New York Giants' 10 Biggest Developments in the Season's 1st Half

Steven KornContributor IIINovember 7, 2013

New York Giants' 10 Biggest Developments in the Season's 1st Half

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    If the Giants want to keep winning, they need better play out of Eli Manning.
    If the Giants want to keep winning, they need better play out of Eli Manning.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

    We're halfway through the New York Giants' season, and they are sitting at a disappointing 2-6. Thanks to an 0-6 start, it looked like the Giants might never win a game. After back-to-back wins, however, the team and its fans seem to be a bit more optimistic.

    New York has struggled through the first eight weeks of the season due to injuries, poor decision-making and just overall bad performances. This team still needs to improve on many things if it wants to stay competitive.

    The Giants and Eli Manning, though, have always shown that when they get on a roll, they are almost impossible to beat. With two straight wins and a few lousy NFC East opponents, the Giants have fans wondering if they can somehow compete for the division crown.

    There’s been some good, a lot of bad and a ton of criticism, but with eight games to go, New York is still alive.

    Here are the 10 biggest developments of the Giants’ first half of the season. The 10 developments were chosen based on their importance to the team's successes and failures so far this season. Counting down from No. 10, these are the things that the Giants need to work on or the elements that have put them in the situation they now face. 

10. The Secondary Has Been Exposed

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    Prince Amukamara and the secondary need to limit big plays.
    Prince Amukamara and the secondary need to limit big plays.Elsa/Getty Images

    The Giants secondary has not been great for the past few seasons, but thanks to their normally dominant D-line, they were not always exposed.

    This year, however, their defensive backs have been out of luck and have been lit up by opposing quarterbacks. In New York's six losses on the season, opposing quarterbacks have thrown for 14 touchdowns and only four interceptions. While injuries to players like Corey Webster and Jayron Hosley have not helped the secondary problems, it is still no excuse for the Giants to be playing the way they have.

    Other defensive backs such as Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy have all played well but need to continue to step up and stop the deep ball. The return of Webster and Hosley would be an enormous boost for this bruised and battered secondary.

9. Injuries Have Destroyed the Giants

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    David Wilson's celebrations are just one thing the Giants are missing with all the injuries.
    David Wilson's celebrations are just one thing the Giants are missing with all the injuries.

    The injury bug has bitten a lot of the teams this season, and the Giants are one of them. Many running backs, such as David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs, have gone down with injuries. Another key loss was Andre Brown. His injury has hurt the Giant, but with his imminent return could be a sign of things to come.

    Injuries have also depleted the offensive line, which has faced serious struggles and continues to be one of the biggest issues in trying to turn around the season. The line has already lost starters Chris Snee and David Baas for the season, and fellow starter David Diehl has missed time due to a thumb injury. Anyone who has watched the Giants play this year knows that the O-line has given Manning almost no time to throw.

    Losing key players on both sides of the ball has killed the Giants' ability to string together nice games. If New York continues to face the kinds of injuries they have seen so far, the season could get even worse. They will need all the healthy players they can get if they hope to keep winning games like they believe they can.

8. Victor Cruz Was Worth the Money

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    Victor Cruz has answered his critics after signing his big contract.
    Victor Cruz has answered his critics after signing his big contract.

    One thing that the Giants have been able to count on all season is their star wide receiver. Victor Cruz has been great this season, leading the team in receptions and yards and tying for the lead in touchdowns.

    When he signed his five-year, $43 million contract extension this summer, some fans were not happy that the Giants were more focused on Cruz than fellow wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks. After eight games this season, however, Cruz has quieted those critics.

    The fan-favorite, salsa-dancing receiver has been a bright spot for a team that has not had many of them this year. Cruz always seems to find a way to get open and make a big play when the team needs it most. New York will need him to make more big plays in the rest of the season to be able to make some noise.

7. Rueben Randle Has Emerged

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    Randle has made some huge plays for the Giants when they have need them the most.
    Randle has made some huge plays for the Giants when they have need them the most.

    Although Rueben Randle has been somewhat inconsistent this year, the 22-year-old is turning into a nice option for Manning. Randle is tied for Cruz with the most receiving touchdowns on the team and has shown signs of becoming a good player.

    With Hakeem Nicks' future with the Giants still undetermined, the emergence of Randle could become a key factor to the team’s success moving forward. It is essential to have multiple weapons offensively, so even if Nicks does stick around, having three targets that Manning can rely on would be a huge bonus for the team. 

    In a season when they have not gotten any help from the tight end position, the Giants need everything they can get out of Randle and his fellow receivers. 

6. Cutting Down on Turnovers Is the Key

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    Eli Manning has thrown away games for the Giants with his poor decision-making.
    Eli Manning has thrown away games for the Giants with his poor decision-making.Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    The New York Giants have a turnover margin of minus-12. It is the worst in the league and has been one of the main reasons for the horrible start so far. Star quarterback Eli Manning has a total of 15 interceptions, which is an awful number and also the highest in the league.

