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The New York Giants will enter training camp with a roster full of question marks.
On offense, Big Blue will hope that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks can quickly put an injury–plagued 2012 behind him and once again become a reliable, go-to receiver. Also, David Wilson suddenly goes from being an inexperienced rookie to the lead running back with the departure of Ahmad Bradshaw.
Defensively, Jason Pierre-Paul must bounce back from a lackluster performance last season. Unfortunately, he’ll need to overcome offseason back surgery to do it. Other defensive players that will be looking to put 2012 in the rearview mirror are Justin Tuck and Corey Webster. Both will be trying to prove that they are still impact players, even though they are on the wrong side of 30.
The following slides will take a closer look at these players as well as the other 90 plus members of the Giants roster. Where each figures into Big Blue’s plans for 2013 will be discussed.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus
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The undisputed leader of the team, Manning will be looking to bounce back from a subpar 2012 season. The 32-year-old threw 26 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and nearly eclipsed the 4,000 yard mark for the fourth straight season. He was inconsistent, however, registering 10 games with zero or only one touchdown and five games with multiple interceptions.
A healthy Hakeem Nicks will go a long way to making Manning a more consistent quarterback in 2013.
Carr’s status as de facto backup quarterback is in jeopardy with the presence of rookie Ryan Nassib. Since the Giants used a fourth-round pick to get Nassib, he is a virtual lock to make the team. Therefore, in order for Carr to secure a roster spot, New York would have to carry three quarterbacks for the first time since 2007.
Nassib has a strong, accurate arm and good leadership skills. The Giants decision to draft him, though, is puzzling considering Manning is still in his prime and never gets hurt.
The best-case scenario is that the rookie shows promise in preseason games and garbage time over the next few seasons. This could lead to a desperate team offering the Giants an early-round pick to trade for Nassib.
Painter has some NFL experience, throwing for 1,624 yards and six touchdowns in four seasons. Barring injuries to both Carr and Nassib, he has no chance of making the Giants roster.
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Wilson is an electric player with tremendous speed. He only had 71 carries in his rookie season but made the most of his opportunities with a five yards per carry average and four touchdowns. The 22-year-old was also the sixth-best kickoff returner in the NFL with a 26.9 yard per return average.
He will be asked to be the main running back in 2013, but his slight 5’9”, 205-pound frame suggests that he’ll need some help carrying the load. Don’t expect Wilson to get more than 20 offensive touches per game.
There is no question about Brown’s ability. He is a solid running back that is effective in short-yardage situations. He scored eight touchdowns last season despite only carrying the ball 73 times. In addition, his 3.4 yards per carry after contact (fourth best in the NFL) was a big reason why he averaged 5.3 yards per carry overall.
The only issue with Brown is his health. His 2012 season was cut short in Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers when he broke his leg. He also missed all of his rookie year in 2009 with Big Blue after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in training camp.
Brown will be relied upon as the Giants second running back and should see 10 to 15 carries a game. Whether he can stay healthy over 17 weeks with that type of workload is a big question mark given his injury history and lack of experience (he only had two NFL carries prior to 2012).
Torain was added to the Giants roster last season after Brown got hurt, though he never received a carry. He’ll be competing for the third-string running back spot. His best season in the NFL was 2010, when he rushed for 742 yards and four touchdowns with the Washington Redskins.
The third-year player is in serious danger of not making the roster. The Giants will likely carry only four running backs, so Scott will have to beat out Torain or rookie Michael Cox to secure a spot.
If there is ever a position that can be adequately filled late in drafts, it’s running back. The Giants selected Ahmad Bradshaw in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, and he went on to have a solid career with the team. Cox, a seventh-round pick for Big Blue this year, will hope to have the same success.
Despite only getting serious playing time for one season in college with Massachusetts last year, Cox has promise. He is a big back with good hands and decent burst for his size. His chances of making the roster are solid.
The Giants starting fullback the last two seasons hurt his knee on the first day of OTAs back in May. He has a chance to make it back for Week 1 of the regular season, but his starting job may not be waiting for him. New York is still in the running to sign Vonta Leach, who almost definitely would put Hynoski out of work.
