For the New York Giants and their fans, 2011 was a dream come true. It took everything they had just to earn a playoff berth. Once they got there, though, everyone knows the story. Their story arc mirrored that of the 2007 team’s, becoming road warriors and eventually knocking out the New England Patriots to claim their second Super Bowl in four years.
The 2012 Giants will look to repeat the success of last year’s team, but if there’s one thing everyone can agree on in football, it’s that repeating isn’t easy. Injuries accumulate, and the Giants are no exception. Just during the Super Bowl, tight ends Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard both went down with ACL tears. Losses during the free agency can also change the look of a team, and the Giants didn’t prove to be immune to that either. The 49ers pillaged the Giants’ offense during the offseason, luring away both longtime running back Brandon Jacobs and key receiver Mario Manningham.
For fans of the Giants, the good news is that the organization acted swiftly to replace both Jacobs and Manningham during the draft. They used the very last pick of the first round to select David Wilson, a running back out of Virginia. Wilson has been labeled as a player who can be a home run threat out of the backfield, and he’s also capable of catching the ball and returning kickoffs. The Giants rushing attack was ranked last in the league during the 2011 season in terms of both total yards and yards per attempt, but they ranked sixth in the league when it came to scoring touchdowns. There was an almost even split between Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacobs, so the question is whether Wilson can fill in for the scoring void left by Jacobs while still improving the running game in areas where it struggled.
The 2012 Giants will also feature a slightly different look at the wide receiver position. With Manningham lost to the 49ers, the Giants need to replace a player who didn’t put up eye-popping numbers but did bring consistency as a third receiving option. Reuben Randle is expected to be that guy in New York. His speed isn’t anything to write home about, but Randle does bring the size that most NFL teams love in a third wide receiver. The team can always help him work on his speed, but size can’t be taught.
As far as Randle’s role in the offense is concerned, he’ll likely have a more prominent role than Manningham did. Ballard had an important role in the offense, and he’ll likely have a slow start to the season since he’s only now starting to run on the injured ACL. For this reason, quarterback Eli Manning is going to have to look more towards Randle in the slot and Wilson out of the backfield.
Speaking of Eli Manning, it will be interesting to see how he performs in 2012 now that the constant criticisms and questions about his status as an elite quarterback should be laid to rest. While some will no doubt still question his ability, he did his part to silence the vast majority of his critics by winning a second Super Bowl and looking the part of an elite quarterback while doing so. He should be solid again in 2012, but sometimes the Super Bowl hangover can be most noticeable on a player like Eli.
Overall, repeating is going to be difficult for these Giants, but not impossible. They have a regular season schedule that is brutally difficult, with road games against the 49ers and Ravens and other games against the Packers and Saints. However, they’ve now proven twice that all they need to be able to win the Super Bowl is a playoff berth, and that they don’t need a top seed to be effective in the postseason. For that reason, the 2012 Giants should be more than capable of repeating in the Super Bowl, but the road isn’t going to be easy.
This is a guest post by Don Phan, marketing analyst at Fanatics Inc. and part-time sports writer. Fanatics Inc. is a leading online retailer of licensed sports gear with several brands, and boasts an incredible selection NY Giants football gear.