Giants GM Jerry Reese has obviously been showered with praise for his personnel moves, which led to his team capturing Super Bowl XLVI. Coming into the season, though, that wasn’t the case.
Steve Smith and Kevin Boss were gone. Reese was pounded with criticism. Who would step in?
Domenik Hixon and Travis Beckum were supposed to. They didn’t. Hixon suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 2, while Beckum battled injuries and inconsistency. When Hixon went down, the Giants brought in veteran Brandon Stokley, but he struggled and was eventually placed on season-ending injured reserve before being released.
That’s when Victor Cruz emerged, as did Jake Ballard -- both undrafted nobodies -- and the Giants ended up being just fine.
Check out the stats from this season:
Steve Smith (Philadelphia): 11 catches, 124 yards, 1 TD
Kevin Boss (Oakland): 28 catches, 368 yards, 3 TDs
Victor Cruz (Giants): 82 catches, 1,536 yards, 9 TDs
Jake Ballard (Giants): 38 catches 604 yards, 4 TDs
These stats, of course, don’t do Cruz any justice. He led the NFL in fourth quarter catches, yards and touchdowns during the regular season, and ended up doing his final salsa TD dance against the Patriots in the Giants’ 21-17 victory. Ballard was slowed by a slightly torn PCL injury late in the season, and finished with just five catches in the playoffs before tearing his ACL in the championship.
Ballard is going to start the season -- along with Beckum, who also tore his ACL in the championship game -- on the PUP list.
As you can see by ESPN NFC East Blogger Dan Graziano’s blog post, the Giants are in a bit of a salary cap bind. Fortunately, they’ve been good at developing lesser known players in the past, so fans shouldn’t be concerned. If you are concerned, just think back to how worried you were last season. You weren’t alone. But our guess is you probably have faith in 26-year-old Christian Hopkins at the tight end spot, even though you’ve never seen him play before, because Reese and the Giants have faith in him.
The Giants have 21 free agents. Several are major contributors, including Kareem McKenzie, Aaron Ross and Mario Manningham. Brandon Jacobs is due a $500,000 roster bonus in March. Osi Umenyiora may complain about his contract again.
Put your GM hat on for a minute: What do you do? Who do you let walk? Are you confident that young guys like Prince Amukamara and Hopkins can step up? Would you ask two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning to restructure his contract to get more cap space? You also have needs at tight end, linebacker, in the secondary and along the offensive line, how do you address them? Oh, and Cruz has outplayed his contract. He could make $490,000 in 2012, but is that fair?
How would you set this roster up to repeat next season? Let us know.