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Know Your Enemy: New York Giants

No NFL quarterback wants to see a New York Giants defensive lineman bearing down upon him.

No NFL quarterback wants to see a New York Giants defensive lineman bearing down upon him.

Going streaking: New York Giants

Expectations for the New York Giants were high coming into 2012, as one would expect from the defending Super Bowl champions. Towards the end of the previous season, the Giants had finally overcome all of their inconsistencies and injuries, mounting a storybook run that culminated in their raising the Lombardi Trophy. Many pundits, myself included, thought they had finally figured it out and were expecting a return to the playoffs.

Then in February, quarterback coach Mike Sullivan, who had been with the team since 2010, left for Tampa Bay. Three days later, offensive line coach Jack Bicknell departed for the Kansas City Chiefs.

On top of that, the team hemorrhaged talent as a number of familiar players became cap casualties. Running back Brandon Jacobs and wide receiver Mario Manningham signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Cornerback Aaron Ross joined the Jacksonville Jaguars. Offensive tackles Kareem McKenzie and Stacy Andrew were both released. Tight end Jake Ballard, who tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, was released after failing a physical and picked up off waivers by the New England Patriots.

The bottom line is that the New York Giants of 2012 were a very squad different than those of 2011.

After losing in Week 1 to the Dallas Cowboys, New York got off to their usual hot start, cruising to 6-2. Just as many began to think the Giants had finally figured out how to close out a season, though, they commenced their annual implosion. Even though the door remained open for them to clinch the NFC East title down the stretch, they failed to make the playoffs.

Strategic Threats

Offensive line

It all started up front with a stout offensive line that was particularly adept at run blocking. The chink in the armor was center David Baas, who struggled in pass protection, earning a grade of -9.1 per ProFootballFocus (PFF). That may have been the reason New York drafted Justin Pugh in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Right tackle David Diel also had some issues pass blocking; New York may be viewing Pugh as Diel’s eventual replacement.

Will Beatty earned the left tackle job in Week 2 and never looked back. He is as solid an offensive tackle as they come and was the consistent anchor for this squad.

Running back

Andre Brown got off to a great start at running back, but he was unable to stay healthy. His season came to an end when he broke his fibula in the fourth quarter of a Week 12 win over the Green Bay Packers. New York responded by giving the lion’s share of his carries to Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw was solid across the board in not only rushing and receiving, but also pass blocking (+6.2).

A broken fibula derailed the 2012 season of New York Giants running back Andre Brown.

A broken fibula derailed the 2012 season of New York Giants running back Andre Brown.

Rookie David Wilson proved to be a bit of a disappointment as a rusher, but he returned plenty of bang for the buck in the special teams game. In a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints, he rushed for 100 yards and returned another 227 yards on kickoffs, scoring three touchdowns in that game alone. Wilson didn’t have the impact that the Giants were hoping to get from a first-round pick, but he had solid outings against the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. Still, New York’s running game sputtered down the stretch.

Although Bradshaw is now with the Indianapolis Colts, the cupboard is far from bare — assuming Brown can remain healthy and Wilson continues to develop.

Receiving threats

The pass catchers graded out extremely well, with Hakeem Nicks (+11.1), Domenik Hixon (+8.2), Victor Cruz (+6.0), Rueben Randle (+5.3), and Martellus Bennett (+12.5) all drawing applause from the graders at PFF. Victor Cruz finished the year with 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns on 143 targets. Martellus Bennett did it all, racking up 652 receiving yards and five touchdowns and earning grades of +2.6 and +2.7 for run and pass blocking, respectively.

Bennett was picked up by the Chicago Bears, so New York will be looking to replace his production with Brandon Myers, whom they brought in from Oakland. Myers put up 806 yards and four touchdowns last season in only 15 more targets than Bennett saw.

Defensive line

The Giants’ defensive line has long been known as a terrifying force to be reckoned with, and last year was no different.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recorded seven sacks and 43 quarterback hurries (ten more than J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans) in what was seen as a down year. While his pass rushing numbers were down, he put up an impressive +18.4 grade in run defense. He also intercepted Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and returned the ball for a clutch touchdown in a Week 8 victory.

Fellow defensive ends Chris Canty and Osi Umenyiora added another nine sacks and 36 hurries, but both left in free agency this offseason.

General manager Jerry Reese responded by reloading in the draft, adding defensive tackle Johnathon Hankins (Round 2, 49th overall) and defensive end Damontre Moore (Round 3, 81st overall). The pair should help to bolster the deep defensive line rotation.

Soft Spots

Quarterback

It may be true that you can’t spell “elite” without “Eli,” but quarterback Eli Manning was anything but in 2012. Despite having a big year statistically, especially early in the season, he was the picture of inconsistency. He posted eight games with a passer rating over 90 — but also four games with a rating below 60. His rating against the Atlanta Falcons was a miserable 38, and he completed only 47 percent of his passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his defense, he did come up big in games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles.

