Breaking Down New York Giants' Depth Chart After Peak of Free Agency
General manager Jerry Reese and Co. had their work cut out for them, with the G-Men entering the winter with next to nothing in salary-cap room. Still, a slew of familiar faces have been cut, while a few key veterans will now be donning blue come September.
After a second consecutive 9-7 season, the Giants will be heavily scrutinized in 2013. How does their depth chart look as March comes and goes? Let's break it down from starters to fourth-stringers.
Starter: Eli Manning
Second String: David Carr
Third String: Curtis Painter
It was a serpentine season for Manning, who responded from a Super Bowl MVP honor with under 4,000 yards passing for the first time since 2008. Manning went a month without notching a touchdown, but he scooped up five in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Manning's duality plagued the offense at times. He threw three interceptions in the first half of a Week 2 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, only to toss three touchdowns in the second half.
Of course, the Giants operate entirely through Eli under center, and with a new starting running back in place, expect offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to air it out more often than usual in the first few weeks of 2013. Manning still throws one of the sharpest deep balls in the league, and with another strong season from his offensive line, there's nothing to sweat here.
Carr and Painter are both serviceable backups with starting experience.
Starter: David Wilson
Second String: Andre Brown
Third String: Ryan Torain
Fourth String: Da'Rel Scott
Wilson bursted through 2012 with serious speed, averaging five yards a carry and turning heads with a few special teams scores. Wilson's open-field agility is something to be excited about; his cuts show big play potential.
Andre Brown powered his way to a surprising eight touchdowns before hitting the injured reserve in November. Brown's a great change of pace for Wilson, and he has been tendered at the second level as a restricted free agent.
Ryan Torain and Da'Rel Scott likely won't see much time with Wilson and Brown hogging carries. This is still one of the NFC's most exciting young backfields if both 'backs stay healthy and don't regress from last season.
Starter: Henry Hynoski
Undisputed, and with reason.
Hynoski's a physical run-blocker and a smart pass protector, excelling in his second year with Big Blue. B/R's Matt Miller has him among the best fullbacks in the NFL.
First String: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks
Second String: Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy
Third String: Jerrel Jernigan, Kris Adams
If Victor Cruz does indeed stay in New York, the Giants tout two potential Pro Bowlers at wideout. Cruz has some of the best vertical skills in the league, while Nicks' physicality and standout route running make him a go-to read on third downs.
The Giants have serious talent on the ground and through the air, making this offense lethal with proper play-calling and continued support from the O-line. Randle should see more reps in the slot with a season under his belt and Domenik Hixon gone, while Louis Murphy is a speedster.
Starter: Brandon Myers
Second String: Bear Pascoe
Third String: Adrien Robinson
After losing Martellus Bennett to the Chicago Bears, the Giants seemingly replaced him with Oakland's Brandon Myers. A consistent mid-level threat who recorded nearly 80 catches last year, Myers lacks Bennett's blocking prowess and colorful personality but makes up for it as a receiver.
Pascoe will be used as a blocking tight end once again, while Robinson could muscle his way into the starting lineup with serious athleticism. While the jury's out on how Myers will transition to New York's offense, this is another solid unit.
Starters: Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee, David Diehl
Second String: Matt McCants, Selvish Capers, Jim Cordle, Brandon Mosley, James Brewer
Breathe easy, Giants fans.
Boothe and Beatty both return after hitting the open market. The two had a surprisingly strong 2012 and will continue to anchor the Giants' running game on the left side.
Baas took strides after a disappointing 2011, while Snee continues to be the most consistent blocker on New York's line. David Diehl's turbulent career with the Giants lends itself to another starting opportunity, though Indiana product James Brewer could easily replace him before opening day.
This is a line that's particularly dominant on the left side and in pass protection, allowing a league-lowest 20 sacks and a second-best 53 quarterback hits.
Rolling through the offensive side of the depth chart, it's tough to deny the upside and talent at every position.
Starters: Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Pierre-Paul
Second String: Adrian Tracy, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin, Markus Kuhn, Adewale Ojomo
Despite a disappointing season in which the D-line was relegated to lower-tier sack production, the Giants enjoy one of the strongest units on paper here.
All four starters are more than capable run defenders, while Pierre-Paul and Joseph excel in pass rush. Adrian Tracy and Adewale Ojomo dominated in last year's preseason, and one or both could emerge as the next Osi Umenyiora.
Austin has serious potential at tackle, if he's ever healthy enough to make it through a season. Though the loss of Umenyiora and Chris Canty hurts, Cullen Jenkins is an excellent signing for just $8 million over three years.
Starters: Mathias Kiwanuka, Dan Connor, Jacquian Williams
Second String: Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger
The first red flag in this depth chart.
Inking Connor from Dallas might sure up the middle, but expect third-year pro Mark Herzlich to vie for starting time as well. Kiwanuka's nothing more than an edge-rusher, while Williams has struggled in pass coverage.
Neither Paysinger nor Rivers stood out much last season. This is a unit that lacks a real explosive run defender and has question marks in pass coverage. We'll have to see who the Giants draft in April, as well as who else on the market the team makes a play for.
Starters: Prince Amukamara, Corey Webster
Second String: Terrell Thomas, Jayron Hosley, Aaron Ross
Amukamara continues to improve, playing the hard-nosed style of corner that fans fell in love with from Terrell Thomas. Corey Webster, meanwhile, took a massive stumble backward last year. If he can't shore up his recovery speed and deep-ball coverage, the Giants will have to replace him.
Webster and Thomas took pay cuts this year. Thomas attempts to return to the starting lineup after a third ACL injury since 2005, and he could see a move to safety if things don't work out on the outside. The return of Aaron Ross adds more depth to this unit, while Hosley has dynamic speed as a second-year player.
Ultimately, the Giants are left with a cast that has to answer a lot of questions. Is Amukamara ready to be a No. 1 corner? Can Webster recover anything from his pre-2012 days? Will Terrell Thomas finally make a full return to the game, and will Ross or Hosley step up to earn a starting spot?
Anything goes for now. There's definitely some talent here, but for now, we wait until things are clearer in training camp.
Starters: Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown
Second String: Will Hill, Ryan Mundy, Tyler Sash
Rolle struggled in center field pass coverage for a second straight year, but Brown more than picked up the slack, replacing Kenny Phillips to the tune of eight interceptions. Brown signed his restricted free-agent tender last week, keeping him in Giants blue for another season.
Mundy, a signing from the Pittsburgh Steelers, leads the second-stringers. Hill, the team's only other free safety, was a valuable reserve last year and could swipe Rolle's job down the road.
Like the cornerbacks, this is a talented group that has to sort out some questions. If Rolle stabilizes in pass coverage and Brown continues to learn the nuances of the Giants defense, safety shouldn't be a huge concern in 2013.
The big issue with this position is helping the corners.
Starters: Josh Brown, Steve Weatherford, David Wilson, Rueben Randle, Zak DeOssie
Brown replaces Lawrence Tynes, who had a penchant for drilling clutch field goals. A traveled veteran with a career long of 58 yards, Brown seems to be a great fill-in. He has the third-most field goals of over 50 yards in NFL history, music to the ears of fans who complained of Tynes' lack of range last year.
Weatherford and DeOssie are some of the best in the business, while David Wilson excites on kick returns. If Brown performs well, this is a top special teams unit.
Steven Goldstein is always talking sports on Twitter. Follow him @GoldsteinNU.