Excerpt: "After the high of a Super Bowl, the Giants experienced the ultimate hangover: missing the playoffs with the same core in 2012. Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Justin Tuck and company return for another year more desperate than ever to reach the big game, which is being played at their home stadium. A group of new faces hopes to shore up the run defense, while Cruz, fresh off a new contract, hopes to continue his rise among the leagues top wideouts.
Here’s a look at what could get the Giants over the hump:
A head coach is only as potent as the culture he installs in the locker room, and no one seems to have done that better over the last decade than Tom Coughlin. He’s taken a 6-10 team to 11-5, an 8-8 team to 11-6, and now his challenge is to re-energize a group that missed the playoffs the year after a Super Bowl run. Working in his favor is a core that remains largely unchanged. The leadership hierarchy is well in place and Coughlin, who turns 67 just before Week 1 will look to push his team to a third Super Bowl in 10 years, joining Bill Belichick atop the list of elite modern coaches.
Manning’s total yards dropped almost 1,000 from 2011 to 2012 but his touchdowns, touchdown rate, interceptions, yards per completion and interception rate all remained fairly consistent. And that may be all the Giants need from Manning — another consistent season at the same clip, while allowing the defense to build around them and the running game to continue to take off some of the pressure.
Time to step up
Ahmad Bradshaw is in Indianapolis, leaving 2011 draft pick David Wilson and Andre Brown as the two running backs slated to take the bulk of the carries. Wilson has explosive potential, highlighted by a 52-yard carry and four total touchdowns last year. Brown had eight total scores, and both players averaged five or more yards per carry.
The pass rush
The defensive line was upgraded, but when it comes to the Giants’ vaunted pass rush, the burden now rests with Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka, who is making the move back to defensive end. Is there a chance Damontre Moore steps up? The unproven rookie had double-digit sacks for Texas A&M last season and has plenty of potential.
Avoiding the injury bug is a delicate subject for the Giants going into each season and they’ve already lost a key contributor that is still pushing to get back for the season opener (fullback Henry Hynoski). Another, Jason Pierre Paul, is still recovering from back surgery. Remember the 2011 preseason where Terrell Thomas, Domenik Hixon and Marvin Austin all went down?" Read more...