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New York Giants Midseason Report Card for Every Positional Unit

Kevin BoilardCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2012

New York Giants Midseason Report Card for Every Positional Unit

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    With the first seven games of the season already in the past, the New York Giants have a 5-2 record heading into the season's midpoint.  Their success has been the result of a coordinated team effort, but not every positional unit is pulling its weight.

    While some units have been incredibly efficient and productive, others have been unable to carry out their most basic duties.  This article will highlight each positional unit's performance through the first seven weeks, grading each unit based on how well it has played.

    Click through the article to find out which units have played up to par and which have underperformed.

Quarterback

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    Eli Manning has been as advertised this season.  The Giants still rely heavily on Manning’s performance, and he has used his arm to bail the team out more than once in 2012.

    Manning is one of three quarterbacks to eclipse 2,000 passing yards on the season so far.  Of those three quarterbacks, Manning has the highest yards per attempt (7.96). 

    Manning has thrown 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, which is not quite the ideal 2:1 ratio he should be aiming for.  However, his interception total has not been indicative of his performance as a whole. 

    Three of his seven interceptions came in the second quarter of the Buccaneers game, and two more came in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s Redskins game.  So, while those lapses in performance certainly have not helped, they have yet to cost the Giants a game.

    As long as Manning keeps up the late-game heroics, his grade will not waver very much.

    Midterm Grade: A

Running Back

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    The Giants have run the ball successfully this season, but they have had issues with their dedication to the ground game.  At times, their very talented offensive backfield has been severely underutilized.

    Veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw looked like he was going to be left for dead when he missed the Carolina game due to a neck injury.  After posting an average of 44.3 yards per game over the first three weeks of the season, Bradshaw was replaced by Andre Brown, who rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns in his absence.

    Bradshaw bounced back, though, compiling 200 rushing yards against the Browns in Week 5 and 116 yards against the 49ers in Week 6.  When not concussed, Brown has provided an effective change of pace, as both backs have averaged over 4.5 yards per carry this season.

    Rookie David Wilson has barely been given a chance to contribute.  His early season fumble has proven to be costly, since he has only recorded 15 carries through seven games. 

    The Giants have the 12th-ranked rushing attack in the league; it’s time they start playing like it.  Bradshaw was clearly frustrated with the team’s decision to throw the ball 40 times against the Redskins last Sunday.  They’ll need to have a more balanced attack moving forward.

    Midterm Grade: B

Wide Receiver

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    One of the reasons why Manning has been so spectacular is because he has a plethora of receiving options to choose from.  The Giants’ receivers have been a sure-handed group of playmakers so far this season.

    Victor Cruz has been Manning’s go-to target.  He has 81 targets—more than twice as many as any other receiver on the team—and has hauled in 50 of them for 627 yards and seven touchdowns.  Cruz is proving anyone that said he was a one-hit-wonder wrong, as his 2012 season is off to a better start than his 2011 one.

    Hakeem Nicks has fought valiantly through foot and knee injuries this season, but he has clearly taken a backseat to Cruz.  His current statistics (22 catches, 334 yards and a touchdown) should skyrocket if he’s ever able to regain full health.

    The surprise of the group has been Domenik Hixon.  After tearing his ACL in back-to-back seasons, Hixon has recorded 22 grabs for 346 yards so far in 2012.  While Ramses Barden and rookie Rueben Randle have had impressive performances in spot duty, Hixon has been a reliable receiving option week in, week out.

    The Giants’ group of receivers has been one of their strong suits in recent seasons, and not much has changed in 2012.

    Midterm Grade: A

Tight End

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    There was some uncertainty surrounding the Giants’ tight end situation heading into the season.  With former Giant Jake Ballard in New England and Travis Beckum on PUP, the Giants put all of their eggs in one basket: free-agent acquisition Martellus Bennett.

    So far, the move has paid off.  Bennett has accumulated 25 catches for 305 yards and three touchdowns over the course of seven games this season.  He has already made a bigger impact than he ever did in Dallas, and his production should only improve as his bond with Manning grows tighter.

    Backup tight end Bear Pascoe is an underrated member of the Giants offense.  Pascoe may only have three catches on the season, but he and Bennett have been strong run-blockers. 

    The tight ends have done their job sufficiently, but as a unit, they have not gone above and beyond.

    Midterm Grade: B+

Offensive Line

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    Offensive lines are asked to do two things: protect the quarterback and open holes for the running back.  New York’s offensive line has done both exceedingly well.

    Anchored by right guard Chris Snee, the Giants offensive line has cleared running lanes no matter who is in the backfield.  As a team, the Giants have rushed for 4.5 yards per carry.  Now that center David Baas has a full year in the Giants’ offensive system under his belt, the whole offensive line’s performance has really come together in the running game.

