New York Giants: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2014
As the New York Giants 2014 roster starts to fall into place, there will be loads of opportunities for various players who perhaps had minor roles last year to step up and contribute on more of a full-time basis this coming season.
The biggest number of opportunities would appear to be on the offensive side of the ball, where the Giants continue to build a new offense that will likely be a combination of what they ran in the past and what new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo came from in Green Bay.
Of course, it helps that McAdoo, in a February conference call with reporters, said, “everyone comes in with a clean slate.” That’s good news for some players who, to date, haven’t contributed much for whatever the reason.
While the offense will probably have the most turnover, the defense will also be looking at a couple of guys from last year to step up and play bigger roles as well.
Here’s a look at five players from last year's roster that could be looking at bigger roles in 2014.
Defensive Tackle Johnathan Hankins
With defensive tackle Linval Joseph leaving for greener (pun intended) pastures in Minnesota, the Giants obviously have an opening on the starting defensive line.
That opening is likely to be filled by second-year man Johnathan Hankins, the giant’s second-round pick out of Ohio State last year.
In his first season, Hankins played in 11 games as a rotational defensive lineman.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he totaled 195 snaps (24.9 percent), with 113 of those coming against the run, logging a very respectable 9.5 overall run defense grade from PFF.
Hankins, who was one of PFD’s Top 10 undervalued Giants in 2013, and he seemed to get better down the stretch.
After making his debut on defense last year in Week 5 versus the Eagles in which he played 34 snaps, Hankins saw his snap total dip to fewer than 20 per game until the last three games of the season.
As a projected starter for the 2014 season, he’ll see a significant bump in his activity. The big question for him is whether he’s built up the stamina to go the distance, a question that hovered over him last year.
Tight End Adrien Robinson
So far, the career of tight end Adrien Robinson, whom the team famously dubbed “the JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) of tight ends” has failed to live up to the moniker.
In 2012, his rookie season, Robinson’s classes at Cincinnati ran into the last week of May, causing him to report to the team’s OTAs when they were more than halfway through with the spring program.
Despite being put on a crash course to catch up, the fourth-round pick never quite made it and was limited to two games in his rookie season, games in which he wasn’t thrown the ball.
Last year, there was hope that Robinson would finally live up to his potential. In training camp, the team experimented, using the 6’4” 264-pound Robinson from the slot and in the red zone.
However, a serious foot sprain suffered in the preseason finale against new England put him on the shelf for all but one game against Detroit.
Unfortunately for Robinson, his appearance in that game was short-lived as he suffered what became a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff.
So where does that leave him for 2014? With the starting tight end spot currently wide open under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new scheme, Robinson will have a chance to compete for a lot of playing time this summer.
Of course what he does with that chance remains to be seen but the opportunity is certainly there.
Defensive End Damontre Moore
Last season, third-round draft pick Damontre Moore showed flashes of being a disruptive pass-rushing force, as 100 of his 136 defensive snaps came in passing situations (per Pro Football Focus).
Slowed by some early season injuries, one of which was a shoulder problem for which he had offseason surgery, per Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, Moore played sparingly in the first half of the season.
He finally began to see double-digit snaps starting in Week 13 against Washington and didn’t look back from there.
When his year was done, the rookie recorded six tackles, three of which were for zero or negative yardage.
While he didn’t record any sacks, he did manage to get seven quarterback hits, two hurries and one knockdown at the line of scrimmage.
With Justin Tuck having departed to Oakland via free agency, there’s an opening along the defensive line.
That spot will see a competition between Moore and veteran Mathias Kiwanuka, who was PFF’s lowest rated 4-3 defensive end among those who took at least 60 percent of their team’s snaps on defense last season.
In order for Moore to win the job, he’ll have to show that he’s made progress sin his ability to play run defense, something he didn’t really do much of last year.
If he loses out to Kiwanuka, Moore will probably continue to be a part of pass rushing packages, perhaps even finding a spot for himself in the team’s NASCAR personnel group.
Receiver Rueben Randle
Last year, receiver Rueben Randle seemed poised to take that next step in his development, perhaps even push for some starting time opposite of Victor Cruz when Hakeem Nicks had his share of struggles.
It never came to fruition as Randle, who started two games, otherwise saw his snap counts mostly decrease as the year wore on.
With Nicks having moved on to the Colts, Randle has an excellent opportunity to become the full-time starter. However, there are a few things he’s going to need to work on to improve his game.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Randle had five dropped passes out of 76 targets, or one drop per every 15.2 pass attempts.
He was also the intended target on eight of Eli Manning’s interceptions, with at least half of those interceptions being the result of Randle going in a different direction than what his quarterback expected.
The other stat that declined in Randle’s game last year was his yards-after-the-catch. In his first eight games, Randle averaged 35.2 yards after the catch; in the second half of the season that number dropped to 12.6.
While it’s still possible that the Giants might draft a receiver at No. 12—Texas A&M’s Mike Evans would be pretty hard to pass up if he’s sitting there when the Giants go on the clock—Randle will have a head start on learning the new playbook assuming he's present for the offseason program that commences on April 21.
Tight End Larry Donnell
Just because the Giants have apparently decided to move on from Bear Pascoe—per their official web site, Pascoe’s jersey No. 86 has been re-assigned to receiver Mario Manningham—that doesn’t mean that they won’t be looking for a tight end that can fill the multiple roles that Pascoe filed.
That someone might very well be Larry Donnell, who is entering his third season. In addition to being an in-line blocker, Donnell has done some work at fullback and as an H-back, similar to what Pascoe used to do when he was here.
Last season, Donnell appeared in all 16 games for 107 snaps, which were pretty much evenly split between run blocking and going out into pass patterns, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
He was targeted just six times, catching three of those passes for 31 yards, one of his biggest issues as a receiver being that he often rounded off his routes.
If Donnell—listed at 6’6”, 269 pounds—can learn to run better routes, there’s no reason he can’t see an increased role in the offense this coming season.