Will Eli Manning grab the top spot in the rankings as the best player on the Giants?
Now is a perfect time in the offseason to power rank the players on the New York Giants.
While there may be a few tweaks to come, the roster Big Blue will bring into training camp is pretty much intact. In addition, with OTAs in full swing, the start of the 2013 season doesn't seem that far away anymore.
The following slides rank 60 players on the Giants roster. Most, if not all, of this group will make up the Giants 53-man roster and practice squad when the season kicks off Sept. 8 in Dallas against the Cowboys.
The players are ranked not solely on their 2012 performance but also on the importance of their position, injury history/concerns and potential. For example, Hakeem Nicks' performance suffered last season due to leg injuries. He still gets ranked high on this list, however, because of his potential to have a bounce-back year in 2013 and his importance as a weapon in the Giants' potent passing attack. His ranking still suffers slightly, though, due to the fact he missed three games in 2012 and his tendency to get injured.
Will Nicks still crack the top five? Is Eli Manning destined to grab the top spot? Who will be the top-ranked running back—David Wilson or Andre Brown? Click through the following slides to find out.
All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
These players will all be fighting for a roster spot, with the exception of offensive tackle James Brewer. He should make it due to the lack of depth the Giants have on their offensive line.
Defensive end Adewale Ojomo surprisingly made the team last season despite being an undrafted rookie free agent. Injuries, however, limited him to one game.
Fellow defensive end Adrian Tracy stayed healthy and actually played some in 2012. This is after missing all of 2010, his rookie season, with a dislocated elbow and being relegated to the practice squad in 2011. While he held his own in his 70 defensive snaps last season, registering 12 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles, he will still have to fight to make this roster due to the depth the Giants have along the defensive line.
Rookie running back Michael Cox wasn't overly impressive during his senior season at UMass, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry on his way to 710 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He'll battle it out with the likes of Da'Rel Scott and Ryan Torain for the third running back spot.
Tyler Sash's only highlight in his two-year NFL career is an incident he'd like to forget. The safety was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for violating the league's performance-enhancing substances policy. He'll have an opportunity to make the 53-man roster due to Big Blue's underwhelming collection of safeties.
Jerrel Jernigan certainly has the speed and quickness to play wide receiver but has had trouble getting on the field in his first two years with Big Blue. He only has three catches for 22 yards in his short career.
David Buehler may make the roster as a kickoff specialist (he led the NFL in touchbacks in 2009) but he will have a tough time beating out fellow field-goal kicker Josh Brown if the Giants settle on only one of the two. Buehler was an underwhelming 24 of 32 in field goals in 2010 with the Dallas Cowboys. He also hasn't kicked in the NFL at all since early in the 2011 season.
Spencer Paysinger was a solid special teams performer with New York in 2011 and 2012. He has his eyes set on getting more time at linebacker this season as well, with Michael Boley gone and Mathias Kiwanuka likely spending most of his time at defensive end. Outside of Brewer, he has the best shot of making this team among this group of players.
This group, as a whole, is in better shape to make the roster, but certain players will still struggle to grab a spot.
Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers is one of those players. His age (he just turned 34 in March), the fact that he missed all of 2012 with a blood clot and the aforementioned defensive line depth are all working against him.
Fellow defensive tackle Mike Patterson seems to have a better chance since he is four-and-a-half years younger (he turns 30 in September). When you look at his recent health, however, his chances appear to diminish.
Patterson missed only one game in his first six seasons in the NFL, all with the Philadelphia Eagles. His fortunes changed, though, during training camp in 2011 when he suffered a seizure. He still played 15 games that season but missed the Eagles' first seven games in 2012 due to complications from offseason brain surgery, which was necessary due to the seizure.
After coming back for five games, he missed the final four games of the season after being stricken with pneumonia.
Ryan Torain appears to have a leg up on Cox and Scott at running back due to the modest 1,011 rushing yards he has in four NFL seasons. He'll need to show he can contribute on special teams if he doesn't grab the third running back spot.
