Hits, Misses, & Musings: 2012 Giants Season Edition
I had thought about doing a traditional “HM&M” column to wrap up the 2012 season, but in wanting to do something a little different, I instead decided to turn this into an “awards” piece that is loosely based on the HM&M format.
Take a look – and let me know what you think about the picks.
This was a tough one for me because I don’t think we can honestly say anyone really stood out as the runaway winner. But if I have to pick one guy – and yes, I do have to – I’m going to give it to left tackle Will Beatty, who despite starting out with a back injury that slowed him down, pitched quite a few impressive games guarding quarterback Eli Manning’s blind side this year.
Wow, another tough call, but not because there was no clear-cut winner. I narrowed this one down to two guys, both safeties. So in the end, I chose Antrel Rolle over Stevie Brown for a few reasons.
One, Rolle took on another increased workload this year and save for maybe one game, he had a solid season. Two, when he spoke in the locker room, it just seemed that people responded and I really hope that next year head coach Tom Coughlin considers adding two more season-long captain spots (one on offense and one on defense) to the group and that Rolle gets one of those spots.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
This one was also close, as I considered David Wilson for his amazing kickoff return abilities, and kicker Lawrence Tynes. In the end though, I was looking for consistency week in and week out, and I think long snapper Zak DeOssie, who on play after play was among the first down field to make a tackle, met that criteria.
What DeOssie does is not an easy feat for a long snapper to do that, but it says a lot about how DeOssie, a Pro Bowler at his position, was able to cast aside blockers and get down field to minimize the opponent’s return yardage.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
David Wilson gets the nod by a mile given his contributions on special teams and how he finally started to come on late in the year. The future sure does look bright for this young man.
Every year when I look at the training camp roster, I start to shape my picks for whom I think will stay and who I think won’t make the cut.
I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong – I’m human, after all. So I’ll admit that I had safety Stevie Brown as a guy that I didn’t think would make the final cut. Not only was I wrong about him, he actually turned out to be a pretty good safety, leading the team with eight picks for 307 yards and all but assuring himself a starting job next season.
I’m going to go with the team concept here because I think the bigger picture is that this team wasn’t consistent, especially in the second half of the season.
Whether that was a result of the coaches not adjusting and instead hoping that things would straighten out; the returning players failing to handle their success as well as they could have; or the rookies being shell-shocked at a 16-game schedule after playing 12 games in college – and I think all three factored into the equation—this team had its chances to be a contender despite the injuries that threatened to tear them apart and they inexplicably failed to come up big when they needed to down the stretch.
THE TURNING POINT IN THE SEASON
In my opinion, the 17-16 loss to the Redskins, a game in which, had the Giants won, would have given them the tie-breaker in the NFC East and maybe gotten them to the playoffs with another couple of wins after that, was the game in which I think the handwriting went on the wall for all to see that this team wasn’t going to be going anywhere.
THE “UNSUNG HERO” AWARD
This is another easy pick for me: fullback Henry Hynoski. Fullbacks don’t get a lot of attention, but week after week, this second-year pro was among the consistent performers, rarely missing an assignment and showing reliability when given the chance to touch the ball.
Whether he gets an increased role in the offense next year remains to be seen, but as I said quite often this past year in my game reviews, how nice is it to know that when the fullback is on the field, it’s not necessarily going to be a running play, and that defenses will soon have to account for his presence as a threat?
THE “TOUGH GUY” AWARD
Playing through an injury is difficult and really every guy who takes a snap is worthy of this honor. So when you look toward guys who probably should have been shut down yet who tried to fight through their ailments, I think you have to look at Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw as the two guys who for the majority of the year fought through some painful ailments. (Yes, I considered Chris Snee, but in the end I went with guys who had more long-term issues over the course of the season.)
THE “WHERE DID HE COME FROM?” AWARD
I had a hunch that safety Will Hill was going to be someone to keep an eye on when I first saw him in the rookie camp, and sure enough, he didn’t disappoint, appearing to get better and better every week.
Reportedly having had issues when he was in college, Hill appears to finally have “gotten” what it takes to stick around in this league. If he continues to put his time in and refine his craft, it could be just a matter of time before he becomes a starting safety.
THE “WHERE DID HE GO?” AWARD
Look no further than receiver Ramses Barden, who had a big game against the Panthers and looked like after four years, he finally was developing into the talent that the Giants thought he might be when they drafted him.
