[Chart last updated 7/1/14… see update notes from 7/1/14]
• Eli Manning finished 32nd in our QB grading rankings in 2013 but is a good starter? Well, we don’t want to punish him too much for what definitely was a poor season. But you only have to go back to 2012 to find him at his best, finishing as our seventh-highest graded quarterback and with that in mind, I think it’s unlikely he plays as poorly in 2014.
• We haven’t seen enough of Johnathan Hankins to make a true judgement on him but, from the little we have seen, it’s not surprising that he seems likely to see bigger roles in 2014. He looked to be very good against the run and will soften the blow of losing Lival Joseph in free agency if you can continue to show that on a higher snap count.
• Linebacker is where the Giants look weakest defensively, with new signing Jameel McClain not looking like even an average player since the 2011 season. At his best he was a solid linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen him at that level now.
• However they look to have made some solid additions at cornerback, with both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond both likely to make big impacts in their first seasons for the Giants.
Personally I would have both as starters over McClain, but it looks like Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams will battle it out for the spot on the other side. Neither stood out much, positively or negatively, last year but, if anything, Williams had the better year in coverage but struggled more against the run.
The Giants signed center J.D. Walton in the offseason and, while he struggled badly in his last full year as a starter in 2011, he did start the 2012 season well before going down with a season ending injury. The problem for Walton is that he hasn’t played a snap since Week 4 of the 2012 season and will have to hold off rookie second-round draft pick Weston Richburg to keep the starting role in 2014. Richburg has spent time at guard during OTAs, however, so the Giants may seen him as their top backup across the interior in his first season in the league.
3. Wide Receiver
After Victor Cruz, who is likely to be Eli Manning’s favorite target in 2014? They spent a first round draft pick on Odell Beckham Jr. and brought back Mario Manningham after two seasons in San Francisco. You’ve also got Rueben Randle who saw a bigger role in his second season, but don’t sleep on Jerrel Jernigan, who played just 221 snaps but had two big games to end the year, and forced six missed tackles from 29 receptions in 2013.
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