With the bulk of free agent signings now done and the 2012 NFL Draft now in the books, let’s take a look at what the rest of the NFC East has accomplished so far. This division is full of teams that hate one another and promises to once again be ultra competitive in the 2012 regular season. This week we’ll take an in-depth look at what the defending world champion Giants (man, that is hard to type) have done so far this off season. It’s appropriate to start with them since we will open the 2012 season against them in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Overview: Coming off an incredible late season run that earned the Giants their 2nd world championship in the last 4 seasons, you would think (if you talk to a Giants fan) that this team is certain to be officially declared a “dynasty” in 2013 and is stacked with talent. Not so fast. In the 2007 and 2011 regular seasons, there is no doubt the Giants earned those wins based on the points on the scoreboard at the final gun. But, it was in both situations a fairly remarkable, undoubtedly lucky play that earned them a win: David Tyree’s “velcro catch” in the 2008 Super Bowl and then Mario Manningham’s remarkable catch along the sideline in this year’s big game (both victories against the Patriots ironically). This team is by no means assured a repeat NFC East title nor a berth in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. They have talent at a lot of key positions, but they will have to earn everything they get this year facing a difficult first-place schedule. Let’s take a closer look at what they’ve lost and added in the off season so far.
Brandon Jacobs, RB – Signed with San Francisco; most would agree that Jacobs’ role on the team had diminished as Ahmad Bradshaw had taken over the starting role. But, Bradshaw missed a lot of time in 2011 with various foot problems and Jacobs was still able to step in along with other backups and deliver enough yards to keep defenses honest against the pass. In the all-important first matchup against the Cowboys, it was Jacobs that delivered 101 total yards, averaging over 5 yards per carry, and scored 2 touchdowns. Without Jacobs, the Giants likley lose that game and he’s now gone.
Mario Manningham, WR – Signed with San Francisco; With the rise of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, Manningham had become a minor player in the passing game. But, without him tight roping the sideline to make an acrobatic catch in Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants likely lose that game too. They can likely find a capable receiver among those still on the roster to replace him, but as the Cowboys have found out the hard way, finding a #3 receiver that can have a meaningful impact in games is not as easy as it might seem. They also lost backup receivers Brandon Stokley (Denver) and Devin Thomas (Chicago).
Dave Tollefson, DE – Signed with Oakland; Tollefson is not a big name, but he is a solid 5th year player who started all 16 games last year for the Giants and contributed 5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Aaron Ross, CB – Signed with Jacksonville; a 2007 1st round selection by the Giants out of Texas, Ross stepped in when all their other defensive backs went down last year and had a very solid year. He started all 16 games and nabbed 4 interceptions. They should be able to replace him with the return of Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas (both placed on IR last year) but until they hit the field no one can say for sure if they can regain their form. The Giants have signaled their nervousness heading to camp with as many as 7 cornerbacks on the roster.
Johnathan Goff, LB – signed with Washington; missed all of 2011 with a torn ACL but was the starting middle linebacker before being injured. They learned how to play well enough without him last year (how about develop a monster pass rush) but his talent and depth will likely be missed.
Martellus Bennett, TE – from the Cowboys; familiar name to frustrated Cowboys fans – most won’t miss him and he will likely struggle to contribute meaningful time for the Giants like he did for the Cowboys. But, he has a ton of talent if he could ever put it together. Let’s hope the Giants don’t have any more luck motivating him than the Cowboys did, but he gives them depth at another position decimated by injuries. Go be a rapper Martellus!
2012 NFL Draft
Round 1 – #32 overall: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech – considered in most draft reviews as a solid player (85.0 pre-draft grade) but a bit of a reach at the end of the first round; certainly not a bruising runner that will replace Brandon Jacobs, but will likely work himself into the RB rotation behind Bradshaw.
Round 2 – #63 overall: Reuben Randle, WR, LSU – expected to go a lot sooner (86.0 pre-draft grade), so the Giants got good value here. Randle likely becomes a solid special teams player and will compete for the #3 receiver spot replacing Manningham.
Round 3 – #94 overall: Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech – a little on the small end of the scale at 5’10” (would love to have him cover Dez Bryant) but with a pre-draft grade of 84, the Giants got great value at the bottom of the 3rd round. He’ll have to compete with a bus load of other defensive backs but should easily make the team.
Round 4 – #127 overall: Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati – a potential #2 tight end that gives them much needed depth but not expected to contribute this season except for possibly special teams (pre-draft grade of 52.0).
Round 4 – #131 overall: Brandon Mosley, T, Auburn – a 6’5″ 314 pound project at tackle (only played the last 2 years at the tackle spot at Auburn), pre-draft grade of 74.0.
Round 6 – #201 overall: Matt McCants, T, UAB – another 6’5″ 308 pound developmental player for the future, pre-draft grade of 56.0.
Round 7 – #239 overall: Markus Kuhn, DT, NC State – pre-draft grade of 49.0; only played one year in college on the defensive line. Will have to work very hard just to make this team already stacked with D-line talent.
If you were to assume the grades each player is given prior to the draft are accurate (they aren’t or else players like Arian Foster, Tony Romo, and Miles Austin to name a few would never have made it in the NFL – Tom Brady wasn’t picked until the 6th round remember), then the Giants had the best draft numerically (average grade of 69.4 for 7 players). We’ll have to see how many of these players actually live up to those grades.
Overall, the Giants had a fairly quiet off season with no dramatic moves. Clearly, they feel like they have a pretty good roster already. We’ll have to wait and see what additional moves they make before the opening of camp and before the all-important season opener against our Cowboys. They definitely still have needs but they will be very competitive in 2012 as usual. With their schedule, they will need every part of their game playing at a high level to make it to the post season. Let’s hope the Cowboys start them off with a loss in September!
Next week, we’ll look at the Philadelphia Eagles.