What to Expect from Each New York Giants Starter in 2013-14
Nearly a week away from their 2013-14 season opener in Dallas, the New York Giants are as unpredictable as ever. Questions loom regarding New York's ability to replace stalwarts such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Osi Umenyiora and Kenny Phillips.
The roster turnover executed by general manager Jerry Reese will ultimately decide the Giants' fate this season.
Turbulent is the only way to describe the state of affairs for Tom Coughlin's team at the moment. That distinction fittingly rests on the shoulders of New York's players who could just as easily win the Super Bowl on their home turf in 2013 or finish last in their division. Your guess is as good as mine.
Each of the Giants' 22 starters on offense and defense face challenges in their quest to elevate their team back to the playoffs this fall.
The expectations bestowed upon these players are based on their overall quality and ability to improve over their careers. Here is a look at how all 22 New York Giants starters will fare in 2013-14.
Quarterback: Eli Manning
2012 Statistics: 3,948 yards, 26 touchdowns, 15 interceptions.
Understandably, 2012 was a down year for New York's signal-caller. On the heels of a mind-numbingly clutch season, capped off by a Super Bowl XLVI triumph, Eli Manning fell short of leading the Giants to the playoffs.
At this point in Manning's 10-year career (10 years already?), you pretty much know what you're getting. As this guy goes, so do his New York Giants.
Manning is at the mercy of the health of Hakeem Nicks and the performance of his offensive line.
New York's offensive captain can only do so much when delegating assignments in blitz pickups pre-snap. While he's shown he can be adept on the run, nobody is confusing Manning with Russell Wilson or RG3. Manning has to be able to maneuver in the pocket, and a healthy Hakeem Nicks will allow him to do so in a timely manner.
What to expect: Kevin Gilbride's offense has developed a pass-first approach, having sprayed the ball through the air at a 57 percent clip in 2012. Manning has an ideal stable of weapons at his disposal, but that means little if he cannot stand upright consistently.
2013 projection: 4,350 yards, 29 touchdowns, 14 interceptions.
Left Tackle: Will Beatty
If you weren't aware of how much the Giants valued Will Beatty before this season, you likely are now. New York inked the starting left tackle to a five-year deal worth up to $38.75 million in late February.
Beatty is unequivocally the Giants' key along the offensive line.
The instability in front of Eli Manning can only be mitigated by this former Connecticut standout. While injuries continue to mount on the offensive line and bodies are rearranged, "cornerstones" are tough to come by. As impossible as it may have been to imagine a few years back, Will Beatty is now the cornerstone of New York's offensive line.
What to expect: Manning may be scrambling as vultures penetrate New York's leaky O-line stage center and right. His blindside is another story; Beatty will have his back.
Left Guard: Kevin Boothe
Unlike his teammate on the left side of New York's offensive line, Kevin Boothe was not granted long-term security this offseason. Instead, Giants brass issued a one-year "prove it" deal.
The steady improvement Kevin Boothe has shown during his eight-year career is a welcomed bonus for New York.
It wasn't too long ago Boothe's pear-shaped body was plodding along the line attempting to avoid a holding penalty (and scolding from Coughlin) as much as he was trying to block the man in front of him.
Fast-forward to 2013, and Boothe is one of New York's best and most reliable offensive linemen.
What to expect: 6'5'', 320-pound linemen are typically hungry people. The incentive New York has given Boothe to prove one last time he can perform at a high level will have him hungrier than ever.
Center: David Baas
David Baas has been a solid presence for the Giants since coming over from San Francisco in 2011, provided he isn't in street clothes during games. The latest injury woe hampering New York's center: a sprained MCL threatening his ability to suit up Week 1 against Dallas.
A long list of injuries have hobbled Baas in recent years.
New York's desire to keep the offensive line intact relies predominantly on the health of its center. An injury to Baas potentially moves Kevin Boothe to the middle and sets in motion a dangerous domino effect which could see Eli Manning on the turf more than the Giants would like.
What to expect: Whether it was a neck injury causing him headaches two seasons ago or countless other hip, shoulder and ankle ailments, Bass has had to fight through pain just to get on the field for New York. An MCL sprain is not a promising start to the 2013 season.
Right Guard: Chris Snee
There are two ways to look at Chris Snee's prospects for 2013. Yes, it's that black and white.
On the one hand, Snee earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod last season for Big Blue. On the other, he was sidelined for most of the offseason due to hip surgery.
Snee has been a consummate professional throughout his career with the Giants. Perhaps he's underappreciated when you consider his exploits.
Along with being named a Pro Bowler four times, Snee has been an All-Pro on three separate occasions. His ability to continue that high level of play, however, is in serious jeopardy due to the rigors that stem from a long and arduous career.