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The drama is finally over. Cruz has officially signed a long-term contract with the Giants. The Salsa King is safely in New York for the next six seasons and a potential training camp holdout has been averted. The only disappointed party is the media, who has had a field day covering Cruz’s contract saga for the better part of 2013.
On the field, Cruz should once again be a key cog in the Giants offense. Expect another 1,000-yard season and seven to nine touchdowns.
Cruz brings the flash, but Nicks is quietly the key to the Giants offense. The four-year veteran struggled with knee and foot injuries last season, and his production subsequently suffered. He had only 692 yards receiving and three touchdowns, which are both career lows. Not coincidentally, the Giants were only 14th in total offense compared to eighth in 2011 and fifth in 2010.
A healthy Nicks could mean a significantly better offensive attack for Big Blue this upcoming season.
Randle is immensely talented, with the size, speed and athleticism to be a number one receiver. He was excellent in offseason workouts and seems primed for a breakout 2013 campaign.
Temper expectations a bit with the 22-year-old, but he is certainly capable of 600-plus receiving yards and five or more touchdowns in his second NFL season.
Murphy was a nice addition for the Giants this offseason when you consider that he ultimately replaced Domenik Hixon, who left in free agency for the Carolina Panthers. The former Oakland Raider and Panther has a 14.8 career yards per catch average, so he definitely can stretch a defense.
With Manning throwing him the ball, expect Murphy to have several impact plays for New York in 2013.
Barden will always have the Panthers game in Week 3 of last season. The 138 yards receiving he accumulated in that contest accounts for an astonishing 35 percent of his career total in four NFL seasons.
More was expected of the 2009 third-round pick, but he is still worth a roster spot considering that he is capable of performing as a fill-in. His chances of getting consistent playing time if the other receivers ahead of him are healthy, however, are remote at best.
The Giants only carried six receivers last season, so Jernigan is right on the cusp of not making the team. His speed and potential contributions to the return game help his chances of securing a spot.
Jernigan would be wise, though, to have a good training camp.
Brandon Collins, Kris Adams, Kevin Hardy, Carlos Keith and Jeremy Horne
All of these players will be competing to unseat Barden or Jernigan. Collins clearly had the best chance after another strong performance in offseason workout,s but he was suspended in late June for four regular season games because he violated the NFL’s substance policy. It is highly unlikely the Giants will roster a fringe player who is not even eligible to play until Week 5.
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The Giants lost Martellus Bennett in free agency to the Chicago Bears, but Myers isn’t a bad replacement. The former Raider had 79 catches for 806 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. He will definitely be a factor in the passing game.
Myers one weakness is his run blocking. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), no tight end was worse at it than Myers in 2012. Further research, however, suggests that Myers may be better at this aspect of the game than the stats suggest.
With Bennett and Travis Beckum gone (the latter not being retained in free agency either), Robinson will likely get an opportunity to play this season. He has a lot of raw talent and, based on the prognosis of tight ends coach Mike Pope, he seems to be developing it nicely.
Pascoe is not much of a pass-receiver—he only has 252 yards receiving in four NFL seasons—but he is a good blocker and a player willing to do anything to help the Giants win. As an example, he stepped in this offseason to play fullback for the injured Hynoski.
If Hynoski is not ready for Week 1 and New York doesn’t sign Leach, then Pascoe may be Big Blue’s starting fullback coming out of training camp.
Chase Clement, Larry Donnell and Jamie Childers
The Giants only carried three tight ends in 2012, so another tight end would need to get injured in training camp for one of these players to make the roster. None of these three have the skills to produce if given significant playing time so hopefully, for the Giants sake, their top tight ends stay healthy.
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Baas is the undisputed starting center for the Giants, but he is not without his faults. The 31-year-old was awful as a pass blocker last year, allowing 16 quarterback hurries and seven quarterback hits. Both stats ranked among the bottom three in the NFL among centers.
Cordle is a useful player for Big Blue due to his versatility. He can fill in at all three offensive line positions in a pinch, though center is his best spot. He also contributes on special teams.
Snee’s career is starting to wind down after nine seasons, but he is still a quality starting guard. He had hip surgery early in the offseason, but he is on track to return for training camp.
