Grading Every New York Giants Starter's 2013 Regular Season
The New York Giants’ long and disappointing 2013 season is officially in the books. And in what might be the understatement of 2013, what a bizarre and disappointing season it was!
The injury bug was relentless—14 players were officially placed on injured reserve by Week 17 (including linebacker Dan Connor, who was released from injured reserve earlier this year).
Of those, seven—offensive linemen David Baas and Chris Snee, fullback Henry Hynoski, running back David Wilson, safety Stevie Brown, linebacker Dan Connor and cornerback Corey Webster—were projected to be starters on opening day.
Because of all the injuries, Tom Rock of Newsday noted that the Giants fielded a lot of different starters this season, coming pretty close to the NFL record:
Giants have used 63 players this year, including 46 different starters which is four short of the NFL record.
— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) December 27, 2013
Another unusual staple of the Giants’ 2013 season was that the “franchise,” quarterback Eli Manning, spent more time fearing for his health behind a disastrous offensive line than he did making those dynamic plays that Giants fans have become accustomed to seeing.
And with good reason, as Manning finally was cut down by an opponent, suffering a high ankle sprain in the regular-season finale.
In perhaps the weirdest of occurrences this season, the Giants lost their first six games of the season, a first for Tom Coughlin, whose teams usually jump out to a strong start.
That six-game losing streak was the worst start to a season since 1976, when they lost nine games in a row.
But it’s all over now, so breathe deeply and know that the rubble from this once-promising season will be quickly swept away.
Also know that there were a few bright spots in this lost year on which the team can build a future.
Here are the final, no-holds-barred grades for every starter. Note: The grades from Pro Football Focus do not take into consideration the Giants' regular-season finale against Washington.
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Patricia on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina. All stats are from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), unless otherwise noted.
Eli Manning: C-
Shortly after the 2010 season ended, Eli Manning, who had just finished the worst season of his career, stood in front reporters and declared that he wasn’t a 25-interception quarterback.
He was right, because it turned out that he had a 27-interception season in him, which topped the NFL.
While it’s tempting to give Manning a pass for this season considering he was playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and that he had obvious disconnect with his receivers, the fact remains that Manning, whose 12 penalties led the Giants this season, didn’t always play a smart game.
He forced balls into tight spots. He didn’t always make the right reads. His constant adjusting and checking down at the line of scrimmage often ate away precious seconds off the clock, leading to a career-high six delay of game penalties (per NFL GSIS, login required).
While the most common belief is that a new offensive line will fix everything, the fact is that Manning’s throwing mechanics took a major step backwards due to all the hits he took.
Like the front office, he’s going to have a lot of work to do this offseason in order to get himself back to his Super Bowl MVP form.
Of course he might have to put that on hold thanks to the high ankle sprain he suffered in the regular-season finale, an injury that left him in a walking boot and on crutches.
The Giants rushing game finished with an average of 83.2 yards per game and did not have a 1,000-yard rusher this season—in fact, no rusher finished over 500 yards.
Instead of being able to figure out how to jump-start the running game, which admittedly played behind the same poor offensive line that dragged the rest of the offense down, the coaches seemed to constantly be scrambling to find healthy players.
That’s right—six different players started at running back for the Giants this season while two different guys started at fullback.
Insane. There’s just no other word to describe it.
David Wilson: C+
Wilson started four of the five games that he was on the active roster, finishing with 113 snaps and a -1.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) before being shut down for the season following a diagnosis of spinal stenosis in his neck.
He ran for 146 yards on 44 carries (3.3 avg.) and one touchdown, but as was the case in his rookie season, he was careless with the ball, losing two fumbles in the Week 1 opener at Dallas.
He fixed that problem, but one thing he couldn’t fix was his pass protection, which was the very same reason why it took him so long to get on the field in his rookie season.
Brandon Jacobs: B
Jacobs brought fire and leadership to the Giants’ running back group, but in the end, he also succumbed to the injury bug with a knee problem.
Jacobs finished second on the team with 238 yards on 58 carries and led the running backs with four rushing touchdowns.
