It was a tale of two seasons for the then-defending Super Bowl champion Giants in 2012. Eight games into the season, the Giants were sitting at 6-2 and were cruising to an NFC East championship. Then the second half of the season happened.
Now on to 2013, where the Giants will begin the post-Ahmad Bradshaw era after cutting him in February. All eyes will be on second-year running backs David Wilson and Andre Brown, with the former likely receiving the bulk of the carries.
Wilson only had 71 carries in 2012, thanks in part to his fumble against Dallas in the opener. We know Tom Coughlin doesn't take well to fumblers. He did average five yards per carry in those 71 carries, however, so assuming he is over his fumble issues, Wilson could be a dynamic playmaker for the Giants.
Brown proved capable as well, particularly in the game against Carolina, where he rushed for 113 yards on 20 carries. Brown should be the "thunder" to Wilson's "lightning."
Also, monitor the situation involving fullback Henry Hynoski, who is recovering from an MCL injury. He should be good to go for Week 1, however.
As for the guy who will be handing the ball off to Wilson and Brown, Eli Manning is entering his ninth season as full-time starter and has not missed a single game in his previous eight seasons.
Eli could be to blame for the Giants second-half struggles, as his numbers were pretty poor in his final nine games. He had four games with no touchdown passes and threw a total of eight interceptions in those nine games versus just 14 touchdown passes, including five against a poor Eagles team in Week 17.
This season will be interesting for Manning. He has a wide receiver in Hakeem Nicks who is entering a contract year and one in Victor Cruz who just landed a long-term deal. He will also have another new tight end at his disposal in Brandon Myers, as Martellus Bennett signed with the Bears.
Nicks will also try to put together a full season of playing 16 games, as he has missed nine games since entering the league in 2009.
He could really use a bounce-back season, as he eclipsed 100 yards receiving just once in 2012 (199 yards vs. Tampa Bay in Week 2). Take that away, and you're left with just 493 yards receiving for Nicks, as he failed to top 77 yards in his other 12 games played, though it's fair to argue he was bothered by injury the rest of the season.
Cruz now has his next contract, but admitted he had trouble accepting a hometown discount for the Giants (H/T Chris Wesseling, NFL.com).
Cruz has become one of the better slot receivers in the game, averaging over 80 catches the last two seasons, while also playing some outside receiver. Now he is being paid like a top slot receiver.
Watch for him to play more slot as Reuben Randle continues to come more into his own and could provide a good third option out wide for Eli.
Brandon Myers had a bit of a breakout season in Oakland last season, catching 79 passes for over 800 yards. The Giants haven't been notorious for big stats from their tight end, at least not since Jeremy Shockey, but they have gotten over 600 yards from Jake Ballard and Bennett the past two seasons. Myers has some pretty good hands, so he should get involved in some capacity.
While the offensive line may be aging, they are still productive, with David Baas at center, Kevin Boothe and Chris Snee at guards and Will Beatty at left tackle.
Nineteenth overall pick Justin Pugh can play any position on the line but may be better suited to start at guard. He may play some right tackle to start. David Diehl will likely also come in and sees snaps.
Once again, the defensive line could be a strength, anchored by Jason Pierre-Paul. The big question is how they will replace Osi Umenyiora, who is now a Falcon. Some could argue Umenyiora was a liability in the run game. Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka will see more snaps opposite JPP.
Look for Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers and possibly Marvin Austin to be among the defensive tackle rotation.
Former Cowboy Dan Connor looks to be the new middle linebacker for the Giants, but he will battle Mark Herzlich for the job. Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams are the early front-runners for the outside spots. Williams is a 2011 sixth-round pick.
The loss of Kenny Phillips shouldn't hurt too much, as the Giants will field a pretty strong defensive backfield, with Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara as the corners and Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle manning the safety positions. Aaron Ross is also back after a one-year stint in Jacksonville.
Your specialists will be Steve Weatherford punting, Josh Brown (or David Buehler) kicking and Zak DeOssie long snapping. Randle and Wilson will handle punt and kick returns.
It's likely just a matter of time before all the "Fire Coughlin" rants start up again, since they seem to happen every year, despite him winning two Super Bowls in the last six seasons.
Bradshaw will be missed, but not too much on the field. Brown can handle short-yardage, but as mentioned earlier, Wilson should handle majority of the carries and may even get goal-line work.
Look for the Giants to be right in the thick of the division race, once again.
Ggames against Dallas and Denver to open the season will be good tests for this team. The Dallas game is a Sunday night, as is their Week 11 tilt with the Packers and their Week 13 game against Washington.
Their lone Monday night appearance is Week 7 vs. the Vikings, and their Thursday night appearance is the week before at Chicago.
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