The 2013 New York Giants are oozing with potential at the offensive skill positions.
They have an experienced quarterback in Eli Manning at the helm. They have proven playmakers in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, coupled with up-and-coming pass-catcher Rueben Randle at wide receiver. They have a pair of effective ball-carriers in David Wilson and Andre Brown, and they have an intriguing duo of tight end targets in Brandon Myers and Adrien Robinson.
Unfortunately for New York, all of those weapons are in danger of being rendered useless.
Center David Baas sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee during the Giants’ opening drive of their preseason tilt with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Aug. 18. Three days later, right tackle turned left guard David Diehl underwent surgery on his thumb, putting him out for more than a month.
Down two veteran linemen, New York has thrust rookie Justin Pugh and inexperienced center Jim Cordle into the starting lineup. Between them is an aging Chris Snee, who, at 31, is still on the road to a full recovery from offseason hip surgery.
The Giants are one key injury away from fielding an offensive line completely drained of its talent and unity. Without solid protectors, Manning will not have the time to find his field-stretching targets; without brawny blockers, the running backs will never see the light of day.
But in the form of fullback Henry Hynoski, there is a ray of hope.
On Thursday, Aug. 22, Hynoski was cleared to practice and removed from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Although he figures to rest his newly fit knee for the remainder of the preseason, the Giants can likely count on having their backfield battering ram for their Week 1 faceoff with the Dallas Cowboys.
Adding a player of Hynoski’s ability cannot be overlooked. He has a skill set so rare in today’s NFL that he could be the silent difference between a win and a loss on many occasions, and head coach Tom Coughlin knows it.
“There aren’t many [fullbacks] around,” Coughlin said after the team activated Hynoski, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York. “Even today, when you look around in the league, there are not many guys who are 265 [pounds] and have the skill set that Henry has.”
The Giants are certainly glad to have Hynoski back, and the Hynoceros is enjoying the warm welcome his return has generated.
“It feels good,” Hynoski said of his comeback, per Youngmisuk of ESPN New York. “I’m very happy to be out here with my teammates and just get out here moving around and doing some things.”
The Giants will benefit immensely from having Hynoski back in the lineup, and that’s no slight against the versatile Bear Pascoe, who has filled in admirably as a fullback/H-back combo during Hank the Tank’s absence. Besides, Pascoe can now return to his natural position at tight end, where he is an exceptional in-line blocker.
Hynoski will help pound holes where New York’s patchwork O-line fails to do so. With Wilson on the verge of a breakout year and Brown, who is injury-prone, expecting a larger workload, there is no better lead blocker for the duo to run behind in 2013 than Hynoski.
Just look at the spike in production the running game had a season ago.
After finishing the 2011 season with the worst rushing attack in the league, the Giants bounced back the following year with nearly 2,000 yards on the ground and an average of 4.6 yards per carry, which was seventh best in the league. A lot of that improvement can be attributed to the maturation that took place after Hynoski’s rookie year.
His convenience does not end there.
Late last season, when the Giants were hurting for halfbacks, Hynoski stepped in as Manning’s personal protector on shotgun snaps. In addition to his trustworthy pass-blocking expertise, the lumbering fullback can also slip out of the backfield and catch an unexpected pass in the flat, like the one he snagged in the end zone during a 42-7 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles in last year’s season finale.
He may not possess Wilson-like potential or a Cruz-like contract, but with the offensive line on the fast track toward falling apart, the Giants will be happy to have a healthy Hynoski boosting the team’s blocking.