He created five missed tackle opportunities and finished with a team-high 4.1 yards per carry rushing average.
Peyton Hillis: B-
Hillis was added to the mix after the Giants lost Da'Rel Scott for the season.
Once he got into a groove, he was not only steady in pass blocking, he ran with power, gaining 247 yards on 73 carries—good for a 3.4 average—and two touchdowns.
A solid pass-blocker, he was also an intriguing receiving option out of the backfield, catching 13 passes for 96 yards.
Andre Brown: C-
Brown returned from the temporary injured reserve list (broken leg) with a bang, recording two 100-yard rushing performances in his first three games.
However, his rushing yardage totals have declined each week since, as did his ball security. He finished the season as the Giants rushing leader with 492 yards on 139 carries, but he lost three fumbles in his last four games.
Henry Hynoski: Incomplete
Hynoski fought hard to make it back by opening day after suffering a freak knee injury in an OTA practice.
After putting up the worst game of his career in the regular-season opener against Dallas, Hynoski followed up with two sub-par (for him) performances that saw him finish his injury-shortened season with a 0.5 run blocking grade.
That's a steep drop from his 3.2 run-blocking grade in 2012 that helped Hynoski, who suffered a season-ending fractured shoulder in Week 3, earn PFF's "Secret Super Star" status after last season.
Still, it's not fair to assign him a grade given that he didn't quite play in three games.
John Conner: B-
Conner stepped in as the team’s starting fullback and helped lead the Giants to four 100-yard or better rushing performances.
Considering he didn’t have a chance to really learn the playbook, he managed to earn positive grades in all but two games this season.
Conner, who is signed through next season, had an overall 6.6 grade from PFF, which, according to their rankings, is the fifth-best mark among fullbacks.
If he can improve his knowledge of the playbook and his blocking at the second level, he can become that much more effective in this running game.
The Giants tight ends finished with a combined 634 receiving yards on 62 receptions and four touchdowns.
Per data from PFF, that's the lowest passing game production by this unit since 2010 when Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum combined for 647 yards on 84 receptions and seven touchdowns.
What’s even worse is that Martellus Bennett, last year’s starter, caught 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns, representing better production than the Giants' 2013 tight ends combined.
Can we say “underwhelming?"
Brandon Myers: D
Myers really isn’t as bad of a player as his 522 yards on 47 catches and four touchdowns reflected.
The problem is that his skills are better suited for a West Coast offense, which the Giants do not run.
All too often, the Giants' power game ran the ball to Myers side of the field, hoping that the 6’4” tight end would magically morph into a powerhouse blocker.
That never happened, as Myers -6.4 grade in run blocking from PFF was, as of Week 16, the fourth-worst grade on the Giants offense this season and the worst by a Giants tight end since 2008.
If Giants management hasn’t learn a lesson about trying to fit square pegs into round holes after this failed experiment, then there truly is no hope.
Bear Pascoe: C+
Pascoe, who once again had to flip back and forth between tight end and fullback, fared much better as a run-blocker, earning a 1.9 grade though 15 games, which was the third best on the team this year.
As a receiver, he caught 12 passes for 81 yards.
Personifying the Giants’ bizarre season to a “T,” no Giants receiver had 1,000 yards this season, the first time that’s happened since 2008, when Steve Smith led the Giants with 574 yards on 57 catches.
Just to expand on that thought a little, since the Giants didn't have a 1,000-yard rusher this season either, the last time that no offensive skill player recorded 1,000 yards in either rushing or receiving was in 2004, Tom Coughlin’s first year as head coach.
Is it any wonder why, according to the weekly NFL rankings provided in the team’s game release, the Giants' offense has hovered in the lower third of the league in 12 of the 16 games this season?
Hakeem Nicks: C-
For a guy in his contract season, Nicks posted his second worst in receiving yards total (896) since his rookie season, when he had 790 yards on 47 catches.
In addition to once again not making it through a 16-game season—he was inactive Week 12 against Dallas—he continued to be held without a touchdown reception.
His streak is now at 18 games (not counting those games in which he was inactive).