    While the running backs also have contributed to the issue, Manning is the main problem when referring to turnovers. In the Giants' two wins this year, he did not throw an interception. He needs to keep his game clean to continue the two-game winning streak.

    It'll be up to him to make better decisions and up to his offensive line to give him more time to make throws. 

     

5. New York's Running Game Is Pitiful

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    Peyton Hillis has struggled to gain big yards since joining New York.
    Peyton Hillis has struggled to gain big yards since joining New York.

    The Giants' attempts to run the ball have been hard to watch. After a couple of fumbles and an injury to David Wilson early, it already looked like it was going to be bad for the Giants. I don’t think anyone expected it to be this bad, though.

    The Giants have gone through a number of running backs since Wilson has been out. They tried Da’Rel Scott and Michael Cox, but neither of them worked out. They then decided to bring in Brandon Jacobs, and after a nice performance in his second game, he went down with an injury. This led to them bringing in former Madden cover boy, Peyton Hillis.

    Since bringing him in, the Giants are 2-0, but I wouldn’t say he deserves the credit. On his 38 carries this season, he’s averaging a mere 2.8 yards per carry and hasn’t been very successful.

    They need to step up their running game to help out the rest of their offense, especially Manning. With the 30th-ranked run offense in the league, they better hope they get their ground game going next week.

4. The Special Teams Unit Has Issues

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    The Giants have allowed a league-high three punt return touchdowns.
    The Giants have allowed a league-high three punt return touchdowns.

    Whether it has been letting up a touchdown or snapping it over the punter's head, the Giants special teams unit has been unwatchable. The punt coverage has given up the most return yards of any team in the league and the second-highest average return per punt.

    The Giants have allowed three punt return touchdowns, which is also the most in the league. The average return is 20 yards per punt, which does nothing to help the defense. Opposing teams have been starting in great field position, which puts that much more pressure on the defense to keep opponents of the end zone.

    The punt returning for the Giants has been nothing special either. With a long return of just 14 yards on the year, Eli and the offense never have a good starting field position. It is hard to believe that their longest punt return has gone for just 14 yards. If they don't change that soon, it's going to come back to bite them. 

3. Andre Brown Is Returning

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    The Giants need Andre Brown to play well if they want to keep winning.
    The Giants need Andre Brown to play well if they want to keep winning.

    After eight weeks of questioning who is going to get the carries at running back, the questions will finally be answered. Andre Brown is set to return.

    The Giants just activated the running back from the injured reserve/designated to return list, and he is expected to get his first action of the season in Week 10 against the Oakland Raiders.

    With the running game struggling as badly as it has been, the return of Brown should prove to be important. Since he has not played all season because of the fractured left leg he suffered in the preseason, his carries should be limited against Oakland on Sunday.

    Once he proves he is in shape and ready to carry the load, though, he should boost the Giants running attack.

2. Big Blue's Defense Is Back

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    Big Blue's defense has returned to form in the past two weeks.
    Big Blue's defense has returned to form in the past two weeks.

    As bad as the Giants were in the first six weeks of the season, they have somewhat turned it around. Their two wins in their last two games were nothing spectacular, but a win is a win.

    The biggest turnaround has come from their defense, which has not allowed a touchdown in the past two games. In face, opposing offenses haven't scored since the second quarter of Week 6.

    Jon Beason has proved to be an amazing pickup. He has been a huge factor in the resurrection of the New York defense. If he and his fellow defenders can keep up the good play, the Giants could see a few more wins coming their way.

    While the offense hasn’t completely turned it around yet, Manning has cut back on the turnovers. With that being their biggest issue in their losses, no turnovers from the offense is about the most you could ask for at this point. Hopefully the offense can get going in the upcoming weeks to continue Big Blue’s turnaround.

1. The NFC East Stinks

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    The Giants are hoping to keep their winning streak going and eventually top Dallas in the division.
    The Giants are hoping to keep their winning streak going and eventually top Dallas in the division.

    The silver lining for New York is that the division is terrible. The Giants are only 2.5 games out. As crazy as it sounds, they are actually still alive in the division. Everyone in the NFC East has struggled throughout the season, and with the Giants coming off two straight wins, hope is not dead.

    New York’s 2-6 record has the team within striking distance of the division leaders. There are eight games to go in the regular season, and though it is definitely a long shot, the Giants can still win the division. If they can win their next two games, their Week 12 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys could prove to be the biggest game of the year.

    It will be up to Manning, Cruz and Brown to make sure the offense can turn it around like the defense already has. If they can put together a few wins, you never know what could happen. 

    The Giants will look to extend their win streak to three games this week when they host the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium.