The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants Get Ready For A Repeat
By JT Kronemberg
The World Champion New York Giants began their quest for New Orleans by opening training camp in Albany, New York on July 27, 2012. The Giants realize they have a target on their back and plenty of doubters, but they are not entering the season expecting not to have to work hard because they are already that good. The Giants know that is not true. They realize there is plenty to improve upon considering their season last year. The Giants won the Superbowl, but it wasn’t easy considering they found themselves in a situation where they had to win the last two games of the season to even think about getting into the playoffs. In week 15 they found themselves losing to the Washington Redskins for the second time in the season, and this is when they weren’t even sure they would make the playoffs, let alone win the division. The following week they came up with a big win against the New York Jets and found themselves needing to beat the Dallas Cowboys for the second time in the season to get into the playoffs. The rest is history. The New York Giants won four games in a row on the road and became the World Champion New York Giants for the second time in four years. They also became the first team ever to win a Superbowl with a nine win and seven loss record. The Giants aren’t looking for a repeat of last year’s regular season. They are looking to be better, and if everything comes together and they improve the NFC East should start worrying.
Everything needs improvement for the Giants, but what they are looking to continue to grow on is their defensive play in the playoffs when everyone was back and healthy. If the defensive line stays healthy, they have the ability to be the best defensive line in the NFL with the top pass rush defense. Last season, the Giants were 25th in the league in points allowed per game, with an average of 25.0 points, and were 27th in the league in yards allowed per game with an average of 376.4 yards. There is no way they will be successful this season if they allow this to happen, considering they have the toughest strength of schedule.
The strength of the defense is their pass rush, which is led by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (86 tackles, 16.5 sacks [fourth highest total in Giants history] and two forced fumbles), Justin Tuck (37 tackles, 5 sacks and 1 forced fumble) and Osi Umenyiora (25 tackles, 9 sacks and 2 forced fumbles). Umenyiora missed a majority of last season, only playing in nine games due to injury, but this season he is healthy. He restructured his contract in the offseason, so there is nothing holding him back at the start of this season. These three players had a combined 7.5 sacks in the post season. If they play the way they did in the playoffs, or even improve the way they played, offenses won’t know how to play against them. The ends are not the only players that have a huge impact on the pass rush; the rest of the line plays a big role also. Defensive tackle Chris Canty (47 tackles, 4 sacks and 1 safety) had his knee surgically repaired in the off-season, causing him to be placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of training camp, but he has high hopes of returning for the first game of the season. The defensive line is deep with players able to fill in his spot until he returns. In the off-season, the Giants signed defensive tackle Rocky Bernard as a free agent, signed veteran defensive tackle Shaun Rogers as a free agent and drafted defensive tackle Markus Kuhn out of North Carolina State. They lost defensive end Dave Tollefson in the off-season, but also have defensive tackle Marvin Austin entering his second year as a Giant and Linval Joseph (49 tackles, 2 sacks) entering his third year with the Giants. With the depth at defensive line the Giants will be strong and ready to go no matter who is starting. In the off-season they lost linebacker Jonathan Goff but they still have depth at the linebacker position with four second year linebackers. The most likely starting trio will be Mathias Kiwanuka (84 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble), Chase Blackburn, who had the big interception in the Superbowl against Tom Brady, and Michael Boley (93 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble). Boley was sidelined in the beginning of training camp due to a hamstring injury but is now back practicing with the team. The Giants also traded for Keith Rivers from Cincinnati. This was the first time the Giants traded for any one since September 3, 2010. Rivers is entering his fourth year in the league and could possibly take over a starting position if he proves himself in training camp. The Giants also have Mark Herzlich, entering his second year as a Giant, Jacquian Williams (78 tackles, 1 sack and 3 fumble recoveries), Zak DeOssie, entering his sixth year as a Giant, and Clint Sintim, entering his third year as a Giant. Sintim is hoping to make a comeback this season after knee surgery. Herzlich and Williams will be fighting to overtake a starting position in training camp. The only problem at linebacker is trying to figure out who works best together and who should be the starters.
The secondary looks to be the only problem on defense. In the off-season, the Giants signed free agent corner back Antwan Molden, signed free agent safety Stevie Brown, drafted corner back Jayron Hosley out of Virginia Tech in the third round and lost corner back Aaron Ross to free agency. Corner back Terrell Thomas was looking to make a comeback this season after injuring his ACL in preseason last year. Thomas reinjured his ACL in the beginning of training camp this season, but it isn’t looking as bad as they thought. He doesn’t need surgery and has already returned to training camp rehabbing his knee, looking to hopefully come back for the season. Thomas was expected to fill a starting corner back position but with the injury the Giants need to fill two positions, because Thomas plays outside in the base defense and slot in the sub-packages. Antrel Rolle (96 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble) might have to play the role of nickel corner to fill in for Thomas. Rolle is usually the starting safety, a position he loves to play, but he had to fill in this position last year with Thomas out, so he is prepared to play it again. Cornerback Corey Webster is secure at starting on the left side, but the Giants have to figure out who will fit in on the right side. The Giants have 11 cornerbacks right now, so it is just a matter of who works well with the rest of the starters. Looking to fill the void are Prince Amukamara, Michael Coe, Antwan Molden, Justin Tryon, Bruce Johnson, Dante Hughes and Jayron Hosley. The front runners right now seem to be Amukamara and Michael Coe. Amukamara was drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft with the expectation that he would have a big impact on the Giants defense. He got injured last year and was out for most of the season, but this year he is looking to prove that he can be that big impact player. At the safety position Kenny Phillips (82 tackles, 4 interceptions and 1 forced fumble) is a secure starter. Antrel Rolle’s position might have to be filled if he has to take Terrell Thomas’s spot. Stevie Brown might be able to fill the role. The Giants also have second year safety Tyler Sash, but he is suspended for the first four games of regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. Sash is allowed to be a part of training camp. Once the Giants figure out who is starting for the secondary, look for this defense to be better than last year and to be among the top defenses in the NFL.
The special teams also played a big role in getting the Giants to the Superbowl. Jacquian Williams stripped punt returner Kyle Williams of the 49ers in overtime of the NFC Championship game, giving the Giants the ball back. This allowed them to set up for a field goal resulting in the win. Place kicker Lawrence Tynes is entering his fifth season with the Giants. Tynes made 19 field goals on 24 attempts and 43 extra points out of 43 attempts last season. Tynes also had 79 kickoffs averaging 65.9 yards last season. Tynes is looking to be just as productive this year. Punter Steve Weatherford is entering his second year with the Giants. Last season he had 82 punts averaging 45.7 yards per punt and landed the ball inside the 20 yard line 25 times. The person snapping to both of these kickers is two-time pro-bowl snapper Zak DeOssie. The only question on special teams is who will be explosive enough to be the returner. Looking to fill the position are Domenik Hixson, Jarrell Jernigan, Rueben Randle, David Wilson and Jayron Hosley. This decision most likely won’t be made until Head Coach Tom Coughlin sees how they play in pre-season games.
The defense may be the heart and soul of the Giants, but the offense is the spine that helps to carry them on to victory. There is much room for improvement on the offense, but the one thing that was good was their average points per game. The Giants were ninth in the NFL at points per game, averaging 24.6 points. They averaged 385.1 yards per game, ranking them eighth in the league. The Giants are not proud of finishing last in the NFL in rushing yards last season with a total of 1,427 yards, averaging 89.2 yards a game. This is something that needs to improve drastically if they want any hope of dominating the NFC East. There are some changes to the offense, but the one constant that has proven himself to be a top player is quarterback Eli Manning, who is entering his ninth year as a New York Giant. Manning has won two Superbowls in eight years. Some of the great quarterbacks have never done that, but yet Eli is still doubted and not given his credit. Last season, Manning was the most clutch player in the league; putting the team on his back and bringing them back seven times in the fourth quarter to get the win. In addition, Manning had 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 8 fumbles, a 92.9 quarterback rating and a total of 4,933 passing yards, which is the fourth highest total in 2011. In the post-season he was nearly perfect, with 9 touchdowns and 1 interception. Despite all of this, Manning is working hard to improve in training camp. Looking to take some of the pressure off of Manning is running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Entering his sixth year, Bradshaw is hoping to drastically change the rushing results of last season. Bradshaw had 171 carries, gaining only 659 yards averaging 3.9 yards per carry, resulting in nine touchdowns and one fumble. He also had 34 receptions, gaining 267 yards resulting in two touchdowns. The Giants lost running back Brandon Jacobs, now with the 49ers, to free agency. During training camp Tom Coughlin is looking to fill Jacobs’s position with the perfect complement to Bradshaw. The Giants drafted running back David Wilson in the first round, hoping he will be able to fill the void that Jacobs left. They also have running back DJ Ware and Da’Rel Scott looking to get significant playing time this season.
