The Giants’ defense was such an oddity in 2012. Yardage wise, they were a mess, but they survived because of good red zone defense and their knack for creating turnovers. A look at 2012, by the numbers:
- 383.4 yards allowed per game (31st in the NFL)
- 254.2 passing yards allowed per game (28th in the NFL)
- 8.1 YPA allowed (tied for dead last)
- 129.1 rushing yards allowed per game (25th in the NFL)
- 4.6 yards per carry allowed (28th in the NFL)
And yet, they tied for 12th in points per game allowed, with 21.5. Why? Because they were 4th in red zone defense (opponents scored TDs 46% of the time they were in the red zone), and they were 3rd in takeaways, with 35.
DE: What happened here? Before the season began, many viewed the Giants’ DEs as the best group in the NFL. Now it’s a significant need area. A few days ago, the Giants voided the contract of Osi Umenyiora, which will allow him to test the free agent market. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that he won’t return to the Giants, but it’ll be difficult to keep him, considering they’re already cutting bait with some of their highly paid players to make room for players they absolutely have to retain, namely OT Will Beatty. Above, we mentioned the Giants’ penchant for forcing turnovers. For his career, Umenyiora has 32 forced fumbles. In other words, he’s good for about 3.5 FF per season. The Giants will miss that if he leaves.
In 2011, there was an argument to be made that Jason Pierre-Paul was the Defensive Player of the Year. In 2012, he was still very good, but he didn’t come close to replicating the season he had in 2011. But obviously, the Giants are set at one DE spot as long as JPP remains a Giant.
Meanwhile, Justin Tuck is clearly on the downside of his career.
So what do you have if Umenyiora leaves? You have JPP, which is great, and then you have a fading player in Tuck, and unless you really like Adrian Tracy, you have pretty much no legitimate depth. Do you move Mathias Kiwanuka back to DE? If so, you then open up a hole in your linebacking corps, with no real guarantee that Kiwanuka will even make plays at DE, or even get enough snaps to make it worthwhile.
DT: Another problem area for the Giants. I liked what I saw out of Linval Joseph in his first year of extended play in 2011, and figured him as a guy that would only get better. I didn’t really see that progression from him in 2012, and I have serious concerns about his ability to anchor against double teams in the run game. The Giants really need him to take the next step next season.
Otherwise, the Giants’ situation at DT is very thin after the team cut Chris Canty a few days ago. Marvin Austin has shown absolutely nothing so far in his 2 years with the Giants, and the team recently just signed the soon-to-be 34 Shaun Rogers. Rocky Bernard is a free agent, and is also soon to be 34. He can be a serviceable player, as long as the Giants can bring him back on the cheap. I’d certainly feel better about him on my roster at this point than Rogers.
LB: Michael Boley was by far the Giants’ best linebacker the last few years, in my opinion, but his play fell off in 2012. Whether his release is a result of some sort of degenerative injury concern, or because they simply think the size of his contract is too prohibitive to keep him, going from “Good Michael Boley” (whenever “Good Michael Boley” ceased to exist) to whatever they replace him with could be a significant downgrade. That replacement could be Jacquian Williams, who is almost like a safety/LB hybrid that can cover, but is probably not a 3-down linebacker. They may have to replace Boley will some kind of combination of players.
Chase Blackburn has made a few high-profile plays in his day, but he is not a legitimate starting LB in the NFL. The Giants can easily do better there.
Keith Rivers only played 238 snaps last season, and is a free agent.
Mathias Kiwanuka is the big question mark. What do the Giants do with him? I think they’re better off just leaving him at LB, and continuing to give him some pass rushing opportunities on obvious passing downs.
Mark Herzlich is a great story but he hasn’t shown much in his two seasons as a Giant. The reserve that I think has the bigger future is Spencer Paysinger. Perhaps Paysinger can be the complimentary player to Williams in replacing Boley.
Linebacker has been a need area for the Giants over the last 5+ years, so nothing new here.
CB: In the last 8 years, the Giants have drafted 8 CBs, including 5 in the first 3 rounds:
Here’s what I wrote about Corey Webster after the Giants-Ravens game this season:
Remember how bad Terence Newman was at the end of the season last year? Opposing teams put the bulls eye on his back and went to work. For example, last year the Giants played the Cowboys in 2 of the last 4 games. They targeted Newman a total of 19 times, which is an inordinately high number. Corey Webster is this year’s Terence Newman. Last week in Baltimore, the Ravens targeted Webster a staggering 14 times. He gave up 8 catches for 140 yards and a TD. I have no idea what happened to Corey Webster. He was so good last year.
Webster is going to make $7 million this season, and he turns 31 in March. I think the Giants would prefer to keep him around this season, seeing as the only other legitimate NFL CBs on the team are Jayron Hosley and Prince Amukamara, but it will be hard to justify his pay. Webster may have to take an outright pay cut, or he could be a goner.
Amukamara has been “OK” his first two season in the NFL, but I’d worry about him being my “#1 CB.” Hosley was impressive to begin the season, but struggled as the year wore on. Terrell Thomas’ health simply can’t be trusted at this point.
S: A few weeks ago, I did a whole big write-up on cautioning the Giants against letting UFA Kenny Phillips walk. I’ve since heard from a few people around the league that think his injuries are of the long-term variety, and he’ll never be the great player he once was.
If that’s the case and Phillips is indeed no longer a Giant heading into 2013, I’m not so sure Stevie Brown is an answer as Phillips’ replacement at safety. Brown had 8 INTs last year, but the majority of those were of the “ball finding him” variety, rather than Brown finding the ball. If you have Brown penciled in for a half dozen picks in 2013, you’re probably setting yourself up for a disappointment. Brown is player the Giants can upgrade. I realize that sounds ridiculous, seeing as he was 2nd in the NFL in picks last season, but that’s just what I see on his game film. He’s better suited to be a #3 or #4 safety, not a starter.
Antrel Rolle is overpaid, but he’s not going anywhere. Rolle had a brutal 2011 but was far better last season, and has become a smart, wily safety. He has two years left on his deal.
Will Hill is a nice, physical 3rd safety who likes to hit people.
The Giants’ could use another safety if Phillips walks, but it’s a lesser need than the other spots on the defense.
K: I didn’t mention special teams players on the other “team needs” posts, but I think the Giants could be in the market for a kicker in the draft. Lawrence Tynes’ career long is 53 yards, and while he hit on 84.6% of his kicks this year, it’s the one he missed Week 4 in Philly that stands out. It was a 54 yarder that landed short. There has been a recent influx of NFL kickers with cannons for legs. They’re weapons. Tynes is reliable, but he’s not a “weapon.” He’s also a free agent and will turn 35 in May. There’s a kicker I watched at the East-West Shrine Game by the name of Caleb Sturgis (Florida). Cannon. That could be a guy to keep an eye on.