What to expect: Tom Coughlin's son-in-law decided now was the time to fix a hip injury which had been nagging him for quite some time. With the problem presumably solved, expect Snee to be as solid as ever as he continues to cement his name as one of New York's all-time best offensive linemen.
Right Tackle: David Diehl
Few players were as maligned as David Diehl in 2012. The 11-year veteran struggled to stay out of the crosshairs of Giants fans due to the simple fact that he has lost a step, forcing the Giants to initiate a pay-cut this offseason.
Despite battling a thumb injury which likely will sideline him for the start of the season, Diehl's experience will help him regain his starting job.
First-round draft pick Justin Pugh is the future at right tackle, but if his performance in Week 3 of the preseason is any indication, the former Syracuse star is not quite ready for NFL action. Pugh was blasted off the line on a few occasions against the Jets, and perhaps most alarmingly, he looked lost at times.
What to expect: Diehl should start when his thumb has healed. Two more months of practice, however, could have Pugh in the driver's seat to take over midseason.
Tight End: Brandon Myers
2012 Statistics: 79 receptions, 806 yards, 4 touchdowns.
In 2012, Brandon Myers more than doubled his production from his previous three seasons combined. Seventy-nine catches in a poor Oakland Raiders offense is a promising sign for the Giants.
Unfortunately for Myers, he will not be judged on how he runs routes or catches balls, but rather his blocking prowess.
Sure, there are those who will tell you that playing through a shoulder injury throughout 2012 severely hampered his ability to block. Don't let that fool you. It certainly won't fool Tom Coughlin, who typically does not see these types of situations through rose-colored glasses.
What to expect: Myers was healthy enough to catch nearly 80 passes last season. A bum shoulder is not a good enough excuse for being terrible in protection. Improvement is needed in this area.
Projection: 63 receptions, 585 yards, 4 touchdowns.
Fullback: Henry Hynoski
Henry Hynoski's presence on the field is imperative to New York's success this fall. After losing a sterling blocker in Martellus Bennett, Hynoski's role as the Giants' lead blocker is more valuable than ever before.
After recently taking him off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for an injured MCL, the Giants will hope to have this third-year fullback in time for their opening week clash in Dallas.
With Hynoski sidelined, New York has been using Bear Pascoe as its lead blocker this preseason.
What to expect: Players like "The Hynocerous" are a dying breed. Fullbacks who can effectively get to the outside and spring big plays are invaluable. The Giants better hope Hynoski is healthy, or their running game will be hurting.
Running Back: David Wilson
2012 Statistics: 358 yards, 5.0 YPC, 4 touchdowns.
Apart from a spellbinding 84-yard scamper against the Jets this preseason, the Giants run game has been less than stellar this summer. The biggest question facing David Wilson is whether he can break the mold of a home run threat and become an every-down back.
Like tight end Brandon Myers, blocking will be a major factor in how New York's coaching staff evaluates Wilson's role this fall.
The development of this second-year running back's pass protection cannot be overstated. Every so often, Eli Manning will need David Wilson to stand between himself and an oncoming defender. Wilson will be tasked with laying that pass-rusher out, cutting him or buying Manning time.
What to expect: The Giants will find ways to get the ball in their speedster's hands in the open field. That doesn't necessarily mean things will be turned over to Andre Brown once space is limited in the red zone. Wilson is young and talented, but it won't always be easy behind an inconsistent offensive line.
2013 Projection: 925 yards, 4.8 YPC, 6 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver: Hakeem Nicks
2012 Statistics: 53 receptions, 692 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Hakeem Nicks will be out to prove he is a bona fide No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Whether it's a franchise tag hovering around $11 million or a long-term deal, this Giants star is looking to get paid.
The best way for Nicks to do that is by staying healthy for the entire 2013 season.
Based on his performances in past years, this former UNC Tar Heel is destined to receive a lucrative extension.
In the two seasons leading up to 2012, Nicks combined for 155 catches, 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns. Last year was a different story, however, as he was listed on the injury report on 13 different occasions with foot and knee ailments.
What to expect: In the 2011 playoffs, Nicks had 444 yards and 28 catches in four games. It's impossible to imagine he can maintain that pace through an entire season, but these flashes of brilliance are tough to ignore. Bet on a healthy Nicks to make the Pro Bowl.
2013 Projection: 87 receptions, 1,280 yards, 9 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver: Victor Cruz
2012 Statistics: 86 receptions, 1,092 yards, 10 touchdowns.
Unlike his teammate and co-star in commercials, Victor Cruz has little to worry about in terms of getting paid. While Hakeem Nicks anxiously awaits a new deal, Cruz inked a five-year, $43 million contract this summer.
Despite the Giants' best efforts to end the Cruz saga, history tells us the drama is just beginning.