Defensive tackle Marvin Austin has been a disappointment for Big Blue since being selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. He missed all of his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle and accumulated only eight tackles in eight games last season. This is a make-or-break season for the 24-year-old.
Rookie safety Cooper Taylor is a risky, yet intriguing player. On the downside, he was diagnosed with a rare heart condition in 2009 that was a big factor as to why he dropped into the Giants' arms in the fifth round in April.
Taylor, though, is large and fast, and the Giants have big plans for him. Both Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese would love to see him as the third safety in their three-safety looks.
Will Hill should be in the mix for that third safety position as well. He had a solid rookie season with 38 tackles, two forced fumbles and two pass defenses in 12 games.
Mark Herzlich is a natural outside linebacker but his best chance for playing time is at middle linebacker, with incumbent Chase Blackburn off to Carolina. Dan Connor has the inside track to land the starting gig, but a good training camp for Herzlich will certainly make things interesting. Connor only took 350 snaps for the Cowboys last year despite playing in 14 games.
Herzlich will also look to contribute on special teams, as he has during his first two seasons in the NFL.
Jim Cordle is a near lock to make the team due to his versatility along the offensive line and his contributions on special teams. He has the ability to play guard and tackle but is a center by trade.
Josh Brown should grab the field-goal kicking duties from Buehler since his track record in the role is significantly better. The 10-year veteran has made 231 field goals in his career, including 11-of-12 with the Cincinnati Bengals last season.
Safety Ryan Mundy joins the Giants after spending his first four seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He likely won't challenge starters Stevie Brown or Antrel Rolle but will be in the mix to get playing time. He has 130 tackles and one interception in his career.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Nassib is a virtual lock to make the roster, as explained here. Whether David Carr joins him depends on if Big Blue carries three quarterbacks for the first time since 2007.
Carr is ranked higher due to his extensive NFL experience, which would likely allow him to be more effective in 2013 in a spot start compared to the untested Nassib. This won't help him secure a roster spot, though.
It's hard to believe that just four years ago Aaron Curry was selected fourth overall in the 2009 NFL draft. Injuries and ineffective play are a big reason why he is on his third team in five seasons. Despite his lackluster career, Curry will get a chance to contribute on a linebacking corps that lacks any surefire starters.
Louis Murphy gets the edge over Ramses Barden at wide receiver because of a more distinguished career to date. The former has 1,707 yards receiving and seven touchdowns over four seasons, while the latter has 394 yards receiving and no scores during the same span. They will both be in contention for the third wideout slot that will likely go to Rueben Randle.
Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn had a solid rookie season before tearing his ACL in November. The 27-year-old is still raw, which is troubling given his age, but has a nice combination of strength and quickness. He has an edge, at this point, over the likes of Rogers, Austin and Peterson due to his contributions last season.
This is a diverse, interesting mix of players that are all at different points in their respective careers.
Tight end Adrien Robinson had unusually high expectations for a fourth-round pick last season yet didn't get a chance to live up to them. He didn't receive a single target in the passing game in 2012.
He should get more of an opportunity this year, even though newly acquired Brandon Myers appears to be the starter.
Robinson will also battle Bear Pascoe for snaps. Pascoe is not much of a receiver, with only 26 catches in his four-year career, but he is a dependable, if unspectacular, blocking tight end. If Robinson demonstrates an ability to block, something his biggest fan, Reese, expects him to do, he'll likely surpass Pascoe on the depth chart. Pascoe gets the slight nod for now due to his prior experience.
Steve Weatherford is a reliable punter with a strong leg who needs to work on his finesse. The seven-year veteran was eighth in the NFL with 47.5 yards per punt but only 16th in net yards at 41.4. He also only had 22 touchbacks, which was eighth worst in the league.
Terrell Thomas was arguably the Giants' best cornerback in 2009 and 2010. Now he is just a player trying to hang on after ACL tears, both to his right knee, in back-to-back training camps cost him two straight seasons.
He may move over to safety and compete for the aforementioned third safety role. Based solely on his talent and performance on the field, he would appear to be the front-runner for that spot if he does make the move. His health is obviously a huge question mark, though, as is his ability to be effective after three ACL tears to the same knee (he also tore it as a sophomore at USC).