You can’t have a good running game if you don’t have an offensive line that creates holes for the running backs. Last season there were new faces on the Giants offensive line and it took them a while to get in sync with each other. Towards the end of the year they started to get it right and in training camp they are looking to continue to improve and work well together. In the off-season, the Giants lost offensive tackle Kareem Mckenzie to free agency and signed offensive tackle Sean Locklear, who is entering his ninth season in the league, playing with Washington last season. The Giants drafted two offensive tackles: Brandon Mosely in the fourth round out of Auburn and Matt McCants in the sixth round out of University of Alabama Birmingham. Mckenzie was the starting right tackle for the last seven seasons and the Giants are prepared to fill that void by moving veteran tackle David Diehl to the right side. Diehl hasn’t play at right tackle since 2004 but he is ready to take over the position. Filling the left tackle position will most likely be Will Beatty. Beatty is looking to make a comeback after suffering a detached retina last season, causing him to miss 10 games including the playoffs. He is sitting out of training camp due to sciatica problems, but Coughlin is hopeful he will be able to come back for the season. The Giants are just being cautious. Taking the snaps in training camp at left tackle is Locklear. Kevin Boothe is the starting left guard and Chris Snee is the right guard. The center will continue to be played by David Baas who played well last season.
The wide receivers are a crucial part of this offense due to their big play making abilities. Filling the number one wide receiver spot is Hakeem Nicks. Nicks is currently on the physically unable to perform list because he broke his foot during OTAs, but the team is saying he will be ready for the start of the season. Nicks is entering his fourth season as a New York Giant and had a great season last year with 76 receptions, 1,192 receiving yards averaging 15.7 yards per reception and 7 touchdowns. The second wide receiving spot is secured by the breakout performer of last year Victor Cruz. Last season, Cruz had 82 receptions, 1,536 yards, averaging 18.7 yards per reception, and 9 touchdowns. The Giants lost their third wide receiver, Mario Manningham, to free agency and are looking to find a replacement in Domenik Hixson, draft pick Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden or Jerrel Jernigan. The final key to the offense is the tight end position. In the offseason, Jake Ballard was waived by the Giants to free up some room on the roster. The Giants were planning on re-signing him but New England signed him instead. Bear Pascoe (12 receptions, 136 yards) is most likely going to have a bigger role this year, getting more receptions with the loss of Ballard. The Giants also drafted Adrien Robinson out of Cincinnati and signed ex-Cowboy Martellus Bennett (17 receptions, 144 yards). Bennett is looking to prove he is a good player and wants to come out of the shadow of Jason Witten. Other tight ends fighting for a spot on the New York Giants offense are Ryan Pervis, Larry Donnell and Christian Hopkins.
The New York Giants have a lot of work to do and a lot to prove this training camp. There are doubters that think the Giants winning the Superbowl was just luck. To be lucky for six games in a row is pretty amazing. No one thinks it could be that they peaked at the right time. You have to say at some point that they were good at shutting out Atlanta and beating Green Bay and New England. The Giants will get every chance to prove themselves this season, starting with the first game when they face the division-rival Cowboys on opening day. The schedule will not let up for the Giants this season because not only is the NFC East always tough, they also have to play the Steelers, Bengals, Packers, Saints, Falcons and Ravens. Even though no one believes the Giants will do good this season one thing is for sure; you can never count out the New York Giants. They proved that last season. That is why they are the World Champion New York Giants.