The New York Giants will be without a key young player on the back end of their defense for the first six weeks of the 2014 season, as safety Will Hill was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse program, reports the team.
This particular violation was the second straight of the substance abuse variety—Hill was also suspended for breaking the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy in 2012—bringing the total number of games he's been suspended in his young career to 14 games.
What does this mean for the Giants, who finished at a disappointing 7-9 mark in the 2013 season?
The Giants had many an issue on the offensive side of the ball last year, with Eli Manning tossing an astronomical 27 interceptions, Hakeem Nicks dealing with injury, the offensive line struggling with health and ineffectiveness, and an almost nonexistent running game; however, the biggest flaw in the Giants' game was their dismal defense.
The G-Men gave up 23.9 points per game, eighth worst in the entire league, 332.2 yards per game, 11th worth in the league and a 40 percent conversion rate on third down, sixth worst in the league.
A lot of the Giants' defensive scheme centers around the three safeties who play in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's system. Before Hill's suspension, he, Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown were projected to start, an above-average group on one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Thankfully for the Giants, their defense was comparable to the rest of the NFC East in terms of scoring and yardage. The division-winning Eagles gave up a ton of yards because of their fast-paced offensive system. The Cowboys lost star linebacker Sean Lee among many others on their way to a limp defense. Finally, the Redskins were bottom feeders in the NFC, almost entirely because of their inability to stop their opponents.
Also on the Giants' side in terms of an outlook for the 2014 season, management was aggressive in the offseason to supplement the team's strengths and fill in some holes, bringing in one of the fastest cornerbacks in the NFL in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a Super Bowl champion in corner Walter Thurmond and an effective defensive end Robert Ayers.
Hill, specifically, added a bit of size and physicality to the Giant secondary, however. Rolle and Brown are more speedy, ball-hawking players, and Hill gave the last level of Big Blue's defense that extra oomph.
It is clear that Hill has a recurring habit of breaking NFL drug policy of all kinds, and it is imperative that he should seek help in fixing this habit before he risks being left in the dust by many of the teams in the NFL. His current team, however, is also stuck between a rock and a hard place as it regroups to try to find a replacement before the season starts and the team's leaky defense is exposed once again.