|Jason O. Watson/US Presswire|
By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
A 9-7 season can rarely be categorized as a disappointment but that is exactly what 2012 was for the New York Giants; 2012 was a difficult one for Big Blue in more way than one. The defending Super Bowl champs had to face the most difficult schedule in the NFL and struggled with injuries once again throughout the season. Prince Amukamara and Kenny Phillips missed time throughout the season and Terrell Thomas was lost in the preseason once again to decimate an already thin defensive backfield. Justin Tuck battled a number of injuries all season and was ineffective, not registering a sack until the seventh game of the season.
All of this led to an underwhelming performance on defense for the Giants last season. They were atrocious all season long, ranking 31st in yards allowed with 383.4 yards per game; 28th in passing yards per game at 254.3 yards per game and 25th in rushing at 129.1 yards per game. They did give up only 21.5 points per game, good for 12th in the league, but they had a penchant for giving up big plays. The Giants actually gave up the most plays of 20+ yards in the NFL. Where the biggest problem for the Giants occurred was in the sack department. The Giants, whose defense relies on pressuring the quarterback, finished last in the NFL with only 20 sacks last season. A big drop-off from Jason Pierre-Paul and Tuck being hurt really hurt the Giants.
It was not all bleak on the defense side of the ball for the Giants as Stevie Brown had a breakout season at safety with Phillips hurt. Brown led the team in interceptions with eight, as the Giants defense forced 35 turnovers on the season, good for third in the NFL.
The Giants offense on the surface looked solid as the Giants ranked 14th in total offense with 355.4 yards per game; 12th in passing yards with 239.1 per game and 14th in rushing with 116.4 per game and sixth in scoring with 26.8 points per game. When looking a little deeper the stats are not nearly as pretty. Eli Manning had an underwhelming year, throwing 19 interceptions to his 26 touchdowns and 3,948 yards on 59.9 percent passing. He also had a three-game stretch in which he did not throw a touchdown pass. Manning’s struggles can be directed at one big problem: the health of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Nicks was unable to stay healthy all year and it hurt Manning and the offense as a whole to not have their top guy.
Victor Cruz had another solid season with 86 catches for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns but really missed Nicks as defenses focused on him much more. Martellus Bennett had a good season in his first one as a starter with 55 catches, 626 yards and five touchdowns. The running game was much improved from 2011 as whoever the Giants had out there out of Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown or David Wilson produced as the three combined for 4.8 yards per carry, giving the Giants a legitimate three-headed monster in the backfield.
Check out Cruz Salsa-Dancing his way to some highlights last season here:
Key Losses (New Team): Osi Umenyiora, DE (Atlanta Falcons); Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (Indianapolis Colts); Chris Canty, DL (Baltimore Ravens); Kenny Phillips, S (Philadelphia Eagles); Martellus Bennett, TE (Chicago Bears); Michael Boley, LB; Lawrence Tynes, K (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); Sean Locklear, OT; Chase Blackburn, LB (Carolina Panthers); Domenik Hixon, WR (Carolina Panthers); Rocky Bernard, DT; Justin Tryon, CB; Travis Beckum, TE; Kregg Lumpkin, RB; Bruce Johnson, CB; Brian Witherspoon, CB
Key Additions (Old Team): Cullen Jenkins, DT (Philadelphia Eagles); Mike Patterson, DT (Philadelphia Eagles); Aaron Ross, CB (Jacksonville Jaguars); Aaron Curry, LB (Oakland Raiders); Dan Connor, LB (Dallas Cowboys); Ryan Mundy, S (Pittsburgh Steelers); Josh Brown, K (Cincinnati Bengals); Louis Murphy; WR (Carolina Panthers); Brandon Myers, TE (Oakland Raiders); Kyle Bosworth, LB (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Players Re-Signed: Victor Cruz, WR; Kevin Boothe, G; Stevie Brown, S; Shaun Rogers, DT; Andre Brown, RB; Keith Rivers, LB; Ramses Barden, WR; Ryan Torain, RB; David Carr, QB;
Players Drafted: Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse; Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State; Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M; Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse; Cooper Taylor, S, Richmond; Eric Herman, G, Ohio; Michael Cox, RB, Massachusetts
The Giants continued their MO under Jerry Reese in the offseason once again this year. The draft went much of the way Giants people have become accustomed to seeing as the Giants take value and talent over needs. The Giants needed a linebacker but did not take one in the draft; that does not mean they did not go looking for some as they brought in former top five overall pick Curry this offseason after bringing in former top draft pick Rivers last season. Pugh should step right into the starting lineup as Hankins and Moore have legitimate chances of becoming rotation players this season with all the players the Giants let go this offseason. Taylor will look nice in special teams and can help at safety if needed. Nassib is as much a value pick as ever as the Giants can either groom him as their QB of the future or trade him down the line for assets.
Jenkins and Patterson will help the Giants in the run game and also the fact the Eagles now lose two of their top guys in stopping the Giants. The same goes for Connor, who will battle with Mark Herzlich for the starting middle linebacker position. Ross is familiar with the system and step right into the third CB position behind Amukamara and Webster. Mundy will replace Phillips as the third safety presumably in the beginning of the season. Myers will be the fifth tight end starter in five years for Manning to work with.
The Giants will look to bounce back this season after a disappointing 2012 season. Injuries will be worth keeping an eye on once again as they decimated the Giants last season; Having Nicks healthy will be imperative to the Giants season and Nicks future as this is the final year of his rookie contract and he looks to cash in. If he is healthy he will get the big contract he wants but if he struggles and is hurt this could be another Steve Smith situation.
The starting running back spot is up for grabs but looks like it will be a time split. Wilson and Brown are a good combination back there and both have some things they need to work on to be the sole feature back; for Wilson it is pass-blocking and ball security and for Brown it is health.
On defense the Giants have some questions at linebacker, which is turning into a yearly occurrence. Having Amukamara starting the season healthy will be a nice change for the Giants who have started every season in Amukamara’s career with him sidelined. Up front the Giants are once again loaded even with JPP possibly missing the start of the season. It would not be surprising to see the Giants double up their sack total from last season up to 40.
It is hard to get fired up being two-time Super Bowl champs like a lot of the main players are on this team but under Tom Coughlin the Giants will always be contenders. The schedule is much easier this season for the Giants which is a nice thing to see. After being embarrassed on multiple occasions last season this is a defense that wants to show they are still capable of wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. This is one team that did not make the playoffs last year that should be back there this season and are title contenders as long as Manning is under center.