He went on to get a few more reps in games before eventually fading from the scene, as Jerrel Jernigan passed him on the depth chart and Barden, a soon-to-be Unrestricted Free Agent, disappeared on to the weekly inactive list.
What happened to Barden? That’s something I’ll be discussing in our upcoming “Rebuilding the Bridge” issue, but I will say that signs seem to be pointing to the Giants letting this physically gifted receiver walk when free agency starts.
THE “NEVER SAY ‘DIE’” AWARD
Be honest and raise your hand if you thought that linebacker Chase Blackburn, who started the year as the starting middle linebacker, would finish as the starter?
Yeah, me too. Not to take anything away from Blackburn, whose preparation and knowledge of the game is said to be second to none, but with the team’s action plan to get younger and faster, it wasn’t unrealistic to think that Blackburn was merely keeping the seat warm for someone else. Apparently this gritty veteran had other ideas.
THE “GIANT COMEBACK” AWARD
Oh those knee issues! A lot of people held their breath when cornerback Terrell Thomas slipped on the wet grass early in training camp, hoping that he didn’t re-injure his ACL. Unfortunately he did and the rest was history.
So it was only natural that we again held our collective breath when receiver Domenik Hixon, who was trying to come back from two consecutive ACL injuries, practiced on that very same wet grass that day – as well as other wet fields later on.
While Hixon, our award winner in this category, did miss games with a concussion and then later a high ankle sprain, he kept fighting back and quietly had a solid season for a guy coming off two straight ACL injuries
MOST DEVASTATING INJURY
Although he tried to gut it out, the knee and foot issues suffered by receiver Hakeem Nicks had a trickle down effect as teams knew they could clamp down on Victor Cruz. They did just that, though to be fair, the use of the tight end down the stretch was at times a head scratcher, and Cruz did go on to have a pretty good year.
Still, one can’t help but wonder just how much more effective Cruz and the passing game might have been with a healthy Nicks along for the ride.
THE “SCRATCH YOUR HEAD” MOMENT
Early in December, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said that at times, his game plan didn’t always place an emphasis on sacks, a byproduct of pressuring the quarterback.
Then a few weeks later, as questions continued about the play of the defense, Fewell indicated that the players were put in position to make plays, but that they weren’t always getting there.
BEST FREE AGENT SIGNING
With all due respect to tight end Martellus Bennett, I’m going to give the nod to tackle Sean Locklear, who started off the season filling in at left tackle while Will Beatty was recovering from back issues before moving over to the right tackle spot, where he played well in David Diehl’s absence before suffering a very serious knee injury.
It all starts with the offensive line as if they don’t do their job, it doesn’t matter who the skill positions are. Guys like Locklear deserve to go out on their own terms and hopefully he’ll get that opportunity.
WORST FREE AGENT SIGNING
I suppose you can take your pick of any of the veterans signed to contracts that didn’t make the final 53-man roster – cornerback Antwaun Molden, safety Chris Horton, and/or defensive tackle Marcus Thomas.
THE BEST MOVE NEVER MADE
Coming out of camp, the thinking was that the Giants would keep running back DJ Ware as their third running back because of Ware’s experience in pass blocking, which I thought might come in handy until David Wilson was ready for that role.
If they went that way, figure that they would have cut André Brown. Instead, the coaches cut Ware and kept Brown, a move that seemed curious given Brown’s journeyman status.
So not only did Brown show he could handle the pass blocking duties, when called upon, he was also quite a nifty runner who showed patience and power. While a broken leg ended his season early, the future certainly looks bright for Brown.
THE WORST MOVE NEVER MADE
General manager Jerry Reese admitted that in retrospect, they might have handled Hakeem Nicks’ knee injury a little differently than they did, which I took to mean that they might have considered placing him on temporary injured reserve.
Instead, the Giants waited until the last possible week to use the temporary, six-week injured reserve designation on running back André Brown, whose recovery time was estimated to coincide with Super Bowl week.
While I understand what the thinking was behind the decision, even if the Giants had made it to the Super Bowl, would Brown really have been ready to return and compete at a high level in what would have been the biggest game of the year after a six-week layoff?
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That’s a wrap on the 2012 season review/awards. Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts below, or send me a letter.