Forty-three million bucks is nothing to sneeze at, but players rarely end their quest for infinite wealth after signing their first big contract. Cruz will likely be banging down Jerry Reese's door in July of 2015 demanding a pay bump.
In order to make these types of demands, Cruz must continue his development on the field as an elite slot receiver.
What to expect: The health of Hakeem Nicks and emergence of Rueben Randle are big factors for Cruz. The Giants like to keep their salsa-dancing extraordinaire in the slot, where he can maneuver in space and avoid getting jammed into oblivion near the sidelines.
2013 Projection: 81 receptions, 1,075 yards, 7 touchdowns.
Defensive End: Justin Tuck
2012 Statistics: 45 tackles, 4.0 sacks.
Justin Tuck's struggles epitomize the unwarranted hype surrounding New York's pass rush over recent years. Nine combined sacks is all the Giants' defensive captain has been able to manage since 2010.
We've been through the same song and dance before: A player isn't "making excuses," but it's put out there that nagging injuries are bothering them. That has to be some form of excuse-making.
2013 was supposed to be a revival of sorts for Tuck, but the injury bug has once again caught up to him.
Hamstring and back issues are the newest disorders in a long line of health problems. Tuck should be ready to play near full strength in Dallas, but how long until the next part of his body gives out?
What to expect: The Giants have a solid defensive leader in Justin Tuck. His mind works better than anybody's on the field, which helps him immeasurably. Still, this player needs his body to cooperate if he expects to put up double-digit sacks for the first time in three years.
Defensive Tackle: Linval Joseph
2012 Statistics: 59 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble.
Each year, Linval Joseph exceeds expectations. Now in his fourth year with the Giants, fans can expect him to become a star along the defensive line.
Joseph has found his niche on Perry Fewell's defense because of his understanding of assignments.
A strong understanding of how to fill gaps will go a long way in improving an anemic run defense from 2012. With all the turnover surrounding Joseph on defense, his presence is more important than ever.
What to expect: Linval Joseph is a stud, but who will make plays behind him when he starts taking on double-teams? Despite his best efforts (and they will be some of the best you'll see), the Giants don't have many tacklers on the second level, neutralizing Joseph's effectiveness.
Defensive Tackle: Cullen Jenkins
2012 Statistics: 26 tackles, 4.0 sacks.
Cullen Jenkins represents the Giants' best free-agent signing this offseason. He'll be 33 years old by the end of this season, but versatility and experience are something New York desperately needs on defense.
Compared to the money doled out to Chris Canty, who could barely stay on the field, the three-year, $8 million given to Jenkins was money well spent.
The Giants now have two players who can generate pressure in the face of opposing quarterbacks. This should be a tremendous help to Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.
What to expect: Jenkins has never been known as an elite run defender, but his presence is welcome when you consider how thin New York was at defensive tackle in 2012. This player represents a solid offseason upgrade.
Defensive End: Jason Pierre-Paul
2012 Statistics: 66 tackles, 6.5 sacks.
Believe it or not, sometimes injury news can be good news. Earlier this week, the Giants activated Jason Pierre-Paul from the PUP list following back surgery this offseason.
With virtuoso performance after virtuoso performance, JPP captured the imaginations of all Giants fans in 2011.
Pierre-Paul recorded 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks in just his second year as a professional. While it wasn't rational to assume he'd do the same last fall, many people did anyway.
If the Giants want to reclaim their status as a vaunted pass-rushing team, JPP will need to do most of the heavy lifting.
What to expect: Most coaches in the NFL didn't get to where they are by being stupid. Each team shifted their protection in Pierre-Paul's direction, throwing double-teams at him consistently throughout 2012.This noticeably frustrated the Giants' young star last season.
The learning curve experienced by this All-Pro caliber player will serve him well this fall. Expect something closer to the 2011 version of JPP than 2012.
Weak-Side Linebacker: Spencer Paysinger
2012 Statistics: 39 tackles, 2 FF.
Spencer Paysinger has done well for himself since going undrafted back in 2011. The Giants' special teams star has worked his way into a starting position for New York heading into Week 1 as the team's weak-side linebacker.
Jerry Reese has never put much stake in the linebacker position, instead choosing to piece a unit together year after year.
Despite the neglect, the Giants may have a solid NFL starter on their hands after he spent most of his two years in the league mopping up opponents on kickoffs and punts.
Paysinger could potentially be a breakout performer for New York's linebacking corps.
There isn't a terrible amount of evidence to support this, but unproven players are known to brandish a chip on their shoulders.
What to expect: Paysinger has a decent amount of upside when you consider where he has come from as an undrafted player. Versatility and a propensity to find the ball will help keep Paysinger on the field and help continue his growth as a player.