Boothe became a full time starter for the first time in his career last season and made the most of the opportunity. The 30-year-old garnered a 9.2 PFF rating and started all 16 games. Surprisingly, he only received a one-year contract from the Giants as a free agent this offseason. It does not appear that he is in Big Blue’s long-term plans.
The Giants first-round draft-pick will compete for the right tackle position in 2013, but his long-term position will likely be at guard. His agility and quickness make him a perfect fit for the Giants zone-blocking scheme.
The rookie, selected in the seventh round, will have to fight to make the 53-man roster. He lacks athleticism, which means that guard is the only position he can play in the NFL. The Giants like their backup offensive linemen to be able to play multiple positions.
Bryant Browning, Chris DeGeare, Stephen Goodin and Michael Jasper
The Giants only carried eight offensive linemen in 2012, so none of these players have a good chance of making the team.
The 2009 second-round draft pick had been a disappointment heading into last season, mainly due to injuries. Beatty missed 14 games in 2010 and 2011 due to a foot injury and a detached retina. He put it all together last season, however, playing in all 16 games and registering a 22.3 PFF rating, which was eighth best in the NFL among left tackles. His solid work earned him a new five-year contract.
He is arguably the Giants best offensive lineman and should turn in another solid season in 2013.
We go from the strongest starter to the weakest one on this unit. Diehl had a rough 2012, especially from a pass-blocking perspective. He allowed 19 quarterback hurries, seven hits and four sacks in only 487 snaps.
Despite his poor play, Diehl remains the favorite to start at right tackle, at least to begin the season, because the coaching staff still believes in him.
Along with Pugh, Brewer will also battle Diehl for the right tackle spot. The third-year player’s 6’6”, 323-pound frame is intriguing, but he must improve his quickness and footwork if he wants to be a serious threat to start.
Selvish Capers, Brandon Mosley and Matt McCants
All three of these players will have a tough time making the team. Capers would seem to have the best chance, since he was on the 53-man roster in 2012.
Joseph is an underrated rising star on the Giants. At only 24 years old, he has put up back-to-back 16-game seasons and is dependable against both the run and pass. In 2012, he achieved a 6.3 PFF rating, mainly due to an improved ability to pressure the quarterback. The four-year pro had 16 quarterback hurries, six hits and four sacks.
The acquisition of Jenkins in free agency was probably the best move the Giants made this offseason. Big Blue struggled to adequately fill the defensive tackle position alongside Joseph last season, mainly because Chris Canty missed the first seven games due to a knee injury.
Jenkins is 32 years old, but he has started all 32 games the past two seasons. He should provide consistent inside pressure, based on the 25 quarterback hurries and four sacks he registered last season.
The Giants second-round draft pick should immediately contribute in his rookie season. He has a thick, powerful 6’3”, 320-pound frame, but he is also quick and agile. He has the ability to be an elite run-stopper in the NFL and will likely spell Jenkins from time-to-time on obvious running plays. Jenkins struggled versus rushing plays last season, as witnessed by his -9.8 PFF rating in that area.
Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin, Markus Kuhn, Mike Patterson and Frank Okam
New York only carried four defensive tackles in 2012, so it is likely that only one of these five players will make the team. Quietly, this should be an interesting competition to follow during training camp.
Rogers and Patterson have the experience edge, with 20 years of NFL service combined. The former, however, missed all of 2012 with a blood clot in his leg and turned 34 in March. Patterson only played five games last season after undergoing brain surgery in the offseason.
Kuhn actually played 10 games for Big Blue last season, starting in one of them. His season was cut short due to a torn ACL in November. Austin only played in seven games last year. He has largely been a disappointment, considering he was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Okam may get overlooked in this group, but he shouldn’t. He played in nine games in 2011 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He missed all of last season due to a calf injury, which kept him out until November and was the reason for his release from the Bucs that month. He is a 350-pound behemoth that will be an intriguing player if he has a good training camp.
Jason Pierre-Paul is clearly the Giants best defensive player, but his Week 1 status is in jeopardy due to offseason back surgery.