David Diehl is the starting right tackle as of right now, but rookie first-round pick, Justin Pugh, will probably change that during training camp.
Diehl is coming off a subpar year that saw him miss three games and struggle to pass block when he was on the field (he garnered a minus-7.1 Pro Football Focus rating in this area in 2012). The 32-year-old paid the price, literally, by taking a salary cut this offseason.
Zak DeOssie is a two-time Pro-Bowler and has been the Giants special teams captain for the past two seasons. He would be higher on this list if he wasn't a long snapper.
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is a first-round talent who fell to the second round mainly because he wears down with too many snaps. Luckily for New York, Hankins can comfortably slide into a backup role behind starters Cullen Jenkins and Linval Joseph.
Hankins should be good against the run right away and develop into an adequate pass-rusher who will, at the very least, consistently collapse the pocket.
Jayron Hosley slides behind Aaron Ross in the battle of the worst cornerbacks on this list. The second-year player showed flashes his rookie season but was generally poor in coverage, as his minus-9.9 PFF coverage rating indicates. Ross was slightly better at minus-4.5, but either way you look at it both players had trouble slowing down opposing passing attacks.
Unfortunately, the sad state of the Giants' cornerback situation means that one of these guys could end up starting.
Free-agent acquisition Dan Connor, who comes over from Dallas, appears to be the front-runner to man the middle linebacker position. He could be a huge upgrade over Blackburn as a run-stopper but, on the flip side, his resume is severely lacking impact plays.
Connor has only one sack, one forced fumble and no interceptions in 56 career games. Blackburn had three sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception just last season.
Rookie Damontre Moore adds another bona fide pass-rusher to the Giants' stable of defensive ends. He had 26.5 sacks in three years at Texas A&M, including 12.5 sacks last season. The third-round pick could end up being the best player out of this draft for Big Blue.
He should see immediate playing time in obvious passing situations and could develop into a three-down lineman by his second year in the league.
Corey Webster had a terrible 2012 season. He ranked in the bottom five among all cornerbacks in touchdowns and receiving yards allowed, and yards surrendered per catch. His poor play earned him a pay cut and puts his starting job in jeopardy for the upcoming season.
Big Blue doesn't exactly have anybody intriguing, though, as an option to replace him.
Henry Hynoski is ranked this high because he has a chance to return for the start of the regular season after suffering a knee injury on the first day of OTAs last week. Hynoski is one of the better blocking fullbacks in the NFL and needs to be accounted for as a pass-catcher as well. He has 23 receptions for 133 yards and one touchdown in his two-year career.
Keith Rivers is arguably the most talented linebacker on the Giants roster but has a hard time staying healthy.The 27-year-old has missed 34 of a possible 80 games in his NFL career, including five last season in his first year in New York. His ability to stay injury free in 2013 is an underrated storyline that could significantly alter the effectiveness of this defense.
David Wilson is widely considered a good bet to have a breakout sophomore campaign.
Rueben Randle will likely join him. The former LSU product was relatively quiet during his rookie season but showed, in spurts, that he has the talent to be a big, athletic target that can stretch the field. Expect him to lock down the third wide receiver role, surpass 600 yards receiving and grab at least five touchdowns in 2013. These numbers could be even higher if Hakeem Nicks once again struggles with injuries.
Antrel Rolle doesn't get a lot of love from advanced stats and the outside world.
Pro Football Focus says he is poor in coverage, as witnessed by rating minus-5.0 or worse in each of his three years in New York. He has also never garnered an overall rating above minus-2.9 during the same time period.
Rolle, however, is more fondly regarded in the organization and among the fans.
He has been a vocal leader since joining Big Blue prior to the 2010 season. On the field, he supports the run well, as witnessed by his 96 tackles and four stuffs in 2012. He is not a great cover safety but is definitely active. He has had five interceptions and 13 pass defenses in his Giants tenure.
