Grading Every Giants Starter's 2012 Regular Season

Steven Goldstein@@GoldsteinNUContributor IJanuary 2, 2013

Grading Every Giants Starter's 2012 Regular Season

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    Finals are over, and report cards are in.

    The New York Giants enjoyed a serpentine 2012, one that saw them go from defending Super Bowl champs to frantic "Black Monday" victims in a matter of months. Big Blue finished 9-7 for the second consecutive year, going just 3-3 in a decidedly tamer NFC East.

    Quarterback Eli Manning went over a month without tossing a touchdown pass, perennial Pro Bowl ends Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul were all held to single-digit sack totals, and rookies David Wilson, Rueben Randle and Jayron Hosley made immediate impacts.

    Who passed this season with flying colors? Who's heading to gridiron summer school? Let's trade helmets and pads for binders and calculators and grade New York's key players. 

Quarterbacks

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    Eli Manning: B+

    Manning regressed a bit in 2012, celebrating some colossal highs as well as some precipitous lows. He finishes with an 87.2 quarterback rating and fails to crack the 4,000 passing yards mark for the first time since 2008.

    In Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Manning threw three first-half interceptions, including a misread of the flat that corner Eric Wright took for a 60-yard pick six. He followed with three second-half touchdowns.

    Manning's vertical game took a step back this year, but his accuracy and velocity at the mid-level still look sharp. Eli's four fumbles are a career low, and his plus-9 touchdown-to-interception rate is impressive considering he went a calendar month without a score from Weeks 8 to 12.

Running Backs

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    David Wilson: A

    Wilson excelled in his first season as a Giant, averaging a healthy 5.0 yards per carry and totaling five touchdowns (four rushing). Wilson's first score came against the Cleveland Browns back in Week 5, and he set club records for all-purpose yardage against the Saints in Week 14.

    Wilson's speed is electrifying, his playmaking ability worthy of building an offense around. While New York was just a pick away from standout tailback Doug Martin back in April's draft, you can't complain about what Wilson was able to do in 2012.

    Giants fans should expect plenty more celebratory end-zone backflips.

     

    Andre Brown: A

    Brown was huge in his fifteen minutes of football fame, filling in for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw early in the season. Brown went from a practice squad body to the star of the backfield in a New York minute, and flashed an impressive mix of speed and power on interior runs.

    Before ending the season on injured reserve, Brown compiled a team-high eight rushing touchdowns, and averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

     

    Henry Hynoski: A

    The "Hynocerous" was huge in setting up edge runs all year, and he earned his first touchdown against the Eagles last week. Hynoski shows some serious promise as a second-year fullback.

     

    Ahmad Bradshaw: A-

    Bradshaw's far from dispensable as the team's starting back, but his 4.6 yards per carry average, struggles in pass-blocking and consistent injury risk knock him to a lower grade here.

    Battling knee issues all season, Bradshaw's shining moment was against the Browns, when he picked up an even 200 rushing yards. 

Wide Receivers

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    Victor Cruz: A+

    Cruz was dominant in 2012, reprising his breakout 2011 to the tune of 86 catches, over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 scores.

    Cruz' sub-13 yards per catch average is concerning here, but with fellow wideout Hakeem Nicks shelved for much of the season, Cruz stepped up as more of a possession receiver and a go-to read on third downs.

    He topped 100 receiving yards in five games.

     

    Domenik Hixon: B+

    In limited reps, Hixon became the clear-cut third option, hauling in two touchdowns and nearly 40 receptions.

    Hixon's a good route runner with a physical frame. He took quite a few hard hits this year, and could be around next season despite looming free agency.

     

    Rueben Randle: B

    Randle struggled to adapt to the pace of New York's nuanced passing game early on, but finished things on the right foot with two touchdowns against the Eagles.

     

    Hakeem Nicks: D+

    You almost want to give Nicks an incomplete mark for all the time he missed, but Nicks' 2012 production was a tremendous disappointment to Eli Manning and the offense.

    Nicks's deep step seemingly vanished, his ability to find space in traffic all but gone. Nicks recorded a career-low three touchdowns in 13 hobbled starts and part-time appearances.

Tight Ends

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    Martellus Bennett: B+

    Bennett made an impact at the mid-level, notching touchdowns in each of his first three games as a Giant. He finished the season with 55 catches and over 600 receiving yards.

    Bennett was a star run-blocker and a vibrant personality in the locker room. He should expect a fresh contract for 2013.

     

    Bear Pascoe: B

    Pascoe did a fine job as a run-block specialist, and scored a touchdown in Week 4 against Philadelphia.

Offensive Line

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    Chris Snee: A+

    New York excelled in A gap runs despite boasting three slim running backs. Snee was elected to yet another Pro Bowl behind solid play in the middle.

     

    Kevin Boothe: A

    Boothe turned in a surprisingly successful 2012 after struggling mightily last season. While he still struggles to switch assignments during blitz plays, Boothe's run-blocking was top-notch this year.

