2013 Team Needs: New York Giants
The Giants' Super Bowl defense fizzled down the season's final stretch, leaving many questions hanging over their offseason. Peter Damilatis offers a few answers.
2013 Team Needs: New York Giants
The New York Giants have been an all-or-nothing team in the Tom Coughlin era, and the 2012 campaign unfortunately turned out to be the latter. Big Blue parlayed the momentum of last year’s Super Bowl run into a 6-2 start. However, although the Giants have never began a season worse than 5-2 under Coughlin, they missed the playoffs for the third time in the past four years. New York ultimately buckled under a tough schedule, as Eli Manning and his receivers could not carry the load for a defense that came up very small in some very big spots.
The Giants certainly have the foundation to get back into contention for the Lombardi trophy, but they’ll need some retooling in the offseason. Let’s take a look at their biggest needs, while you can find a list of all Giants free agents here.
The final weeks of the Giants’ disappointing season were marred by some spectacular failings from their cornerbacks. Back in his breakout 2008 season, Corey Webster earned our second-highest grade for a cornerback and was rewarded with a six-year, $44 million extension. The Giants survived Terrell Thomas’ ACL tear last season because Webster carried the load with a +9.1 grade, allowing a 69.9 passer rating when quarterbacks threw into his coverage. However a year later, Webster has fallen far and fast. Only two cornerbacks surrendered more than his 988 yards in coverage, and his eight touchdowns allowed were the second-most in the league. With a -11.3 season grade and a $7 million projected salary in 2013, Webster’s roster spot is in serious jeopardy.
Jayron Hosley’s -12.1 grade was even worse than Webster’s, and the rookie was particularly poor in slot coverage, where he allowed 75% of his targets to be completed for a 139.0 passer rating. He showed some improvement toward the end of the season when injuries moved him to the outside, but hoping for a big contribution from him next season is pure optimism.
The Giants do have a bright spot in Prince Amukamara, whose 375 yards allowed in coverage were the fourth-fewest of 73 cornerbacks with as much playing time. Only Champ Bailey surrendered less than Amukamara’s 0.86 yards per coverage snap. However, he’s struggled with injuries in his young career, and the Giants’ secondary fell to shambles when he was stuck on the sidelines.
Free Agent Fix: Captain Munnerlyn
The Giants are reportedly at least $4.5 million over the salary cap for this upcoming season, and any money they save from cutting and restructuring contracts will likely go toward re-signing key players like Will Beatty, Martellus Bennett, and/or Kenny Phillips. While the market will likely drive up the price of alluringly talented cornerbacks like Aqib Talib and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Giants may have to resort to bargain-hunting. In that case, Captain Munnerlyn could be a good fit in New York.
The biggest asset Munnerlyn brings is his work in the slot, where he took the fourth-most snaps of anyone in the league this season and yet still allowed just 0.87 yards per coverage snap there. Having Munnerlyn in that spot would allow the Giants to permanently slide Antrel Rolle to safety, a spot where he is much better suited than as an emergency nickel corner. If Webster’s decline and Amukamara’s injuries continue, Munnerlyn also has plenty of experience as a starter on the outside.
Look at the Giants linebacking corps in our Premium Stats section, and you’ll see a sea of red. The only player in the group to earn a positive season grade was Spencer Paysinger, with a +0.9 in very limited duty. Everyone loved the story of Chase Blackburn going from substitute teacher to Super Bowl champion, but the clock seems to have struck midnight on his career. He earned a -10.9 season grade, allowing 13.8 yards per reception in coverage and missing 10 of his 90 tackle attempts. Mark Herzlich has yet to show that he’s ready to step up, with just two defensive stops on 52 running plays this season while allowing 1.43 yards per snap in coverage.
Even more concerning for the Giants was Michael Boley’s decline. His -8.6 grade ranked him 40th out of 43 players at his position, and only four 4-3 outside linebackers surrendered more than the 550 yards he allowed in coverage. After relegating him to backup duty for the final three games, the Giants parted ways with Boley. Backup Jacquian Williams has a negative PFF grade in both of his NFL seasons, and injuries limited him to just 299 snaps this year.
Free Agent Fix: Thomas Howard
Unfortunately for New York, the market isn’t rich with quality every-down linebackers. Philip Wheeler may have been our Best Budget Signing this season, but his price will likely shoot up after his breakout campaign. The Vikings also have enough cap space to ensure that a key player like Erin Henderson won’t get away from them. Still, one veteran who can fit into the Giants’ 4-3 scheme for a reasonable price is weakside linebacker Thomas Howard.
Howard played in 94.2% of the Bengals snaps in 2011 before tearing his ACL in Week 1 of this season. Only three linebackers spent more snaps in coverage than him, and he surrendered just 0.84 yards per snap. He can be a bit of a liability in the run game, which has to be a concern in a division with Robert Griffin III and Chip Kelly, but assuming that he’s healthy, Howard could be a younger and cheaper replacement for Boley.
A third defensive need? Well, when a team gives up the second-most yards in the NFL, it clearly has a lot of holes. The Giants’ well-regarded pass rush was both inconsistent and invisible this season, two words that also describe the performance of its captain. Justin Tuck gained 15 of his 32 pressures in three games, and his 6.7 Pass Rushing Productivity mark was one of the worst for a 4-3 defensive end. Tuck was already showing signs of decline in 2011, where a +10.6 grade in the playoffs painted over his -8.1 regular season mark. He shouldn’t be at danger of getting cut, but he certainly needs to rebound in the final year of his contract.
The sacks may not have been there for Jason Pierre-Paul, but his +23.7 grade in 2012 was still third among all 4-3 defensive ends. His 9.0 Run Stop Percentage was tops at his position and his 8.5 Pass Rushing Productivity was actually a slight improvement from 2011, despite the lack of splash plays. However, he was too often left fighting a one-man battle when Tuck and Osi Umenyiora disappeared.
Free Agent Fix: Juqua Parker
With Umenyiora hitting free agency, the Giants suddenly have a lack of depth at a position that has long been a strong point for them. As nice as it would be to have both Bennetts in blue, Martellus’ brother Michael will likely be in high demand if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t franchise tag him. Since the Giants have excelled at identifying pass rushers in the draft, why not go that route again and get a veteran to bridge the gap for a year?
At 34 years old, Juqua Parker certainly can’t have a lot of gas left in the tank, but he’s been a great situational pass rusher in his twilight years. His 44 quarterback pressures this year were only one fewer than Umenyiora’s total, and 84.2% of his rushes came from Osi’s spot on the blind side. For a team that can never have enough pass rushers, the Giants sure could find a use for Parker.
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