleveland, Bennett helped pave the way for a Giants’ rushing attack that compiled 243 yards on the ground.

    Bennett went down with a hyperextended knee early in the Browns game but was able to return, making his performance that much more impressive. His ability to overcome injury exemplified his extreme determination, which is why he tops the list as New York’s grittiest player.