Linebacker

The linebackers were an absolute mess last season despite having played behind such a talented defensive line. Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn, and Mathias Kiwanuka failed to grade positively in either run defense or pass coverage. Blackburn was the worst of the trio, grading out at -7.0 in both run defense and pass coverage.

Bringing in Dan Connor, previously of the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys, was an attempt to upgrade the middle linebacker position.

Secondary

The lone bright spot in the secondary was free safety Kenny Phillips, who was solid in both run defense and pass coverage until Week 4 when he left with a knee injury. His successor, Stevie Brown, performed admirably and was solid in coverage but failed to play at the level of the star that he was replacing. The loss of Phillips was quietly the biggest contributor to the Giants’ demise down the stretch, as without Phillips, Perry Fewell’s “bend-but-don’t-break” defense broke.

Safety Kenny Phillips made plays for the New York Giants, despite being surrounded by a lack of secondary talent.

Safety Kenny Phillips made plays for the New York Giants, despite being surrounded by a lack of secondary talent.

Meanwhile, the rest of the secondary was a disaster, especially in pass coverage. Strong safety Antrel Rolle (-5.8), cornerback Corey Webster (-10.9), and nickelback Jayron Hosley (-9.9) were repeatedly burned in pass coverage.

Adding insult to injury, Kenny Phillips departed to the Philadelphia Eagles and New York failed to pick up any defensive backs in the draft. Unless the rookie defensive lineman can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, this unit will likely be torched again.

Readiness Evaluation

Eli Manning will still be able to spread the ball around to his wide array of weapons at wide receiver and tight end. The offensive line will likely continue to be an asset in both the run and passing games. But installing a new middle linebacker without upgrading the secondary in any way means that the defense will probably give up a lot of big plays. The offense will likely have to put up 28 or more points to win games. The defense will have to thrive off of getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers.

The games against the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers are going to be classic shootouts and likely come down to turnovers or who can score last. The Minnesota Vikings will try to keep the ball out of Manning’s hands and keep the scoring down through long, sustained drives. The Chicago Bears’ best bet is to force turnovers early and often.

More than anything, these games will be decided by the Giants’ momentum going in to the week. They are a streaky team that has proven that they can beat or lose to anyone depending on which team decides to show up.

Record against the NFC North: 1-3

1047 comments
LambeauOrWrigley
LambeauOrWrigley

HOLY SHIT!  Nate Burleson is on the Lions roster.  Did you guys know that?

Buhlitz
Buhlitz

Cant wait to see Broyles this year. Stay healthy!

Buhlitz
Buhlitz

wow, didn't know Burleson had a 1000 yard season before

bp.
bp. moderator

If you count division championships since the start of the NFCC, the Vikings dominate.  Since the NFCN, its GB.  I would have thought the Bears had more.

LambeauOrWrigley
LambeauOrWrigley

So, I have been meaning to ask something we have not discussed....is Matt Forte overrated?

Saintschicka090909
Saintschicka090909

My Predicition Is The Saints Win The South For the Next 3 Years While Brees Still Got It, And That Sharon HydRodgers Continue To Run Over The North

LambeauOrWrigley
LambeauOrWrigley

@___bp___ Relax....people are still dealing with the shock of my report that Nate Burleson is on the Lions roster....give them time to recover...

G & G
G & G moderator

@Buhlitz And bad hair , reallyyyy bad hair!!

LKP
LKP

@___bp___ 2005,2006 and 2010 for the Bears. Early and pre Lovie they sucked. And 2007-2009 very mediocre.

bp.
bp. moderator

If you go back to the beginning of time, GB has the same number of division titles as Minny, but Minny didn't exist, so that's not fair.

DWargs
DWargs

@Preparation_A And as soon as the regular season starts you'll be waiting for playoffs to start.   Just calm down and enjoy some football.

LKP
LKP

@Preparation_A @Lionskillpack If it comes to that for a game or 2, If Rodgers doesn't miss a beat with Jones, Finley, Walker and Boykin I will be very impressed in Rodgers and the McCarthy system.

LKP
LKP

@Preparation_A @Buhlitz Burleson is good for 650-750 yards if he stays healthy. Good complement. That amount with Broyles/Pettigrew/Scheffler/Bush should be just fine.

LKP
LKP

@Preparation_A @Buhlitz And 2 solid seasons with the Lions. 3 injured seasons derailed the others plus a rookie season

LKP
LKP

@Koosh12684 @Lionskillpack @Preparation_A Flynn learning 2 new systems in 2 years doesn't help. He knew the Packers offense well. And he got a good showcase against an injured Lions secondary and the Pats weren't that great on D either