Grading Strength of Each Position on New York Giants' Roster Heading into FA
The winds are whipping around the Meadowlands, and some pricey New York Giants—Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Canty—have already been swept out the open door. The recent wave of releases, which some are saying is all part of a mini-rebuilding period, has left vacancies at certain positional units.
With the new league year starting on March 12, the Giants surely have their sights set on some stopgaps to attack during free agency.
But which New York units are hurting the worst?
Click through the slideshow for analysis of each positional unit on the New York Giants current roster as we get set to head into free agency.
Offensive Backfield – (Moderate Need)
But behind them, the outlook grows hazier.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw, a seventh-round draft choice in 2007, was released on Wednesday, leaving a gaping leadership role in the Giants’ offensive backfield. Bradshaw was known for his tough-running style, but New York finally had enough of his chronic foot injuries.
David Wilson, last year’s first-round pick, showed explosive ability late in the season, but was slow to pick up on the more subtle nuances of the game, such as pass protection. Andre Brown, a restricted free agent that plans to be with the team again in 2013, finished the season on injured reserve after averaging 5.3 yards per carry in Week 2 through Week 12.
Between Wilson’s youth and Brown’s lack of durability, it wouldn’t hurt for the Giants to bring in a veteran running back with an economical signing. The team doesn’t need a playmaker; they just someone that can take a hit and master the playbook.
Offensive Line – (High Need)
The Giants need help along the offensive line. The unit did manage to post a league-low 20 sacks allowed in 2012, but a lot of that had to do with Manning’s unique ability to get the ball out of his hand just in time.
New York’s offensive linemen are aging on the right side—tackle David Diehl is 32 and guard Chris Snee is 31—and all of them, save for left guard Kevin Boothe, have quite a lengthy injury history.
The left side of the line—Boothe and tackle Will Beatty—is flirting with free agency. While neither player was elite, both Boothe and Beatty had solid campaigns in 2012. At what cost are the Giants willing to bring them back in 2013, though?
Bleacher Report’s Theodore Vouyiouklakis laid out the complete guide to rebuilding the Giants’ offensive line earlier this week, and I like a lot of what he had to say. He used both free agency and the draft as tools to turn New York’s patchwork O-line into a scrimmage-dominating powerhouse.
As Vouyiouklakis points out in his article, there’s a good chance that the Giants may need to make two value signings along the offensive front in free agency. The team’s young prospects—2011 draftee James Brewer and 2012 draftee Brandon Mosley—are extremely inexperienced and could be in a make-or-break year in 2013.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – (Low Need)
A heated debate has risen this week regarding the value of New York’s top two receivers, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, and everyone seems to have an opinion.
With attention turned toward the dynamic duo, don’t be surprised if Rueben Randle quietly ascends to superstar status in his second year. The big, physical receiver looked promising in the last few weeks of the 2012 season.
Even though a Cruz holdout could become likely, the Giants shouldn’t feel too much strain at wide receiver. They may lose solid backups in Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden to free agency, but neither receiver will break the bank if the Giants opt to bring one of them back in 2013.
Jerrel Jernigan will probably be given one last shot to prove his worth, and cheap free agents—including ones that go undrafted this spring—will fill out the rest of the cast.
Tight end Bear Pascoe was recently re-signed to a one-year deal worth $715,000, per Jenny Vrentas of The Newark Star-Ledger, and the Giants “hope to re-sign” starter Martellus Bennett, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York. There’s not much need for outside help at tight end.
Defensive Line – (High Need)
The release of defensive tackle Chris Canty was shocking to some, but his $6.5 million price tag for 2013 made it a fiscally responsible decision to make. However, with defensive end Osi Umenyiora hitting free agency and Justin Tuck in a state of rapid decline, the Giants are suddenly thin along the defensive front.
Pro bowler Jason Pierre-Paul and hybrid defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka will still be effective with their hands in the dirt, but, as was proven in 2012, tackle Linval Joseph can’t man the middle on his own. Markus Kuhn, a raw yet promising talent, will be coming back from a torn ACL. Marvin Austin has developed much slower than originally anticipated.
The Giants’ did recently re-sign 34-year-old defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (h/t Giants.com), but the aging veteran who missed the entire 2012 season due to a blood clot in his leg is a long shot to make a difference in 2013. The Giants need to do more to bolster this unit.
Although this issue will almost certainly be dealt with on draft day—especially given the priority that Jerry Reese places on talented defensive linemen—the Giants may need to bring in a starting-caliber free agent as well. Canty’s departure leaves a gaping hole, and there are too many question marks for the issue to go unattended.
Linebackers – (Very High Need)
Linebacker Michael Boley, who intercepted three passes in the first three games of the 2012 season, was the first to receive his pink slip from the Giants organization this offseason. The once-impactful playmaker saw his snap count decline late in the season.
Youngsters Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger will be expected to compete for the starting weak side linebacker position in the fall. Williams, an athletic specimen, figures to be the frontrunner for the job, as Paysinger has contributed very little outside of special teams during his first two seasons with the squad.
Middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, who possesses an invaluable understanding of the defense, took a lot of heat in 2012, as his mediocre athletic ability limited his effectiveness against the run. Keith Rivers would be a viable, yet oft-injured, option for strong side linebacker if he is resigned and Mathias Kiwanuka makes a permanent transition back to the defensive line.
In the end, the Giants have a choice: they can either field another inopportune group of ragtag starters at linebacker, or they can hit free agency in search of a linebacker that will actually make a difference. New York needs someone trustworthy. They need an old school ‘backer that will play through pain while hunting down running backs at all costs.
Personally, I think this issue should be addressed in the draft, but that’s probably a long shot. The last early-round draft choice that the Giants spent on a linebacker was a second-rounder on UVA’s Clint Sintim back in 2009.
Secondary – (Moderate Need)
The Giants were torched on long pass plays in 2012, but it wasn’t because they lacked elite talent. The injuries and lack of depth were what really hurt the New York defensive backfield.
It is true that the Giants need to find a replacement for cornerback Corey Webster, who obviously lost a step from his impressive 2011 season. That player could be a free agent acquisition, but the team should stay within its means.
On the opposite side of the field, Prince Amukamara showcased shutdown ability at times, but the second-year player struggled to stay on the field. Backup/nickel corner Jayron Hosley did not provide much relief, as he spent much of the season dealing with injuries of his own.
Safety Antrel Rolle was a leader in the backfield and should be the unit’s focal point in 2013. But his partner in crime, Kenny Phillips, is in a sticky situation. Phillips’ playing time was severely limited in 2012 due to a severe knee injury.
In his absence, Stevie Brown stepped up to the plate, snagging eight interceptions. Brown’s nose for the ball makes the fragile Phillips, who is about to become a free agent, seem expendable.
The Giants’ plans in the defensive backfield depend upon what the team does with Phillips. If he is re-signed, then New York will be set at safety. Regardless, the team needs to add depth at the cornerback position, and free agency will be one way to tackle that deficiency.
Special Teams – (No Need)
The Giants have a superior core of special teamers in kicker Lawrence Tynes, punter Steve Weatherford and long snapper Zak DeOssie.
Some fans are less enamored by Tynes. He may not hit long field goals with relative ease, but he does provide exceptional consistency—that’s something you won’t find in the free agent scrap heap.
The Giants will be best off with the trio they fielded in 2012.
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