The offense was inconsistent all season, sometimes putting up 35-plus points and other times getting shutout.
Based on the defensive needs of the team, the Giants’ offense will likely feature many of the same cast of characters for the 2013 season.
If this unit plays consistently, it really is still one of the better offenses in the NFL. But without consistency, especially in scoring touchdowns in the red zone, the offense will finish near the middle of the pack like it did this year.
Here’s a breakdown of the state of the Giants’ offense heading into 2013.
Eli Manning put up good stats this season (59.9 percent completion, 3,948 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 15 interceptions), but again his overall play fit tight into the theme of inconsistency.
Too many times, Manning turned the ball over on poor decisions – usually in the Giants’ own territory. But where he really struggled was the red zone, as the Giants were forced to settle for three points instead of seven.
Manning though was not the sole reason the Giants missed the playoffs. Quarterbacks often get blamed for a team’s problems, but that’s not applicable here. Manning put the team in a position win more often than not, and in fact he was the major part of most of the Giants’ nine victories.
If his receiving targets stay healthy in 2013, he has a good chance of returning to his typical form. And again, his “typical form” is not far off from this season.
As far as backup quarterback, David Carr is a free agent, but he will likely be back since no other team will give him a starting gig.
Ahmad Bradshaw has said that he will “forever be a Giant.” But that is only if the team decides to keep him. Bradshaw’s physical running style has inspired his teammates, but it’s also led to missing significant time in his Giants’ career due to injury.
Are the Giants’ running out of patience with their star back? He’s under team control for 2013, so the Giants would either have to trade him or release him to cut ties.
But the most likely scenario is that Bradshaw stays and contributes whenever healthy. That will give David Wilson ample time to learn the offense and take over as the starting running back in 2014.
Even so, Wilson should be touching the ball at least 15-20 times per game in 2013. His speed and shiftiness are incredible weapons that the Giants need to employ. Hopefully, his late season success will give him the confidence to put that opening night fumble long behind him.
Andre Brown’s broken fibula against the Packers was actually a crippling injury for this team. He was leading the team in touchdowns with eight at the time and was effective in short yardage situations. He’s a free agent, but if healthy, hopefully the Giants give him another chance after proving his worth.
A running back core of Bradshaw, Wilson and Brown (all healthy of course) can do some real damage.
Henry Hynoski will continue to be the team’s unsung hero at fullback.
With Hakeem Nicks healthy, the Giants’ offense is a juggernaut unit. But without Nicks, Manning lacks his favorite downfield target.
Nicks played in only 13 games and only had one 100-plus yard receiving game (Week 2 vs. Tampa Bay) after dealing with knee and foot injuries. General Manager Jerry Reese even said that Nicks really shouldn’t have even suited up for the final few games.
If Nicks can stay on the field, the Giants had a No. 1 receiver. The team will likely soon work out a long-term contract with Victor Cruz as well.
So if all goes according to plan, the Giants will have their top two targets on the outside. But from there, question marks exist.
Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden are free agents. Rueben Randle showed flashed of being a viable receiver, but his work ethic has been questioned. Jerrel Jernigan is in danger of falling off the depth chart if he doesn’t have a good showing in training camp.
Most likely, Hixon is gone, and Barden is retained as insurance. Randle will slide into the No. 3 receiver role and be expected to contribute each week.
There are a few high-profile wide receivers available in free agency like Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe and Wes Welker, but they will all likely be too expensive for the G-Men.
Despite a few crucial drops, Martellus Bennett was a great find by Reese this season. He was one of the few Giants actually productive in the red zone.
He’s a free agent, and there’s a very good chance the Giants re-sign him. He gives Manning a big target over the middle and in the end zone.
The Giants seem to be grooming youngster Adrien Robinson for a tight end role, so maybe he’ll begin to make an impact next season.
Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe are free agents, and likely only one will be back – probably Pascoe based on his ability as a blocking back and Beckum’s injury history.
On the whole, the Giants’ offensive line played very well this season even with a good deal of shuffling and personnel switches.
But when the line needed to step up in a big game on the road against the Falcons, they were nowhere to be found, as Manning was consistently pressured all game.
The Giants are again in a position similar to last offseason in which the salary gap will be an issue. Unless linemen like David Baas, Chris Snee and David Diehl agree to take paycuts, the Giants will likely be stuck with a similar unit.
Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe are free agents, however. Boother has been a solid guard, but Beatty may be out as a tackle. Two big free-agent tackles are available: Jake Long and Ryan Clady.
Long will likely be re-signed by the Dolphins, but it’s looking like Clady will suit up somewhere other than for the Broncos. He has reportedly turned down a five-year, $50 million extension to stay in Denver, so he’s likely way out of the Giants price range unless other players take paycuts.
Sean Locklear filled in admirably until missing the final month will a knee injury. The veteran will likely only be back if he’s willing to accept a reserve role. Other reserves, Jim Cordle and Selvish Capers, are free agents and will likely be back for insurance. James Brewer is under team control and can also provide insurance.
The Giants’ offense is going to basically be the same unit as 2012. As long as they stay healthy and play consistently – two pretty significant question marks based on this past season’s performance – that offense should be just fine.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.