Victor Cruz: B+
Cruz's production suffered because of Nicks’ struggles, as teams routinely bracketed him, thereby limiting him to four touchdowns this season.
Still, Cruz was the only Giants receiver who showed any kind of consistency in fighting for the ball.
Also, credit Cruz, who in the last two years has had double-digit drops, per Pro Football Focus, for improving in that area this year, finishing with just five.
Rueben Randle: C
Randle had looked so impressive this past spring that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride heavily praised the second-year receiver, saying that Randle had earned the right to “play a lot” in the 2013 season.
When the games started to count, Randle came back down to earth. Despite not missing any of the OTAs, he finished as the target of a team-high eight of Eli Manning’s interceptions.
He also saw his touchdown scoring come to a screeching halt starting in Week 12 against Dallas, and with that, the number of receptions he was able to pull in decline as well, per PFF.
Jerrel Jernigan: B
After two years of not doing much with the small handful of chances he received, Jernigan, who started two games this season, stepped up in Cruz’s absence, catching 29 balls for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
He even had a nifty 49-yard rush for a touchdown, the Giants' longest run from scrimmage this season, in the regular-season finale.
“I just wanted to go out there and show the coaches what I can do with the absence of Cruz,” Jernigan told The Associated Press (h/t CBS Local).
“I wanted to make plays, explosive plays for my team to show the coaches—with Cruz coming back next year—I can be another asset.”
They finally did it.
The Giants' patchwork offensive line, which has seen seven different starting combinations this season, got their starting quarterback injured.
Thankfully Eli Manning is going to have a lot of time to rest his high ankle sprain this offseason, but I think we can all probably agree with head coach Tom Coughlin, who after the Redskins game, said of Manning limping off the field, "I don't want to see it again."
I think we can also all probably agree that if the front office doesn't bring in a lot of offensive line candidates from camp, something is rotten in East Rutherford.
Justin Pugh: B+
Pugh became the first Giants first-round draft pick to play in every game in his rookie season since Lawrence Taylor in 1981.
Did the young right tackle have his growing pains? Sure.
But this kid battled hard, didn't make the same mistakes twice and was so reliable out there that when it came time to handing out chip blocking help, usually that went to the guy on the other side.
Will Beatty: D-
You'd have to be inhumane to not feel bad for Beatty, who suffered what appears to be a severe leg injury in the regular-season finale.
However, it's hard to get past his head-scratching explanation about his wildly inconsistent season in which the left tackle gave up the most sacks (13 as of 15 games played) of anyone on the offensive line, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Kevin Boothe: C-
The second-best player on the Giants' offensive line, the center often seemed to find himself dragged down by the inexperience on either side of him, especially when David Diehl was out of the lineup.
Still, Boothe, soon to be an unrestricted free agent, has enough redeemable qualities, namely his versatility, to warrant another short-term contract from this team.
Surround him with better talent, and Boothe, who per PFF was a solid run-blocker in 2012, might just be able to help this team moving forward.
James Brewer: D-
It boggles the mind how a man with Brewer's size and physical traits was so ineffective the majority of the season at left guard.
Throw a twist at him and he was lost, raising a question as to whether he fully understood his assignments and the various scenarios that came with each.
Whatever the case, Brewer has done nothing to show the coaches that he's the answer at left guard moving forward, which is a shame given his physical qualities.
David Diehl: D+
His best years might be firmly behind him—Diehl struggled badly against both power and speed rushers—but he battled hard on every snap from the right guard position.
Unfortunately, Diehl, whose skills first began to show concerning signs of deteriorating last season, might have held on one year too many, the reason being that he probably wanted to finish out his contract.
On the plus side, he was the quintessential teammate who did his job, shut his mouth and tried to help bring along the younger guys, especially Pugh.
For all the positive attributes that Diehl brought to the table, that he couldn't perform his job at the level he needed to do it was the most concerning, though again, the effort was there even if the results weren't.
Remember how everyone was wringing their hands over the lack of the pass rush earlier in the season?
Well, the defensive front stepped up in a big way, finishing with 27 of the team's 34 sacks this season, proving that patience really is a virtue.