    The offensive tackles, Sean Locklear and Will Beatty, have made the injury to David Diehl an afterthought when it comes to pass-blocking.  The Giants’ offensive line has kept the pressure off Manning, allowing him to be sacked only five times all season.

    New York’s offensive line is not a star-studded cast riddled with Pro Bowlers, but their performance as a whole has been nearly flawless.

    Midterm Grade: A

Defensive Line

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    The defensive line has been less than stellar so far this season.  The Giants have gotten by on the ferocious play of their defensive line for years, but the line’s 2012 performance has not been enough to carry the defense.

    The interior defensive line has been particularly bad, but that’s not completely unexpected—the Giants suffered multiple injuries at the tackle position before the season even began.  Linval Joseph has been the sole constant in the middle for New York, as an injury to Rocky Bernard has forced Markus Kuhn and Marvin Austin into the mix prematurely.  The Giants hope that Chris Canty’s return from PUP status will resuscitate their struggling interior defensive line.

    New York’s defensive ends have not been much better.  They were missing in action for the first five weeks of the season, as Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck only collected a combined 3.5 sacks over that span.  However, in the two games since then, New York’s top pass-rushing trio has recorded five sacks.

    Although it looks like the Giants’ pass rush is on the upswing, the defensive line's overall performance this season has been extremely underwhelming.

    Midterm Grade: C-

Linebacker

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    The Giants’ run defense has been absolutely atrocious this season, and a lot of the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of their linebackers.  New York has to find some way to stop the bleeding, as they cannot afford to give up an average of 5.0 yards per carry all season.

    Michael Boley is the Giants’ signal-caller, so he is on the field for just about every defensive snap.  While Boley has been a playmaker when dropping into coverage—he has three interceptions on the season—he hasn’t been as sturdy against the run.

    Middle linebacker Chase Blackburn usually lines up next to Boley.  The one-time middle school math teacher enjoyed a fairytale interim role during last year’s Super Bowl run, but he simply hasn’t played up to par this season.  That’s not very surprising, though, since the team gave Mark Herzlich a wide-open shot to usurp the starting position in training camp.  Herzlich didn’t deliver, so Blackburn retained the starting job by default.

    The Giants have not had consistency at the third linebacker position.  Mathias Kiwanuka has started taking more snaps along the offensive line, and Jacquian Williams and Keith Rivers have had limited opportunities to make an impact. 

    The Giants sit in their five-defensive back set very often, which leaves an overabundance of responsibility on Boley and Blackburn to stop the run.  New York will have to find a better way to counter this deficiency, because the current unit/scheme isn’t making the plays it needs to.

    Midterm Grade: D+

Secondary

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    After terrible performances in the first couple weeks of the season, New York’s secondary has settled down quite a bit.  The unit has overcome significant injuries to become semi-reliable.

    The cornerbacks have not been spectacular in 2012.  While veteran Corey Webster does not look as lost as he did in the first few games, he still cannot hang with most opponents’ top wide receivers anymore.  Second-year corner Prince Amukamara has been a pleasant surprise, though.  He has quickly stepped up, recovering soundly from the high ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason.  With Jayron Hosley healthy, Michael Coe and Justin Tryon have barely seen the field, but Hosley has also made his fair share of rookie mistakes.

    The safeties have held everything together this season.  Their play has been far from perfect, but they have at least cut down the number of big plays given up over the top.  This forces teams to put together long, sustained drives in order to score on the Giants’ defense.

    Even with Kenny Phillips out, Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown have been able to force turnovers, which have been the lifeblood of New York’s defense all season.  Rolle and Brown have combined for five interceptions through seven games.

    It’s nice to see that the Giants’ secondary is opportunistic, but  it’ll have to crack down on the intermediate routes; it is currently giving up an average of 8.7 yards per pass attempt.

    Midterm Grade: B-

Special Teams

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    The Giants’ special teams units have been spot on in 2012.  New York makes up for all the areas in which they fall short with their impeccably efficient special teams play.

    Punter Steve Weatherford has not been called upon as often as he was a season ago, but when he does step onto the field, he proves that he still has All-Pro ability.  Through seven games, Weatherford has placed 40.9 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line, according to teamrankings.com.  That’s significantly higher than last year’s 29.8 percent.

    Kicker Lawrence Tynes is enjoying his best season to date.  He has made 19 of his 21 attempts so far this season (89.5 percent), and his only misses have been a 54-yarder that came up short against Philadelphia and a blocked attempt against San Francisco.  Tynes leads the team with 77 points and has been one of the Giants’ most valuable players all season.

    New York’s rookies have not made a huge splash on offense, but they have made a difference in the return game.  David Wilson is averaging 28.1 yards per return on kickoffs, and Rueben Randle is averaging 7.6 yards per return on punts.

    In the past, New York’s special teams units have been sufficient enough to get by.  This season, however, New York has used its superior special teams units to its advantage.

    Midterm Grade: A

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