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The general consensus is that Pierre-Paul had a bad 2012 season because he only managed 6.5 sacks. He was actually pretty good, even for his standards, when you consider his 22.4 PFF rating.
JPP is recovering nicely from the back surgery he underwent June 5 and still has a shot to return by the season opener. Unfortunately, back injuries, even after surgery, can linger, so this could be an issue that crops again during his career.
Tuck is coming off consecutive poor seasons that saw him rack up only nine sacks and one forced fumble combined. You have to give the Giants defensive captain credit, though, for trying to get back on track. He visited motivational speaker Tony Robbins this offseason to try and rejuvenate his play. A return to form by the 30-year-old would relieve some pressure from JPP and give New York’s defense a huge boost.
Damontre Moore, Adewale Ojomo and Adrian Tracy
Big Blue carried five defensive ends in 2012, so all of these players have a good chance to make the team. The one curveball that could change this outcome is the expected move of Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end on a mostly-permanent basis. If this occurs, the Giants could be comfortable keeping only four defensive ends.
Moore appears to be a lock to make the team, since he is this year’s third-round pick. That would leave Ojomo and Tracy to battle it out for one spot. The latter probably has the leg up, considering he is a more polished pass-rusher and served as a backup in all 16 games last season. Ojomo only played in one game during his rookie season.
Matt Broha and Justin Trattou
Barring a significant injury to one or more of the top five defensive ends, neither of these players has a realistic chance of landing on the 53-man roster.
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Heading into offseason workouts, Herzlich was expected to be in a competition with newcomer Dan Connor for the starting middle linebacker spot. After a strong showing at both OTAs and minicamp, he heads into training camp as the starter.
Herzlich was a top college player before being stricken with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2009. If he can get close to his pre-cancer form, Big Blue will have suddenly solidified a position that was considered a weakness coming out of the 2012 season.
Williams has the speed to be an impact player at outside linebacker. He must develop better instincts, however, to allow his speed to truly affect games. This is especially true in coverage, where he has a tendency to be tardy reading a receiver’s break.
Despite being a work in progress, he will definitely start for this team in 2013.
Talent is not the issue with Rivers—it’s simply staying healthy. The ninth-overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals has never played a full 16-game season. Last year, in his first stint with the Giants, he missed five games due to hamstring and calf injuries.
If Rivers can stay healthy, he would form a nice outside linebacker tandem with Williams.
Kiwanuka is in this section simply because he is still listed as a linebacker. He will likely spend most of 2013 at defensive end. This is the seven-year veteran’s natural position and a better fit since he is adept at rushing the passer.
Dan Connor, Spencer Paysinger and Aaron Curry
All of these players should make the team but will likely serve in back up roles. Curry is the one player that is vulnerable.
The Giants carried eight linebackers in 2012. If Kiwanuka gets some time at linebacker and rookie safety Cooper Taylor does as well, New York may feel comfortable only keeping six true linebackers. In that scenario, Curry’s margin for error to make the team would be razor thin, as it would only take one player from the final three guys on the depth chart to beat him out.
Etienne Sabino, Jake Muasau and Kyle Bosworth
Sabino, an undrafted free agent rookie, is the most intriguing of this group trying to crack the 53-man roster. He is a good athlete and has a solid 6’2”, 247-pound frame for a linebacker. His instincts are poor, however, and he may not be quick enough to play outside linebacker in the NFL. If that is the case, it would be hard justifying his role as a backup if he can only play middle linebacker.
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Amukamara believes he can be the best cornerback in the NFL. He sure hasn’t played that way in his first two seasons, but 2012 was a step in the right direction.
He only missed three games due to injuries, compared to nine in 2011, and achieved a 0.5 PFF rating, which was tops among the Giants cornerbacks.
With Corey Webster coming off a bad season, Amukamara will likely be the Giants number one cornerback in 2013. This will mean covering the other team’s best receiver and setting a positive tone in Big Blue’s secondary. We’ll see if the 24-year-old is up to the challenge.
Webster’s poor 2012 is well documented at this point. It is more constructive to discuss how he can have a better season this year. Handing over number one cornerback duties to Amukamara is a start, but it won’t solve all of his problems.
