While the Saints Bounty gate and Peyton Manning’s release are making arresting headlines, let us talk about the Super Bowl Champions.
The Giants decided to tag punter Steve Weatherford. With Weatherford handling the punting duties in 2011, the Giants got much needed consistency. Over the last several seasons, the Giants special teams have not been too special. Having Weatherford was a breath of fresh air. And he was splendid in Super Bowl XLVI. Three of his four punts landed inside the Patriots 10 yard line.
WR Domenik Hixon was resigned. This means it is over for Mario Manningham. Since Victor Cruz has emerged as a top notch receiver, especially in the slot, Manningham has become expendable. Having Hixon return also helps the Giants special teams return game. As a team, the Giants averaged 6.1 yards per punt and 23.3 yards per kickoff return respectively. Here are links to see how the Giants fared in kickoff and punt returns. After seeing we are at the bottom of the NFL, let us hope Hixon can help the Giants improve in these areas.
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw had some work done on his ankle. He received an injection to help his ailing foot. Sheesh! With multiple surgeries performed on his wheels, it is amazing he has been so productive for the Giants. Over his NFL career, Bradshaw has had surgery on both his ankles and feet. Being that feet are a running back’s life blood, as an outsider, is Bradshaw’s best days behind him?
Speaking of the running back position, the Giants have RELEASED RB Brandon Jacobs. This does not come as a surprise. Once a bruising runner, Jacobs has been limited due to serious injuries. Over the last two seasons, Jacobs was relegated to a reduced role. Last season, Jacobs gained a disappointing 571 yards. Since Jacobs publicly expressed an interest in playing with the Jets, ESPN’s Jets reporter Rich Cimini compiled some statitstics on Jacobs. And Cimini caputured a snap shot of Jacobs’ unimpressive 2011 numbers:
1. Jacobs had one rush for 20 plus yards.
2. For a 265-pound man, Jacobs doesn’t break many tackles. His yards-after-contact average last season was 1.66, which ranked 44th in the league. (In fairness, we should point out he brought it up to 2.25 in the NFC playoffs.)
3. The Giants finished last in rushing and next-to-last in short-yardage rushing, with only a 52-percent conversion rate.
With Eli Manning restructuring his contract and Jacobs being released, the Giants appear to be under the projected salary cap. So what are their immediate needs?
Pro Football Focus examines the Giants major areas of need. Needless to say, after crunching their numbers, the Giants have to revamp the guard, tackle, and slot cornerback positions. It is evident, the Giants have to address the offensive line. On Thursday, reliable RT Kareem Mckenzie was told to go shopping. With no McKenzie, William Beatty recovering from surgery, and Diehl coming off an awful season, the Giants have to retool their offensive line.
As for the cornerback position, I think the Giants are okay in this area. Since 2007, Giants GM Jerry Reese has invested a lot of high draft picks in the secondary. Ross in 2007. Thomas in 2008. Prince in 2011. Reserve Bruce Johnson was resigned. And they will most likely retain Justin Tryon. Recall, this guy played with a broken arm against the Dolphins this year.
As the March 13th free agency signing period inches closer, the Giants have to think about the TE and RB positions. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants lost not one but both of their tight ends. Right now, the Giants have Bear Pascoe as the only effective TE. Look for Reese to sign a TE. And with the news of Jacobs’ release and the uncertainty of Bradshaw’s injury situation, the Giants have to upgrade the running back position. Let us not forget RB D.J. Ware has been concussed twice. He suffered a concussion in 2009 against the Broncos. And this year, he suffered another one against the Packers. Without question, Ware could be one hit away from being out of football. The Giants may have their future starter already on the roster- Da’Rel Scott could be the Giants next star running back. In the meantime, Reese has to pick up a veteran running back as insurance.
To sum up, Reese will use free agency to shore up the TE and RB positions, while using draft picks to stabilize their offensive line.