Not to be overlooked is his durability. He has made 52 straight starts for Big Blue, including the postseason, while playing in at least 1,000 defensive snaps each season.
Rolle is a virtual lock to start once again at strong safety and definitely worthy of cracking the top 20 on this list.
Jacquian Williams should be the team's starting weak-side linebacker this upcoming season. The fact, though, that he was taking it easy last week in OTAs due to a PCL injury he suffered in 2012 is a bit worrisome.
Williams did return from the injury, which cost him six games, in early December, so you would think he would be 100 percent nearly six months later.
Click here for more on the third-year player and why he has a good chance to be the Giants' best linebacker in 2013.
Andre Brown proved last season that he has what it takes to be a productive running back in the NFL.
He averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 73 totes and led the team with eight rushing touchdowns. He displayed patience in his running, great vision and an ability to move the pile in short-yardage situations.
Unfortunately, 2012 also officially stamped Brown as an injury-prone player. His breakout season, easily the best in his four years in the league, was cut short when he broke his fibula against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 25.
Brown's first stint with the Giants, as a rookie in 2009, ended before it ever got started when he ruptured his Achilles tendon during training camp. Two major injuries in four seasons is certainly not an encouraging sign for long-term health.
New York is counting on Brown to form a solid one-two punch with Wilson. If he can stay healthy, he should approach double-digit touchdowns and 700-plus yards rushing. He'll also likely be higher on this list next year.
Evaluating Brandon Myers is a simple exercise. He is a good pass-catcher and a terrible run-blocker.
Myers caught 79 passes for 806 yards and four touchdowns last season with the Oakland Raiders. While he doesn't have great speed or size, Myers has dependable hands and a knack for getting open on short to intermediate routes in the middle of the field.
His only knock is that he had never approached his 2012 production in any of his first three seasons in the NFL. At the same time, he never had an opportunity like he did last season. Myers played in 1,034 snaps in 2012—327 more than he had from 2009 through 2011, combined.
This skill set fits perfectly in the Giants scheme. With Victor Cruz, Nicks and Randle all able to stretch the field, Myers should have plenty of opportunities to be Eli Manning's safety net over the middle.
He'll have to improve his run blocking dramatically, though, if he wants to avoid being in a snaps-share situation with Robinson and/or Pascoe.
Myers was the worst run-blocking tight end in the NFL in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus, with a minus-20.4 rating. Working with tight ends coach Mike Pope, who has been a part of all four Giants Super Bowl championship teams, should help.
David Baas has yet to live up to the five-year, $27.5 million contract he signed prior to the 2011 season, but he is at least moving in the right direction.
After missing 13 of a possible 20 games in 2011, including two playoff games during Big Blue's Super Bowl run, Baas started and played in all 16 games last season. His performance was Jekyll and Hyde-likie, however, as he was a good run-blocker but a poor pass-blocker.
The eight-year veteran had a 10.2 PFF run-block rating, ninth-best among centers in the NFL, but a minus-9.1 pass-block rating, which was dead last among the same group.
Oddly enough, sacks weren't his big problem, as he only surrendered one all year. He did allow the pocket to collapse too many times, though, as Manning was hit on seven occasions and hurried 16 times under Baas' watch.
Baas' age is starting to become a concern, as he will turn 32 in late September, but he should have another solid season in 2013. Better pass protection would be nice, but it is not likely. He has never had a positive pass-block rating as a starting center in the NFL.
The Giants' first-round pick is a great fit for the team philosophy of an ideal offensive lineman.
Big Blue likes their trench guys to be able to play multiple positions. Pugh played tackle in college but has the ability to play either guard position as well. Long term, he is probably a better fit at guard in the NFL due to his short 32” arms hindering him from properly keeping speed-rushers at bay (as a point of comparison, Eric Fisher, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs to play left tackle, as 34.5” arms).
New York also likes quick, fluid linemen because it primarily plays a zone-blocking scheme, which thrives more on speed and agility than power. Pugh’s main strength is his quick feet and strong mobility.
The rookie will likely overtake Diehl at right tackle, either to start the season or shortly thereafter.
