The usual suspects—quarterback Eli Manning, wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck—failed to match the highlighted performances from their 2011-12 Super Bowl run. Hynoski may not have showcased blockbuster statistics, but his role in the team’s somewhat limited success was integral nonetheless.
It’s difficult to stand out in today’s offenses from the fullback position. The position was once reserved for a team’s top rushing threat, but since the revelation of the I-formation at the NFL-level half a century ago, the fullback’s primary role has been reduced to lead blocker.
Still, Hynoski embraces this role whole-heartedly and unabashedly.
The humble Hynoski earned the starting job as a rookie in 2011-12, after making the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh. The Giants posted the league’s worst rushing attack that season despite winning the Super Bowl.
New York may have only averaged 89.2 yards per game and a dismal 3.5 yards per carry, but little blame could be placed on the inexperienced fullback, who was thrown into the mix during a lockout-shortened offseason. He would only improve as time went on.
The Giants enjoyed a resurgence on the ground in 2012-13, which many attributed to an improvement in play across the offensive line. In reality, New York’s O-line was solid but not stellar. At times, the Giants were dominated in the trenches. Right guard Chris Snee, right tackle David Diehl and center David Baas all battled health issues, limiting their effectiveness.
The real difference was Hynoski’s ability to open up holes for his running backs. Hynoski played with fierce determination, blasting clear paths and out-muscling linebackers for the ball carrier to easily reach the second level. He displayed much-improved understanding and execution in 2012-13, compared to his rookie year.
The Giants ran the ball 409 times in 2012-13, totaling 1,862 yards. The team’s 116.4 yards per game (14th in the NFL) and 4.6 yards per carry (7th in the NFL) averages were both huge improvements from the Super Bowl season a year earlier.
Hynoski showed such an adept skill-set from the fullback position that he was selected to the 2012-13 USA Football All-Fundamentals Team, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Only 26 players are honored yearly for what USA Football describes as “exemplary football techniques for youth players to emulate.”
USA Football held high-praise for the New York Giants fullback:
“[Hynoski] is one of the best lead blockers in the NFL. By getting lower than his opponent, he is able to take on bigger defenders and move them out of running lanes. He also excels at getting to the next level to engage with linebackers, creating even more room for his teammates with the ball.”
What USA Football fails to mention is his contributions beyond lead blocking in the running game. Hynoski, a model of consistency on a squad that was anything but in 2012, was also a formidable cog in the passing game, both as a protector and as a safety valve.
When the Giants were short on running backs late in the season, Hynoski was able to step in as Manning’s personal protector on plays from the shotgun formation. His knowledge of proper blitz pick-ups was essential even as the team floundered down the stretch.
The most memorable of Hynoski’s 11 pass receptions in 2012-13 was his final grab, a one-yard touchdown catch against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17. The usually unnoticed bruiser took his moment in the spotlight to perform a touchdown dance that stems from his nickname, “The Hynocerous.”
“One of the things I think I can work on is my quickness and foot speed,” Hynoski wrote. “I’d like to be able to show the coaches that I can carry the ball on occasion to give them another option if they’re looking to mix things up.”
With a drive like Hynoski’s, Giants fans can expect to see a lot out of the fullback position for as long as he’s on the squad. He made himself an easy selection for 2012-13 team MVP.