Justin Tuck: A-
It's amazing what a full season of health did for Tuck. He finished as the team leader with 11 sacks, his first double-digit sack season since 2010, when he recorded 11.5.
He also made a handful of nifty plays against the run by sniffing out those plays coming to his side and then patiently waiting before reacting, thus avoiding over pursuit.
Mathias Kiwanuka: D
Kiwanuka's best years appear to be behind him.
While he always gives a valiant effort, he can't shed blocks, he lacks an array of effective pass rush moves, and he's just not able to make the plays he used to when he was younger.
This season was no exception. Save for his outstanding effort against the Lions Week 16, Kiwanuka has not made his presence felt enough on this defense.
Assuming that Jason Pierre-Paul makes good on his prediction that it will take an entire offseason for him to get fully healthy, and assuming that Damontre Moore learns how to play against the run, Kiwanuka might very well have played his final game as a Giant.
Damontre Moore: C
This eager beaver showed his youthful exuberance by hitting anything that moved; however, that eagerness also got him into some penalty trouble as he was a little too anxious to jump across the line.
Once he calms down a bit and masters stopping the run, this young man is going to be some kind of headache for opponents to deal with.
Jason Pierre-Paul: Incomplete
Although he tried to balance playing at a high level with rehabbing from back surgery, Pierre-Paul just couldn't muster up that explosive first step that made him a terror to manage in 2011.
The shoulder injury he suffered might very well have been a blessing in disguise, as it forced him to get a jump-start on getting his body right for next season.
If you're looking for the MVP unit on this team, the defensive tackles should be your first, second, third and last choices in the voting process.
"Inside, we’re better. Our tackles have been good," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said.
"Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Mike Patterson—those guys have been really good inside, and that’s helped us tremendously in the run game."
After placing a high premium on bringing in bigger butts to shore up the run defense, not one of their defensive tackles earned a negative overall grade from Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Linval Joseph: A
Hakeem Nicks should have taken notes from the way Joseph, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, conducted himself this season.
Joseph did his job and gave everything he had without any drama.
The results paid off too, as his 59 tackles was the best production on the unit.
What's more, Joseph was a huge—no pun intended—reason some of the NFL's best running backs like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris were held to less than 100 yards rushing against the Giants.
If Joseph departs after this season, the Giants have Hankins waiting in the wings. Hankins did very well in his limited snaps, and he stands to get even better as he becomes more deeply immersed in the Giants program.
Cullen Jenkins: A-
Jenkins didn't have the numbers that Joseph had, but that was more of a result of teams trying to double-team him on almost every snap.
When one player becomes the target of double-team blocks, that usually creates opportunities for other guys to make plays.
That's exactly what happened as Jenkins, who still managed to finish with 5.0 sacks on the season, played the role of space-eater to perfection. That often freed Justin Tuck to do his thing on the pass rush.
Jenkins also teamed with Joseph to muck things up inside, taking away the cutback lanes and forcing opposing runners to the outside where either an end or linebacker was there waiting to make the stop.
You had to figure that eventually the Giants’ strategy of staffing this unit with other team’s castoffs would eventually pay off.
Beason’s arrival proved to be just the kick in the pants this team needed.
However, given the track record this team has with staffing this position, it might be a while before they pick up another player that can make an impact like Beason.
Jon Beason: A-
What has Beason meant to this Giants' defense? Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell explains:
Jon has been a great voice for us. On the defense, you don’t think that you need a quarterback, but you need a quarterback. You need someone that can go in and command the front and relate to the back row and Jon has been able to do that.
He is very good at understanding situations and then being able to talk to all of his defensive players and play the game at a fast tempo. It’s remarkable that he’s been able to come in midway through the season and learn the terminology.
There’s a lot of communication that takes place, but playing at the level he’s playing at, my hat’s off to him.
Beason's ability to fill holes is a big reason the Giants run defense has been so strong. While he's not quite as good in coverage given his lack of ideal height—he is listed at 6'0"—he still hustles after guys to limit their yards-after-the-catch.
An unrestricted free agent, his re-signing should be at the top of the Giants' to-do list this offseason.