     

    Will Beatty: A-

    Beatty had his struggles, but performed admirably against some of the league's best pass-rushers, including Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and Philly's Trent Cole. New York's 2.16 o-line win probability is the best in the league (its individual impact was worth over two wins—Denver was second with a 1.59 mark).

     

    David Baas: A-

    Baas was solid up front, and stayed healthy after missing a slew of games last year.

     

    Sean Locklear: A-

    Locklear stepped up for the injured David Diehl, who was lost in Week 2 to an MCL tear. Locklear was stronger in pass-blocking than run-blocking, and did pick up a few too many penalties. Still, you have to give credit where credit is due, as Locklear was the only starter in his first year as a Giant.

     

    David Diehl: D+

    Injuries, a DWI charge and inconsistency give Diehl a rough grade. Despite a stellar outing against the Eagles last week, it was an undoubtedly rough year for the veteran flex tackle. 

Defensive Line

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    Linval Joseph: A+

    On a line with three star ends, it's Joseph who aces 2012.

    Joseph's four sacks and two fumble recoveries showed huge developments in his third pro season. He clogged the middle throughout the year and recorded stuffs against the Bucs and 49ers.

    With Chris Canty out for the beginning of the year after undergoing knee surgery, Joseph stepped up for the G-Men in a huge way.

     

    Jason Pierre-Paul: A-

    Pierre Paul's 6.5 sacks are a career low and a tremendous disappointment, but his work in run defense was vital to the defense's success up front.

     

    Chris Canty: B+

    Canty returned in Week 7 after nursing a knee injury, and finished with three sacks.

     

    Osi Umenyiora: D+

    Osi's six sacks are a career low, and just two forced fumbles could portend the downturn of a decorated 10-year career. Umenyiora was held to just one sack in the months of October and December. His speed off the edge still looked good, but something just didn't click this year.

     

    Justin Tuck: D

    Tuck's slow 2012 has garnered retirement talk, and the perennial Pro Bowler and defensive captain finished a paltry 51st in defensive end win probability.

Linebackers

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    Chase Blackburn: A

    Blackburn's zero-to-hero story continues to churn out new chapters. He lead the G-Men in tackles, scooped up three sacks and forced a whopping five fumbles, double that of any other Giant.

    Blackburn struggled in zone coverage and bit on countless play fakes, but you have to love the fire he brings to the core of this defense.

     

    Michael Boley: A-

    Boley dropped another 90-plus tackles in 2012 and intercepted passes in the season's first three weeks. New York fared considerably better against pass-catching tight ends this year, thanks in large part to Boley's athleticism and recovery speed in coverage.

    Who knows if Boley will be with the team next year? For now, give him props on 2012.

     

    Keith Rivers: C

    The Keith Rivers experiment hasn't exactly worked out thus far. Rivers came through on 44 stops in 2012.

     

    Mathias Kiwanuka: D

    "Kiwi" struggled to be an effective blitzer this year, recording less than four sacks for the second consecutive season.

Defensive Backs

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    Stevie Brown: A+

    Is an A++ possible?

    Brown went from a no-name working with preseason reps to a bona fide star, tying for second in the NFL with eight interceptions. Ranking third in win probability for safeties, Brown played the run well and always seemed to be where the ball was.

    Brown intercepted Tony Romo twice in Dallas, and forced two fumbles in December.

     

    Prince Amukamara: B-

    Prince had a tough sophomore year, although he outshined fellow corner Corey Webster. Amukamara ranks 107th in cornerback win probability, and often had little help over the top.

     

    Kenny Phillips: B-

    Phillips also deserves an incomplete, as he missed considerable time with a knee sprain. He had 24 tackles in seven games.

     

    Antrel Rolle: C

    Rolle struggled mightily in playing center field, and was torched by wideouts Kevin Ogletree and Vincent Jackson in the season's preliminary weeks. He shored up toward the end of 2012, and finished with 96 tackles.

     

    Corey Webster: D-

    Webster was torched for six catches, over 100 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. It was all downhill from there.

    The aggressive corner who intercepted Brett Favre out of Green Bay and shut down Randy Moss in Super Bowl XLII was picked on all year. Webster had very few quiet Sundays, and got lost in space on deep balls.

Special Teams

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    Steve Weatherford: A+

    Weatherford averaged nearly 48 yards a go in 2012, a career high, and maxed out at 68 against the Bengals in Week 10. Winning the battle for field position along with rookie return man David Wilson, Weatherford's flourished in two years with New York.

     

    David Wilson: A+

    New York's return specialist was dynamic this season, taking a kickoff to the house against the Saints and displaying great vision all year.

     

    Lawrence Tynes: B+

    Go ahead and knock his range, but Tynes was consistent on field-goal attempts and respectable on kickoffs. His 145 total points were second in the NFL to New England's Stephen Gostkowski. 

Coaching

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    Overall Season Grade: C-

    Tom Coughlin's troops lost steam midway through the year, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride offered very unimaginative play-calling. While the use of personnel in the backfield kept things fresh, the Giants' team philosophy will come into question this offseason.