STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Seeing as the Giants just won their second Super Bowl in five years, the overall state of the franchise is good. Eli Manning has emerged as one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks and the team returns its top two play-making wide receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, though it's worth noting that the latter is recovering from a May foot procedure.
The defense fared poorly during the regular season, but came together in the playoffs with vastly improved secondary play. Corey Webster is a solid cover corner, and Terrell Thomas should be back after missing the season with a torn ACL. Moreover, last year's first-round pick, Prince Amukamara, missed much of the season with a foot injury and was not a major factor down the stretch. As such, the Giants were set to add two potentially difference-making corners as well as last year's second-round pick, defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who missed 2011 with a torn pectoral muscle, before they made a single 2012 draft pick.
In the draft, they tabbed speedy, versatile back David Wilson, who should split time with Ahmad Bradshaw and help replace the departed Brandon Jacobs. They also added receiver Rueben Randle who will vie to replace the departed Mario Manningham as well as provide insurance in the event that Nicks suffers any setbacks with his foot.
Aside from the passing game, the Giants' biggest strength is their defensive line anchored by rising superstar Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks, 86 tackles), Osi Umenyiora (nine sacks) and Justin Tuck, who had three sacks in the season's last five games and 3.5 sacks during the playoffs.
The team's biggest weakness was on the offensive line as it ranked last in rushing, and Manning was pummeled in the NFC Championship game. RT Kareem McKenzie is gone, while David Diehl switches from LT to LG. James Brewer and Will Beatty move into the starting lineup at RT and LT, respectively.
The Giants also shored up the tight end position this offseason, signing Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys. The team also signed former Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers to man the weak side and moved Michael Boley to the middle in addition to offering strong side backer Mathias Kiwanuka a contract extension.
All told, a brutal schedule should make the road to a repeat difficult, but the Super Bowl champs are better on paper than they were a year ago.
Martellus Bennett, TE (Cowboys)
Should start and be the team's top pass-catching TE. A good athlete, with some upside in this offense.
Keith Rivers, LB (Bengals)
Should start on the weak side, moving Michael Boley to MLB. Needs to stay healthy to live up to his first-round pedigree.
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech (Round 1, 32nd overall)
Should split carries with Ahmad Bradshaw. Can also contribute in the passing game.
Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (Round 2, 63rd overall)
Will make a bid to replace Mario Manningham as the No. 3 WR. He has good size and speed and will see added camp reps with Hakeem Nicks recovering from foot surgery.
Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati (Round 4, 127th overall)
Will compete with Bear Pascoe to back up Bennett. He's one injury away from having a prominent role.
Mario Manningham, WR (49ers)
The Giants lose a valuable third receiver and outside playmaker. Randle, Ramses Barden and Jerrel Jernigan will aim to replace him.
Brandon Jacobs, RB (49ers)
The Giants exchange Jacobs for Wilson, a virtual Ahmad Bradshaw clone, and gain speed and versatility at the expense of brute force.
Aaron Ross, CB (Jaguars)
A former first-round pick, Ross' play had been spotty for most of last several seasons – when he was able to stay healthy. But he (along with the rest of the secondary) played far better during the playoffs. The team drafted Jayron Hosley in the fourth round to replace him.
CAN THE SECONDARY PLAY LIKE IT DID IN THE POSTSEASON?
During the regular season the Giants were 29th in passing yards allowed with 255 per game and 22nd in YPA against at 7.5. But during their Super Bowl run, they allowed just 217 yards per game and a 6.1 YPA. And that was on the road against the Falcons, Packers and 49ers and in ideal conditions against the Patriots. The Giants lost CB Aaron Ross to free agency, but should get the more talented Terrell Thomas back from an ACL injury and last year's first-round pick Prince Amukamara back from a foot injury that ruined his rookie season. Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle return as starting safeties, so this unit should improve substantially over last year's regular season one, at the very least.
CAN THE OFFENSIVE LINE RUN BLOCK?
The Giants were dead last with just 3.5 yards per carry last year. Ahmad Bradshaw played through foot injuries, but the culprit was poor run blocking for the majority of the season. The Giants let RT Kareem McKenzie go via free agency with the massive James Brewer likely to take over in that spot. David Baas and Chris Snee return at center and right guard, respectively while David Diehl moves to left guard and Will Beatty takes over at left tackle. Offensive lines aren't merely about individual players, but also cohesiveness, so it remains to be seen how this group is able to work together. It can't be worse at opening holes than it was a year ago, and will almost certainly be better. How much better is the question upon which Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson's value depends.
WHO WILL EMERGE AS THE GIANTS' THIRD RECEIVER?
With Mario Manningham in San Francisco, the No. 3 receiver job is up for grabs, and it has even more significance with Hakeem Nicks slated to be out for at least the majority of training camp. Second-round rookie Rueben Randle is probably the favorite – at 6-3, 208 and with decent speed, he's probably the best fit on the outside with Victor Cruz manning the slot. Ramses Barden is in the mix – though offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride opined that he wished the 6-6 Barden were “two-tenths of a second faster” – and Domenik Hixon, returning from an torn ACL, and last year's third-round pick Jerrel Jernigan will also compete for the role. Eli Manning had the sixth-most passing yards in league history last year, so the team's No. 3 with Nicks already banged up is in a position to put up significant numbers.
RISING: There's no question about Martellus Bennett's physical tools, but he was buried for years behind Jason Witten. He'll get a chance to start.
DECLINING: Justin Tuck has been a star since 2007 and was fantastic in the playoffs, but has been plagued by nagging injuries in recent seasons.
SLEEPER: Ahmad Bradshaw is recovering from foot surgery, and David Wilson would stand to benefit if Bradshaw has a setback.
SUPERSLEEPER: You could put any reserve wideout here as Hakeem Nicks is injury prone, and the passing environment is good. We'll go with Rueben Randle because Ramses Barden hasn't impressed, and Jerrel Jernigan lacks size.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
An elite pass-rusher and prolific tackler from the DE spot.
Justin Tuck, DE
He might be slowing down, but when healthy he's still a top tackler and pass rusher.
Terrell Thomas, CB
Coming back from ACL surgery, but an excellent tackler for a CB who could be tested more early on.
RotoWire Rank: 3