Wilson has come a long way from the famous fumble in his first NFL game last September.
The miscue against the Cowboys on opening night put Wilson firmly in Coughlin’s doghouse for the first 10 games of last season, with only 18 total carries. The rookie emerged, however, once he was forgiven, as he carried the ball 53 times for 269 yards and three touchdowns over the final six games of the season.
He also didn’t fumble again after opening night.
Wilson should receive the majority of the carries this season, with last year’s main running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, cut loose in February. He may not resume his kickoff duties, though, with the extra workload he is expected to get in 2013. The 21-year-old was dynamite in this role last season, averaging 26.9 yards per return, which was sixth-best in the NFL.
If Wilson gets 200 carries in his sophomore campaign, a 1,000-yard season is possible, along with several long touchdown runs and plenty of exciting plays.
Prince Amukamara definitely showed improvement in 2012 compared to his rookie season. He still has a long way to go, though, before he can be considered an elite cornerback, something Big Blue were hoping for when they selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Amukamara played in only seven games his rookie year due to a broken foot he suffered in training camp. Last season, he suited up for 13 games, proving that he can at least stay somewhat healthy.
According to Pro Football Focus, he was the Giants' best cornerback. This isn’t saying much, since he only had a 0.5 rating. Still, this was an improvement over the minus-2.0 rating he garnered in 2011.
Amukamara needs to become more of a lockdown cover guy, especially since he will likely be asked to match up against the opposition’s best wide receiver in 2013. That was a job that went to Webster last season.
He also needs to get his hands on the ball more. He has only two interceptions and 10 pass defenses in his short NFL career. By comparison, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks had eight INTs and 15 pass defenses just last season.
Amukamara clearly isn’t at Sherman’s level, but given his draft position, he should at least approach this caliber of play.
Expect Amukamara to make positive strides once again in 2013. Whether he’ll make a leap to elite status, however, is very questionable.
The Giants struggled to place a formidable pass-rushing defensive tackle next to Linval Joseph last season. Chris Canty was supposed to be that guy, but he started the season on the PUP list while recovering from offseason knee surgery. He never seemed 100 percent in the nine games he played following his return.
Well, Cullen Jenkins should provide a nice complement to Joseph this season. For starters, he has a knack of staying healthy, playing in at least 14 games in all but two of his nine NFL seasons.
Also, despite being 32 years old, he is still a very effective pass-rusher. In 2012, he had a modest four sacks but a very impressive 25 quarterback hurries. The latter statistic was fifth best in the NFL among defensive tackles.
If he can duplicate this performance in 2013, Big Blue will be well on their way to providing the consistent quarterback pressure necessary for their defense to return from the doldrums it sunk into last season.
On the flip side, he was bad against the run in 2012, as his minus-9.8 PFF rating in this area indicates, but this may have been an aberration. In 2011, he had a much better rating of minus-0.7.
Jenkins is an important piece of this year’s defensive unit and probably the most significant free-agent signing they have made to date in the offseason.
Stevie Brown was an afterthought heading into the 2012 season. A seemingly innocent late-game interception in a blowout win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, Brown's first one in his NFL career, changed all that.
Seven more interceptions and over 300 total return yards later and Brown had officially stamped himself as a ball hawk. His eight total picks were tied for second in the league with Sherman and his 307 return yards were the most in the NFL by a staggering 147 yards.
The amazing part about these accomplishments is that Brown somehow didn't register a pick-six.
The former Raiders 2010 seventh-round pick is not likely to come close to these numbers in 2013. In reality, it would be impressive if he intercepts five balls for over 100 total return yards.
What he needs to focus on is becoming more consistent in coverage. He only allowed 259 receiving yards in his coverage area but was targeted a mere 26 times. His 3.2 PFF coverage rating suggests he was solid but could certainly be better.
In particular, he needs to get better supporting the cornerbacks on deep passes, something he didn't do on this touchdown pass to Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green in Week 10.
Justin Tuck is coming off a second straight poor regular season, with only four sacks and 45 tackles in 2012.
