Predicting New York Giants' Starting Lineup a Week into Free Agency

Steven GoldsteinContributor IMarch 22, 2013

Predicting New York Giants' Starting Lineup a Week into Free Agency

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    We're a week into NFL free agency, and despite next-to-nothing in salary cap room, the New York Giants are making noise.

    A slew of starters were released earlier in the month, and after losing tight end Martellus Bennett to the Chicago Bears, Big Blue inked an assumed replacement in Oakland's Brandon Myers. Still making plays at linebackers and corners on the market, the Giants have been quietly productive thus far.

    It's never too early to peer into September. Let's take a look at New York's projected starting lineup before the draft comes. 

Quarterback

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    Starter: Eli Manning

    Backup: David Carr

    Shocked?

    Manning will be under center once again for the Giants, taking a league-high 146 starts streak into Week 1. After a blistering start to 2012, Manning struggled with inconsistency in the vertical game but ended on a high note with five touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the regular season.

    New York will presumably be a pass-first offense once again, should wideout Victor Cruz be signed. The Giants have a wealth of downfield options, and adding Myers solidifies the offense at the mid-level. Re-signing Carr gives New York a reliable backup, should it ever need one.

Running Back

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    Starter: David Wilson

    Backup: Andre Brown

    Ahmad Bradshaw won't be in New York's backfield for the first time since 2006, which paves the way for second-year speedster David Wilson to get starting reps. Wilson is shifty and explosive around the tackles and averaged five yards per carry in 2012.

    The Giants were pleasantly surprised by the production of longtime practice body Andre Brown last season, who tallied eight touchdowns before breaking his fibula on Nov. 25 against the Green Bay Packers. Brown is a bruising runner who complements Wilson nicely.

    Though a restricted free agent, he was tendered at the second level, and by all accounts, he will be back in blue next season.

Fullback

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    Starter: Henry Hynoski

    No question. Entering his third year, Hynoski stands out as one of the most physical fullbacks in the NFL. 

Wide Receiver

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    Starters: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks

    Backups: Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy

    Domenik Hixon is gone, but the Giants have ostensibly replaced him with Louis Murphy from Carolina.

    The big one here is Cruz, a restricted free agent who was tendered at the first-round level. Cruz has shaped the Giants' offensive culture over the past two years, and Eli Manning has clearly taken notice.

    Giants fans shouldn't sweat this too much. Head coach Tom Coughlin is confident that Cruz will be bringing the salsa back to MetLife Stadium in 2013.

    Randle will likely see more targets in his second year, while a hobbled Nicks had a rough 2012. These wideouts' consistency will be key to a bounce-back year for Big Blue.

Tight End

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    Starter: Brandon Myers

    Backup: Bear Pascoe

    No Bennett, no problem.

    After one of the Giants' most eccentric personalities skipped town for Chicago, the G-Men hauled in Oakland's Brandon Myers. A four-year pro who caught almost 80 passes last year, Myers isn't much of a deep threat but provides consistency in the short game. The verdict is still out on his blocking abilities.

    Expect second-year Cincinnati product Adrien Robinson to vie for some reps as well.

Offensive Line

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    Starters: William Beatty, Selvish Capers, David Baas, Chris Snee, David Diehl

    Backups: Matt McCants, Stephen Goodin, Jim Cordle, Brandon Mosley, James Brewer

    Re-signing Will Beatty was general manager Jerry Reese's biggest move of the winter. The Giants touted one of the league's most cohesive front lines in both run-blocking and pass-blocking, and the majority of the group returns for 2013.

    As of March 22, left guard Kevin Boothe would be lost to free agency. The Giants have an estimated $2 million left in cap space, and that's before April's draft hits. Big Blue will look to restructure David Diehl's contract, but if that doesn't work, Selvish Capers would be making his first career start come Week 1.

    Losing Sean Locklear on the right side hurts. New York will have to pray for some semblance of consistency from Diehl.

Defensive Line

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    Starters: Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Jason-Pierre Paul

    Backups: Adrian Tracy, Shaun Rogers, Markus Kuhn, Adewale Ojomo

    Archrival Philly took Kenny Phillips off the market, but the Giants get even here with tackle Cullen Jenkins. A big body who stuffs the middle, Jenkins edges Chris Canty in size and run defense.

    Justin Tuck will need a bounce-back 2013 after being slowed last year. Former Pro Bowl end Osi Umenyiora is gone, which opens up reps for summer standouts Adrian Tracy and Adewale Ojomo. The Giants were relegated to 22nd in the NFL in sacks last season.

    The big one here is Tuck. If he can replicate his aggressiveness off the edge from past years, Big Blue will create plenty of pressure.

Linebacker

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    Starters: Keith Rivers, Dan Connor, Jacquian Williams

    Backups: Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger

    Getting Dan Connor from Dallas is huge. The Giants need help at all three linebacking spots, but replacing Chase Blackburn in the middle should do wonders for the pass defense.

    Expect all three second-string 'backers to vie for starting time, especially Kiwanuka at the strong-side position. The Giants could convert Kiwi to the defensive line to replace Osi Umenyiora, and they could shift Connor to an outside spot to make way for Mark Herzlich.

    With a linebacker looking increasingly likely to materialize from New York's first-round pick in April, this is the toughest part of the depth chart to project right now.

Cornerback

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    Starters: Prince Amukamara, Corey Webster

    Backups: Jayron Hosley, Aaron Ross

    Welcome back, Aaron Ross. The former Giant returns after stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and Jacksonville Jaguars to find New York's cornerbacks looking skimpy as ever.

    Amukamara will likely be transitioned as the No. 1 corner, swapping in for Webster. After restructuring his contract earlier in the offseason, Webster's expectations should be tempered from a rough 2012.

    Hosley and Ross could both see starting time by the end of the year, depending on how healthy this unit stays and how long Webster holds up.

Safety

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    Starters: Stevie Brown, Antrel Rolle

    Backups: Ryan Mundy, Will Hill

    Stevie Brown becomes a full-time starter after the Giants lost Kenny Phillips to the Eagles, but this should come as no surprise to Giants fans. With eight interceptions last year, Brown more than covers Phillips' playmaking ability.

    Will Hill, Tyler Sash and newly signed safety Ryan Mundy are all solid second-string options. Mundy appeared in all 16 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers last season.

Special Teams

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    Starters: Josh Brown, Steve Weatherford, David Wilson, Rueben Randle

    Inking Josh Brown earlier in the month replaces Lawrence Tynes at the placekicker spot. Everything else remains the same in the special teams unit, with Weatherford and Wilson showing serious upside at punter and kickoff return man, respectively.

    Brown was 11-of-12 in field-goal attempts for Cincinnati last season.

    Steven Goldstein is always writing about sports for some publication. Follow him @GoldsteinNU and talk Giants.