Keith Rivers: C+
Rivers managed to make it through a 16-game season without appearing on the injury report once, which is a moral victory in itself for the former first-round draft pick.
His strength is playing contain against the run; not surprisingly, PFF gave him a 3.0 grade for his run defense, the best of the Giants' outside linebackers.
Jacquian Williams: C
Williams finally managed to shake off a PCL sprain that carried over from last season and kept him out of the spring and part of training camp.
However, he still has yet to really reach his potential as a coverage linebacker, his 96.5 NFL rating from PFF being the highest of the Giants’ outside linebackers this season. (The lower the NFL ranking for a defender, the better.)
Williams finished the season with 51 tackles, one quarterback hit and nine pass breakups.
Spencer Paysinger: B-
If you’re looking for a player that showed significant improvement this season, Paysinger, a three-year veteran, is your man.
An undrafted free agent in 2011, Paysinger finished with some high marks for his play.
As an outside linebacker, Paysinger, who started on the weak-side in the first seven games of the season, has surprisingly been consistent in coverage, earning a 0.1 grade from Pro Football Focus through 15 games.
His run defense has fallen off a bit in the home stretch of the season—he’s recorded a negative grade in two of his last three games, and he barely cracked a positive grade in the three others.
Mark Herzlich: C-
After three seasons of trying to make the middle linebackers position his own, Herzlich, who had such an impressive spring, earned four straight overall negative grades from Pro Football Focus to start the season.
His run defense, which is supposedly his strong suit, was pedestrian at best. Because of his lack of athleticism, the coaching staff reduced Herzlich to a limited number of packages, most notably goal-line situations, where he has to do less running.
Herzlich did find his calling on special teams, where he finished as the team leader in tackles with 12.
The cornerback unit probably won’t get as much written about it this season, but the fact remains that it too went through injuries that affected its personnel.
It lost starter Corey Webster for the majority of the season. It also lost Aaron Ross early on to a back injury.
For the second year in a row, Jayron Hosley had injury issues. This year, he was inactive for five games with a hamstring injury.
The good news is that position coach Peter Giunta was able to bring along those players who were left standing and get them to play at a fairly high level for the majority of the season.
That’s been evident given that the Giants pass defense has ranked no lower than 15th overall in the NFL standings during the second half of the season.
Prince Amukamara: B-
At the start of the season, Amukamara, the third-year player, set a goal of becoming the top cornerback on the Giants.
So just how effective was Amukamara, who routinely lined up across from the opponents’ top receivers?
Per the stats through Week 16 at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Amukamara, who took the most snaps of the Giants’ cornerbacks, finished with a -5.7 grade in pass coverage.
That was a result of allowing 56 of 85 passes thrown against him to be completed for 610 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and eight pass breakups. Those numbers led to an 89.8 NFL ranking prior to Week 17's action.
In run support, he was at the opposite end of the spectrum, finishing with a 5.1 grade. Overall, he finished his first healthy season with a 2.6 grade.
Trumaine McBride: B
Despite his height—he’s listed as 5'9”—McBride was actually a very pleasant surprise. A six-year veteran, he deployed numerous techniques and strategies to deal with tall receivers, using his hands to push and tug at the ball to force it free from the receiver's grasp.
Many times, those strategies worked. His NFL rating after 15 games was a unit-best 77.8—not too shabby for a guy who at the start of the year appeared to be nothing more than camp fodder.
Terrell Thomas: C
If there was an award for hard work, determination and confidence, Thomas would be the Giants’ hands-down winner, yes, even ahead of safety Antrel Rolle.
After all, it couldn’t have been easy for Thomas to come back from two straight ACL surgeries plus the microfracture surgery he admitted to having last offseason.
But that’s what he did, making it through his first NFL season in two years without any setbacks.
While Thomas didn’t quite look anywhere near the player he was prior to being forced to put his career on hold in the summer of 2010, he fought on every play.
Per PFF, which was updated through Week 16 as of press time, Thomas allowed 50 of the 73 passes thrown at him to be completed for 538 yards and six touchdowns.
He managed only one interception and broke up just two passes to earn a 111.6 NFL rating.