It appears that a big reason for the dropoff in productivity since 2010 has to do with staying motivated. He recently solicited the help of Tony Robbins to try to fix this problem.
Tuck cracks the top 10 mainly out of respect for his leadership qualities as defensive captain. Also, based on his age and health, he should still be capable of recouping most of his past glory if he can get his head right.
Check out this article for more on his recent motivation issues and the likelihood that he will have a bounce-back year in 2013.
Based on his 2012 performance, it's surprising that Kevin Boothe only garnered a one-year, $905,000 contract from Big Blue, with very little money guaranteed. It's also puzzling that the lack of interest other teams showed him in free agency left him no choice but to accept the offer.
The 29-year-old accomplished an impressive 9.2 PFF rating last season, mainly due to solid run blocking. He also did not draw a penalty all season, which is an underrated but important feat for an offensive lineman.
Boothe does need to be a little better at protecting Manning, as he allowed three sacks, seven hits and 21 hurries. These numbers are too high for a guard, especially the latter two.
Firmly in his prime, Boothe should produce another solid season in 2013.
Kiwanuka ranks this high because it appears he will spend a majority of his time in 2013 at defensive end.
This is his natural position, yet he has mostly played outside linebacker for New York over the last three seasons. The exceptions occurred when the Giants went to their famed NASCAR package in obvious passing situations.
Back at defensive end, mainly due to the departure of Umenyiora, Kiwi can do what he does best—get after the quarterback. He has 30 sacks in his seven-year career, with eight being his high in a single season (in 2008).
He very well could approach that number in 2013 if the expectations of his return to the front four become reality.
Also, unlike Umenyiora, Kiwanuka will hold his own against the run because he is not known for getting swallowed up on the edge and being duped by cutbacks (at least he wasn't when he played on the line from 2006 to 2009). These were two areas that Umenyiora struggled with at defensive end.
Linval Joseph is simply a solid, dependable young player who completely flies under the radar on the Giants defense.
The three-year veteran has played every game each of the last two seasons. In 2012, he had 6.3 PFF rating, the best among Big Blue's stable of defensive tackles.
More specifically, he racked up four sacks, six hits, 16 hurries and 28 stops (the cumulative number of tackles that result in an offensive failure, including sacks). The last stat was tied for eighth-best among defensive tackles with Cincinnati's Domata Peko.
Joseph is entering the final season of a cap-friendly rookie contract. Another strong campaign could mean a solid pay day in 2014 for the 24-year-old.
Chris Snee is on the decline at 31 years old but is still one of the better guards in the NFL.
He made his fourth Pro Bowl in 2012, mainly due to his solid run blocking (10.0 PFF rating). He was a bit leaky in pass protection, with 22 hurries as the most notable evidence of this fact.
The nine-year veteran had offseason hip surgery but is on target to return for training camp.
Health should not be a concern with Snee, even as he gets up there in football years. Coughlin's son-in-law has only missed one game since the start of the 2005 season (he missed five games in 2004, his rookie year, due to a freak jaw ailment).
Will Beatty is proof that it only takes one good season to get a big contract in the NFL. After being a part-time player during his first three years in the league, Beatty came into his own in 2012.
Above all else, a left tackle must protect a quarterback's blind side. This is especially true when that quarterback is Eli Manning, the backbone of the team.
Beatty only allowed his signal-caller to get hit three times all season, each being a sack. This is a tremendous number that was only matched by Seattle's Russell Okung among both left and right tackles with at least 350 snaps (Beatty participated in 967 offensive snaps last season).
Beatty is also a solid run-blocker but does need to work on taking less penalties. He was flagged for 11 last season. Four to six penalties per season is an acceptable number for his position.
Overall, though, Beatty is a player on the rise. Only 28 years old, there is no reason to think that he won't match, or even exceed, his performance last season..
We now enter the soap opera section of the rankings, with the first of two episodes of As the Wide Receiver Turns.
Maybe it has to do with the fact that he broke his foot in OTAs last offseason, but that is simply a guess at this point. It could also have to do with the fact that he is entering the final year of his rookie contract, according to Spotrac.
