The Giants had one of the league’s most prolific offenses last season, ranking ninth in points per game (24.6), fifth in pass yards per game (295.9) and eighth in total yards per game (385.1). These metrics are impressive, but let us not ignore Big Blue’s putrid rushing yards per game average (82.1), good for last in all of football.
The departure of Brandon Jacobs—and his accompanying 152 carries and 571 rushing yards—to the San Francisco 49ers only figured to further debilitate an already feeble ground game, leaving the Giants in danger of reclaiming their spot as the league’s worst rushing team. Help arrived at approximately 11:30 p.m. Thursday night in the form of 5-foot-9, 205-pound running back David Wilson, a shifty speedster from Virginia Tech who immediately slides into the No. 2 spot on the Giants running back depth chart.
Wilson was Big Blue’s first round selection, a player who could make his presence felt as early as the opening kick of the highly anticipated Wednesday night season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys (Sept. 5). But the Giants made 16 other additions over the weekend, 11 of those offensive.
It’s highly unlikely that all of these newcomers will have an immediate impact in 2012, but a few—hopefully more than a few—will be major contributors as the Giants make their second attempt at a “Big Blue Repeat” within the last four years.
While the rookies should add a new flavor to the offense in 2012, several noteworthy free agent additions—including offensive tackle Sean Locklear and tight end Martellus Bennett—and several departures—Mario Manningham, Jacobs—could have an even larger impact.
It’s only May 2, which means that—with a four-month span that includes OTAs, training camp, roster cuts and preseason games still ahead of us—any preview or prediction that I come up with has little chance of coming to fruition.
Alas, without further ado, here is what you can expect from the Giants’ offense in 2012 in this way, way early preseason offensive outlook.
Eli Manning had his best season in 2011, recording 4,933 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and an immeasurable amount of fourth-quarter quarterbacking mastery. Eclipsing those numbers will be a tall order, but there’s no reason to think that Eli will regress in 2012.
In Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, Eli has arguably the league’s best receiving tandem at his disposal—not to mention Rueben Randle as his third option, a first-round talent who should equal, if not surpass, Manningham’s production from last year. Add in Martellus Bennett, a talented but oft-overlooked receiving tight end, and it’s clear that Eli will have no shortage of weapons as he makes a run at 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
After a breakout year in 2010 in which he compiled 1,235 yards and eight touchdowns, Ahmad Bradshaw took a step back last season, finishing with just 659 yards. Much of Bradshaw’s decline can be attributed to injury, as he was bothered by foot problems for most of 2011. Those health concerns have not gone away: Bradshaw underwent another foot operation this offseason, but will be ready for the season opener. Even if Bradshaw is good to go week 1, though, it’s fair to expect that his injury problems will resurface at some point this season.
As I mentioned earlier, Wilson should have an immediate impact, both as a running back and a return man. But don’t expect the former Hokie to fill the hole left by Jacobs. Let me rephrase, don’t expect him to do it the same way.
Wilson is a speed back, a player that will benefit from getting touches in space, where he can use his off-the-charts athleticism and open-field explosiveness to pick up big chunks of yardage. But he is not—by any stretch—a between-the-tackles specialist. Such was Jacobs’ field of duty throughout his tenure in NYC, a bruising, short-yardage specialist often entrusted with goal line duties. All of which amounts to Bradshaw getting the lion’s share of carries in short yardage situations, where he is all but certain to take a pounding.
The Giants figure to be more Eli-reliant than ever this season, but expect them to climb out of the cellar in terms of rushing yards per game average. Bradshaw and Wilson will form a nice one-two punch, and the combination of D.J. Ware and Andre Brown is a solid third option.
One of the undrafted free agents the Giants picked up over the weekend is Julian Talley, a wide receiver out of UMass. Talley is not the first UDFA from UMass to land with Big Blue. That honor belongs to Victor Cruz, who broke the franchise record for receiving yards in 2011 with 1,536. Will Talley have the same impact? Probably not.
But you can expect big things from Rueben Randle this season. Randle suffered from poor quarterback play throughout his three-year tenure at LSU—not to mention Les Miles’ run-heavy, pass-averse offense—but he will thrive alongside an elite quarterback, two of the league’s best wideouts, and an offensive coordinator who has no reservations taking full advantage of Eli’s deepball accuracy.
Nicks, Cruz and Randle will be the focal point of Big Blue’s offensive attack in 2012, and it’s not crazy to think that this is the league’s most talented receiving corps. The trio will live up to the hype.
Martellus Bennett should be the primary receiving tight end next season, a marked upgrade from last year’s Jake Ballard-Travis Beckum platoon. Bear Pascoe, who hauled in 12 passes for 136 yards in 2011, should get his fair share of touches this season along with Beckum, who is battling back from the knee injury he suffered in the SuperBowl.
The Giants took Adrien Robinson with their fourth round pick in this year’s draft, a 6-foot-4, 267-pound project out of Cincinnati who Tom Coughlin called the “JPP of tight ends.” That’s high praise for a fourth round pick, but if that statement is even half true, Big Blue has a very talented, impactful player on its hands. Of course, expecting Robinson to make a JPP-like impact in his first year is unreasonable. It will probably be a few years before he makes his presence felt.
Overall, this group of tight ends is better than last year’s.
The Giants underwent massive change on the offensive line last season, with David Bass replacing Shaun O’Hara at center, William Beatty stepping in at left tackle, and David Diehl moving to left guard. By the end of the season, Diehl had replaced Beatty at left tackle and Kevin Boothe was the starter at left guard.
The signing of Locklear as well as the addition of fourth round pick Brandon Moseley figures to shake up the rotation even more this season, as will the departure of right tackle Kareem McKenzie. This unit was one of the main reasons for Eli’s brilliant 2011 season, and it will need to be just as good—or better—in 2012.
Barring injury, I foresee major improvement for the O-line in 2012. Locklear isn’t a major dropoff from McKenzie and the addition of Moseley, as well as the continued maturation of tackle James Brewer and guard Mitch Petrus, gives Big Blue youth and flexibility where it needs it most.