The touchdowns allowed, pass completion percentage (68.5 percent) and NFL rating were all team highs among the cornerbacks with at least 500 defensive snaps.
The Giants pass defense has mostly ranked within the 11-22 range in the league this season, climbing as high as 11 in Week 10 and dropping as low as 22 in Week 5.
Finishing with a 13th place league-wide ranking, the play of the safeties has been solid against the pass, allowing 41 passing plays of 20 or more yards, tied with Cleveland for seventh in the league.
Antrel Rolle: A-
Rolle might have been very blunt in expressing his disappointment about not being voted to the Pro Bowl.
A closer look at the numbers among the safeties on his team probably support the perceived snub, as if you want to be considered the best at your position, you have to start with being the best on your team.
Yes, Rolle led the safeties in total tackles with 95, which also happened to be the team lead. And yes, he recorded the highest number of stops among the safeties—28 per Pro Football Focus, though as of Week 16, that number ended up being third most on the team.
And yes, before his game against Washington, Rolle had a 48.8 NFL rating, which was the best of the Giants’ safeties and the fourth best in the NFL.
At the same time, he finished second on the team with nine missed tackles, one shy of team-leader Terrell Thomas, and might very well have taken the lead after missing at least one tackle in the regular-season finale against Washington.
Will Hill: A
If you’re looking for the best of the Giants’ safeties, look no further than Hill, who despite missing the first four games due to a league-imposed suspension, finished with a 14.4 overall grade from Pro Football Focus through 16 weeks.
That mark is higher than those of Rolle’s and Ryan Mundy’s grades combined.
A closer look at PFF’s breakdown shows that Hill brought it all. He finished with 66 tackles. Prior to Week 17, he also allowed just 64.3 percent of the passes thrown at him to be completed for 172 yards and one touchdown.
Hill’s only Achilles heel is his off-field issues. In two seasons, he’s been suspended by the league twice and arrested once. That all makes him a big question mark moving forward.
Ryan Mundy: C-
Pressed into starting duty after the Giants lost Stevie Brown to a torn ACL in the preseason, Mundy has been middle-of-the-road as far as both coverage and run defense goes.
He finished fourth 70 tackles, but didn’t come close to matching Brown’s ball-hawking skills from a year ago, finishing the year with just one interception, seven shy of Brown's eight in 2012.
As noted in my analysis of Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn, he has probably had the most difficult job of all of the coordinators because the injuries have prevented his unit from fielding the same personnel every week.
However, a good special teams coach can usually figure out ways to spin gold out of straw, and that includes making sure that any mistakes that pop up during the course of a game do not reoccur.
This season, the Giants gave up three punt returns for a touchdown, tied with Washington for the league lead.
They've also allowed 655 punt return yards tied for the most in the NFL with—you guessed it—Washington.
There have also been several mental lapses that have affected the starting field position. These have included Michael Cox being out of bounds on a punt, Louis Murphy running into the kicker and Damontre Moore jumping offside.
What it’s all come down to is that the Giants special teams, per Football Outsiders, was ranked 28th going into Week 17's action, which is simply not good enough.
P Steve Weatherford: B+
After starting the season on a shaky note that, per Pro Football Focus, saw him record two negative grades in his first three games, Weatherford rebounded nicely with nine positive grades.
Weatherford also finished with a net average of 38.2 yards, which puts the Giants punting game 27th in the league.
K Josh Brown: A
Brown quietly had a good season, converting 23 of 26 field goal attempts (88.4 percent), including eight of nine from 40 yards or longer.
As for kickoffs, his 63.8-yard average puts the Giants 19th in the league.
PR Rueben Randle: D
The sooner the coaches figure out that Randle, who averaged 8.2 yards per return, is not a punt returner, the better.
While Randle has done a good job with fielding punts and while his blocking hasn’t always been there, his biggest issue is that he lacks the vision to spot the creases and the ability to change direction on a dime.
KR Jerrel Jernigan: C-
Jernigan’s 22.4-yard average never did catch up to teammate David Wilson’s 24.7 yards per return average this season, though to be fair, the blocking wasn't always there.