Drama aside, Nicks is the Giants' best wide receiver when healthy.
While Cruz has better numbers over the last two seasons, Nicks is a tougher matchup for opposing defenses because his size and strength allows him to be a threat all over the field. He also has enough speed to get behind the secondary.
Cruz, on the other hand, is only really effective on underneath routes and deep pass plays. He struggles in one-on-one matchups with physical corners, while Nicks will often excel in these same encounters. For instance, you can't do the back-shoulder throw to Cruz but you can to Nicks. You also can't do fade routes consistently with the former but you can with the latter.
Staying healthy, though, has been a problem for Nicks. He has never played 16 games in a season and had the worst season of his four-year career in 2012 due to the foot injury, and a knee injury that followed in Week 2, lingering the entire season.
Health is the only reason Nicks ranks directly behind Cruz. Hopefully, for the fortunes of the Giants, that will change this upcoming season. Nicks at 100 percent could mean the difference between a playoff berth or a second consecutive empty January.
Now on to the second episode of ATWRT.
Will Cruz and the Giants reach an agreement on a long-term contract already! The "when will he sign" drama has been dragging on for months. It seems the two parties are getting closer, according to Ralph Vacchiano and Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News, as of a few weeks ago, but still no contract.
Once the Salsa King inevitably gets signed, with a contract likely worth somewhere between $8 million and $10 million per year, Big Blue will be securing a young wide receiver who has had a dynamite first two years in the league.
Cruz has played in all of the Giants' 36 games in 2011 and 2012, including the playoffs, and has hauled in 189 receptions for 2,897 yards and 20 touchdowns. These are tremendous numbers, especially considering that he has been sharing the field with Nicks for most of that time.
Also, he didn't burst onto the scene until Week 3 against the Eagles in 2011, so these numbers have really been accumulated over 34 games (he had only two catches for 17 yards with no touchdowns in his first two games in 2011).
The 26 year-old is durable and dynamic and the most reliable offensive weapon on New York's roster heading into the upcoming season.
Pierre-Paul's sacks were down in 2012, which has led many people to mistakenly believe that he had a bad year.
The Giants best defensive player was actually pretty good by his standards last season, despite having 10 less sacks compared to 2011.
Pierre-Paul was the third-best defensive end in a 4-3 scheme in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus, with a 23.7 overall rating. Even though he only had 6.5 sacks, he still got consistent pressure on the quarterback, as his 44 hurries prove. He was also excellent at setting the edge against the run and leading running backs to an offensive failure with 37 stops.
What can't be overlooked as a factor in his sacks dropoff is the play of his fellow defensive linemen. Tuck had another bad year, Umenyiora was significantly worse in 2012 compared to 2011 and Canty was either hurt or ineffective. This led to JPP being double-teamed on numerous occasions because opposing offenses didn't fear the other players around him.
The 24-year-old will have to learn how to better fight through the added attention if he wants to truly become the best defensive end in the sport. Pierre-Paul certainly didn't take a step back last season, though, and is still on track to have a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
He's still the one. The leader of the Giants offense for nearly a decade; as Manning goes so does his team.
The nine-year veteran was not as effective or heroic in 2012 compared to his performance in Big Blue's Super Bowl season the year before, but he was still pretty darn good.
Manning threw for 3,948 yards with 26 touchdowns and a reasonable 15 interceptions. This is despite Nicks' injury woes and having a new tight end and third wide receiver in the fold. Domenik Hixon replaced Mario Manningham, who went to the San Francisco 49ers, and Martellus Bennett took over for Jake Ballard, who was snatched up by the New England Patriots.
This offseason, Hixon left to sign with the Panthers and Bennett was snatched up in free agency by the Chicago Bears. That means Easy Eli will have to break in a new tight end, likely Myers with Robinson sprinkled in, once again in 2013 and establish a rapport with either Randle or Murphy as the third wide receiver.
Click here for more on Manning's 2012 season and what could be in store for him in 2013.
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