His main issue is a propensity to give up the big play. It is the reason he allowed eight touchdowns and 16.7 yards per catch last season. If he can do a better job keeping receivers in front of him and not biting on fakes, his performance should improve dramatically.
The good news is that he is still a pretty good ball hawk. He had four interceptions last season and now has 20 in his career.
After a one-year sabbatical as a Jacksonville Jaguar, Ross is back with the Giants. Right now he is the favorite to hold down the slot cornerback role. He was decent in this position last season, achieving a 0.1 PFF rating as a slot cornerback in 104 snaps.
Hosley is Ross’ main competition. The second-year player is probably a better fit as a slot cornerback. He is quicker than Ross and has more fluid hip movement. Both of these qualities come in handy against slot receivers, who tend to be speedy and make sudden cuts to get open.
The battle in training camp between Hosley and Ross should be a good one. Expect Ross to win the role to start the season, with Hosley surpassing him within a few games.
It is hard to analyze Thomas’ role on this team because a move to safety is still possible. After three ACL tears, making it through training camp should be his number one priority.
Charles James, Terrence Frederick, Trumaine McBride, Junior Mertile, Antonio Dennard, David Caldwell and Laron Scott
If Thomas switches to safety, gets injured or simply can’t play at a level worthy of a roster spot, then one of these players will have a chance to make the team.
James and Frederick seem like the two with the best chance. The former is an undrafted rookie free agent who impressed in offseason workouts. The latter was on the Giants 53-man roster last season but only played in one game.
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Rolle is a player you can’t simply evaluate based on stats. Sure, he had a -2.9 PFF rating in 2012. He also played in all 16 games for a third straight season. But, his performance suffers at times because he is asked to play out of position at cornerback when the Giants are affected by injuries. Finally, he is true vocal leader who is willing to speak on behalf of the defense when it plays well or poorly.
Rolle should once again start at free safety, and Big Blue will be better for it.
In his first two NFL seasons, Brown didn’t intercept a pass. He made up for lost time by grabbing eight picks in 2012 and was sure not to be satisfied with just creating a turnover. He accumulated 307 return yards off of those eight interceptions, which was tops in the NFL.
With Kenny Phillips heading to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, Brown is slated to hold down the strong safety position.
Ryan Mundy, Will Hill and Cooper Taylor
The Giants only kept four safeties last year, but Taylor’s flexibility to play linebacker means the Giants should roster five this year.
Mundy was signed in free agency from the Pittsburgh Steelers and figures to be strong in a backup role. His flexibility to play either safety position and the fact that he has never missed a game in four NFL seasons are qualities that won’t grab any headlines but are important nonetheless.
Hill’s talent is intriguing, and he has the most upside in this unit. With Brown on a one-year contract and Rolle a likely cap casualty in 2014, the former Florida Gator could set himself up as a future starter with a good season.
Tyler Sash and Alonzo Tweedy
Both of these players will need an injury to the top-five to make the team. That is an unfortunate scenario for Sash, who has played 23 games for the Giants over the last two seasons.
For the Giants, it should be considered a positive that their depth at safety is good enough where a player of Sash’s caliber is expendable.
Josh Brown and David Buehler
Barring a terrible training camp by Brown and a great one by Buehler, the former will be the Giants placekicker in 2013.
A big issue with last year’s placekicker, Lawrence Tynes, was that he struggled on 50-plus yard field goals. Brown should be modestly better in this area, as he has connected on 29 of 45 field goal attempts from 50 yards or more in his career. Tynes, on the other hand, is only 11 of 21 on 50-plus yard attempts.
Another storyline to follow at this position is whether Buehler will make the team as a kickoff specialist. He did lead the NFL with 29 touchbacks in 2009. Remember, that was when kickoffs still occurred at the 30-yard-line.
Weatherford has been an average punter in his two-year tenure with Big Blue when you match him up against others at his position. Giants fans look upon him rather favorably, however, because he is not Matt Dodge.
Can you remember a bad snap on a punt or field goal costing the Giants a game or even a score in the last six years? That’s why DeOssie has been the Giants long snapper since 2007 and has made two Pro Bowls. If you have forgotten the importance of the long snapper position, watch this video to refresh your memory.
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