Middle Linebacker: Dan Connor
2012 Statistics: 56 tackles.
New York clearly lacks speed at linebacker, and it's hard to watch. Whether it's Dan Connor or Mark Herzlich, the Giants have serious issues at middle linebacker.
Connor gets the nod over Herzlich because he is not as slow. We are dealing with a war of attrition here.
The legacy left behind by some of the very best linebackers to ever play in the NFL for the Giants is being tarnished with every misstep to the point of attack or desperate arm tackle on third down. Things are going to get worse before they get better with players like these at Perry Fewell's disposal.
What to expect: Plays are there to be made behind New York's solid defensive line. Unfortunately, the skills needed to make these plays are lacking.
The Giants fall short of employing even a semblance of what an elite middle linebacker looks like in the NFL. Tune in this fall to see for yourself.
Strong-Side Linebacker: Keith Rivers
2012 Statistics: 11 games played, 44 tackles.
Health is a major factor for Keith Rivers this season. If he can stay on the field, the Giants will benefit from his presence.
That is, of course, a big if.
It's safe to say Rivers has been a major bust thus far in his NFL career. Ask Cincinnati Bengals fans, and they will tell you that No. 9 overall pick back in 2008 was a huge waste.
Rivers always struck me as a player with a Vitamin-D deficiency, which would explain why his bones break so easily. Here's hoping he visits his physician and gets that sorted out.
What to expect: Rivers is average at best, but even the most mediocre player is an upgrade for New York at linebacker. Don't count on him staying on the field long enough to test that theory.
Cornerback: Prince Amukamara
2012 Statistics: 53 tackles, 1 interception.
New York is finally reaping the rewards of its first-round pick from 2011. Whether Prince Amukamara can be a shutdown corner is up for debate, but what can't be argued is that he will be the Giants' best cornerback in 2013.
It's hard to come to grips with a prominent player admitting that women call him "Princey Poo," but Amukamara has been improving steadily heading into his third year in New York.
— Justin Tuck (@JustinTuckNYG91) December 1, 2012
The Giants are thin in the secondary, further amplifying the need for Prince to step up this season. He won't have to wait long. New York will line him up against Dez Bryant, one of the NFL's most talented receivers in Week 1.
What to expect: Amukamara hasn't shown that quarterbacks need to throw away from him, but he is steadily becoming a very good player for Perry Fewell. This may be the year Prince punishes the opposition for looking his way.
Free Safety: Ryan Mundy
2012 Statistics: 39 tackles.
Jerry Reese should be applauded for this signing. Stevie Brown had an incredible knack for finding the ball, but he had a serious weakness in defending the run. With Brown out for the year due to a torn ACL, free-agent signing Ryan Mundy will be in an all-too-familiar situation.
Reese wisely brought this player in to fill a similar role with the Giants as a backup safety. That type of depth will pay dividends now that Stevie Brown will be sidelined for the entire year.
What to expect: Mundy is a physical player. On several occasions last season, New York looked like a soft group on defense. Adding a hardened presence in the secondary will help this team.
Strong Safety: Antrel Rolle
2012 Statistics: 96 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 FF.
The Giants simply cannot thrive without Antrel Rolle patrolling the secondary. With Kenny Phillips lost in free agency, Rolle will be the Giants' do-all player on defense.
Rolle is a special player because of his ability to stick his neck in the fray against the run and his ability defend a wide range of players in pass coverage.
New York's second-leading tackler from last season will have just as many responsibilities this season. Fortunately for Perry Fewell, Rolle is on schedule to recover from a severely sprained ankle in time for the Giants' opener.
What to expect: Rolle can sit in the box, man-cover to the outside and be used as a safety blanket deep. When he and a healthy Kenny Phillips lined up together, New York employed arguably the best safety tandem in the league. Rolle's newest partner, Ryan Mundy, will be a strong complement and help New York minimize big plays.
Rolle is expected to be a vocal leader for the Giants. Historically, he is successful at backing up his talk on the field.
Cornerback: Corey Webster
2012 Statistics: 58 tackles, 4 INTs.
If David Diehl was the scapegoat of the offense in 2012, Corey Webster certainly earned that distinction on defense. The former LSU Tiger has been increasingly inconsistent in recent years, prompting the team to give him a pay-cut and add depth behind him at cornerback.
New York will have to properly handle Webster's up-and-down form in 2013.
When the Giants' former top corner is at his best, the defense as a whole thrives. Webster has the ability to neutralize the opposition with his tremendous technique near the line of scrimmage.
On the flip side, Tom Coughlin must have Webster on a short leash. In 2011, Coughlin benched Webster due to a string of poor performances. Later that season he returned to play a big role in New York's championship run.
What to expect: It's difficult to forecast how a player this inconsistent will fare. Fans have been dogging Webster for quite some time, but he likely has one more comeback season in him.