New York Giants 2013 Offseason Preview
SI.com is laying out offseason road maps for all 32 teams as they start their journey for the Lombardi Trophy -- two teams per day, from the teams that need the most work to contend in 2013 to the ones that are in pretty good shape. See them all.
2012 Record: 9-7
Key Pending Free Agents: Ramses Barden, WR; William Beatty, OT; Martellus Bennett, TE; Rocky Bernard, DT; Chase Blackburn, LB; Kevin Boothe, G; Domenik Hixon, WR; Sean Locklear, OT; Kenny Phillips, S; Keith Rivers, LB; Lawrence Tynes, K; Osi Umenyiora, DE; Andre Brown, RB (RFA); Stevie Brown, S (RFA); Victor Cruz, WR (RFA)
List of Draft Picks (pending compensatory picks): 1 (19), 2 (51), 3 (81), 4 (113), 5 (145), 6 (177), 7 (209)
Available Cap Space: $3.1 million
GM/Coaching Moves: Lost defensive assistant Al Holcomb to Carolina. Lunda Wells was promoted to assistant offensive line coach. Front-office man David Gettleman left to take Carolina's GM job.
The reigning Super Bowl champs were in prime position to defend their title at the season's halfway point. The Giants opened 6-2, chalking up wins over both the Cowboys and Redskins along the way. But as the schedule toughened late, the Giants wilted.
Over its first eight games of 2012, New York played just two teams that would qualify for the playoffs; it faced five after the turn for home, and a 3-5 close resulted. That slip left the Giants at 9-7, one game back of the Redskins in the NFC East and out of the wild-card picture.
The turning point was a Week 9 defeat, in which the Giants blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead at home and lost to the Steelers. One week later, Eli Manning and the offense struggled in a pitiful 31-13 loss in Cincinnati.
When the Giants won in 2012, they won big -- six of their wins (Carolina, San Francisco, Cleveland, Green Bay, New Orleans, Philadelphia) came by an average of 25.7 points. Conversely, most of their losses were painful, with four setbacks decided by a touchdown or less. The outliers there: Back-to-back defeats in Weeks 15 and 16, at Atlanta and Baltimore, respectively, by a combined 67-14.
While the offense never really took off as the Giants hoped, it was a 31st-ranked defense that caused most of the problems. The 6,134 yards New York allowed in 2012 was a franchise worst.
20. Sacks allowed on Eli Manning, the fewest in the league.
The Giants' pass protection was one of the strengths of this team last year. No offensive lineman gave up more sacks than David Diehl's four -- despite, according to Pro Football Focus, Diehl playing about 540 fewer snaps than starting left guard Kevin Boothe. Diehl was put back into the Giants' lineup late in the season in place of the benched Sean Locklear.
There is some uncertainty up front headed into 2013. Diehl's contract bumped up to $4.475 million because of his 2012 playing time, so he would be a likely cut candidate -- except Locklear is a free agent, coming off a major knee injury, and both Boothe and starting left tackle William Beatty are pending unrestricted free agents.
Keeping Beatty around will be one of the Giants' main goals this offseason, even if it takes the franchise tag to get it done. The team also reportedly wants to get Boothe re-upped, so that right tackle spot shared by Diehl and Locklear may wind up being the only hole.
A dark horse to win that job? James Brewer, a 2011 fourth-round pick of the Giants, who stands 6-foot-6 and 330 pounds.
1.72. The number of yards Corey Webster gave up per snap in coverage, per Pro Football Focus. That was the second-worst yards per snap coverage number of all cornerbacks.
For starters, the Giants need to ask Webster to take a pay cut. He's set to earn $7 million (with a $7.25 million cap hit) in the final year of his six-year deal, but it's hard to justify that pay day for a cornerback who allowed a higher QB rating on passes his direction than 92 other players at his position, according to Pro Football Focus. Somehow, the Giants have to figure out a way to reduce or eliminate that salary burden.
It might be time for the Giants to turn their top two CB spots fully over to Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley -- that duo combined for 17 starts in 2012. Amukamara finally started to tap into some of his potential last season after an injury cost him most of 2011; Hosley showed well when given the chance, even outplaying Webster late in the year, when Amukamara was sidelined again by injuries.
New York did re-sign Terrell Thomas, who's coming off his third ACL tear, but he looks like nothing more than a backup option right now (possibly at safety, as well as cornerback).
Amukamara, Hosley, Webster and Thomas would provide the Giants with a nice base, to which they could add a mid- to late-round rookie or pluck a cheaper veteran out of free agency. But limiting Webster's snaps in favor of Hosley is a start.
1. Upgrade at linebacker. The Giants finished 25th against the run last season, then cut Michael Boley to kick off February. Pending free agents Blackburn and Rivers could leave, too. And even if Blackburn returns, as it sounds like he might, the Giants need to get more athletic here.
The quickest solution? Address the linebacker spot in the draft, where there are a number of talented, versatile options -- Georgia's Alec Ogletree, Kansas State's Arthur Brown and Rutgers' Khaseem Greene all could be fits in a 4-3, for starters.
2. Restore the defensive line's dominance. The Giants dropped to 33 sacks last season, down from 48 in 2011. Twenty-one teams bested that number, which is almost unfathomable given Big Blue's plethora of riches up front, including Jason Pierre-Paul (6.5 sacks), Osi Umenyiora (6.0), Justin Tuck (4.0), Linval Joseph (4.0) and others.
Umenyiora is a free agent and likely headed out, while the Giants cut DT Chris Canty. Can Joseph and Shaun Rogers hold down the middle of this attack? If the Giants don't believe so, they may have to add another body there.
Out wide, the emergence of Adrian Tracy or Adewale Ojomo would help ... and would keep the Giants from moving Mathias Kiwanuka back to the line from his current LB spot.
3. Decide on a running back. All signs (especially Ahmad Bradshaw's release) point to David Wilson being the No. 1 guy. Is he ready for that role? Andre Brown should provide some help, but only if he's 100 percent healed after breaking his leg in 2012. Tom Coughlin likes having multiple options in the backfield, so someone could be added to the Wilson, Brown and Da'Rel Scott group before September.
Barring any stunning developments, like restricted free agent Victor Cruz being swiped by another team, the Giants should enter 2013 as one of the NFC East favorites and a possible Super Bowl contender.
Even after a flurry of cap-saving roster moves, the Giants do not have a lot of cash to throw around, so this may be a case of what you see right now is what you get. Assuming Beatty (and/or Boothe) stays, the mysteries will be limited.
All eyes will be on Wilson and Brown come camp. Assuming the Giants' defense and pass rush improves in 2013, a solidified run game could put this team over the top.