The New York Giants are fresh off a Super Bowl championship, their second in five seasons, and the team has already broached the idea of a dynasty. One way to ensure you will be competitive for several years is to have a solid nucleus of young players, which the Giants definitely have.
Here are the top 10 players on the Giants that are 25 years old or younger.
10. Marvin Austin – DT (23)
Although Marvin Austin has yet to play a down for the Giants, he has massive upside and could end up as the starter as early as a year from now. He was dominant in his short time at UNC and his work ethic is unquestioned. He will have stayed in shape in his time away from football. Expect Austin to be a huge contributor this season, especially with Rocky Bernard no longer with the team.
9. Prince Amukamara – CB (22)
The Giants did not get a fair look at their first round pick last season as the Nebraska stand out broke his foot on the second day of training camp. He sat out 15 weeks before practicing, and when he got in the games he looked pretty bad. With a full offseason under his belt, hopefully the Giants are able to see what he is truly capable of.
8. Henry Hynoski – FB (23)
The Giants picked up Henry Hynoski as an unrestricted free agent last season to compete with Madison Hedgecock for the fullback job. The former Pitt Panther beat out Hedgecock, who had seen his best days with the Giants behind him. Hynoski went through some growing pains run blocking but improved throughout the season. He is also a solid pass catcher out of the backfield with surprising moves in open space.
7. Jake Ballard – TE (24)
When the Giants lost Kevin Boss to free agency, fans lost their minds, attacking Jerry Reese for not doing more to keep him around. Frankly it was moronic to think that way; no way Boss was worth four years, $16 million. Little did fans know the Giants had Jake Ballard waiting in the wings. Ballard had a better season than Boss ever did, and Ballard missed some time due to injury to boot. He provided Eli Manning with multiple clutch plays, especially in the game against the New England Patriots in the regular season. He is recovering from ACL surgery and might not play in 2012, but he’ll come back in 2013 for sure.
6. Martellus Bennett – TE (25)
The player brought in to replace Ballard is Marellus Bennett, a career backup for the Dallas Cowboys. The former second round pick has been waiting for his opportunity to start, and he finally has it. Bennett is an immediate upgrade from a run blocking standpoint over any tight end the Giants have. If he can stay engaged, work hard, and develop a chemistry with Eli, he’ll also be a dangerous pass catcher.
5. Linval Joseph – DT (23)
The 2010 second round pick got the opportunity to start in his sophomore year in the NFL and did not disappoint. Joseph is a load and provides the Giants with a dominant run stuffer up front. He has yet to reach his full potential, which is a scary thought.
4. Kenny Phillips – DB (25)
When Kenny Phillips missed the 2009 season with a knee condition, not only did the Giants look horrendous on defense, but the team feared the injury was career threatening. Thank goodness Phillips was able to overcome it, as he’s been an important cog in Perry Fewell’s defense the past two seasons. He and Antrel Rolle make up one of the best 1-2 punches at the safety position in the NFL.
3. Victor Cruz – WR (25)
Victor Cruz exploding onto the scene last season, shattering the Giants’ franchise record with 1,536 receiving yards. The undrafted free agent out of UMass was just waiting for his opportunity, and when Mario Manningham was lost with a concussion, Cruz took advantage against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3. With Nicks possibly missing a game or two this year with his broken foot, Cruz must step up.
2. Hakeem Nicks – WR (24)
The Giants were dealt a blow when Hakeem Nicks broke his fifth metatarsal in his foot last week, but it may give them an opportunity to bring along some of the younger receivers. Nicks will be acting as a second wide receivers coach until he comes back. When he does, the Giants will be getting one of the best receivers in the game back. Nicks has no weakness in his game; he is not afraid to do the little things asked of him by his coaches. He and Eli have a terrific chemistry, leading most to believe they won’t miss a step when Nicks comes back from the injury.
1. Jason Pierre-Paul – DE (23)
Without a doubt the best young player on the Giants is Jason Pierre-Paul. In just his second season he produced monster numbers (86 tackles [led DL], 16.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, seven pass deflections, one safety, one clutch blocked field goal). When the Giants drafted JPP it was due to his incredible potential, but they never could have imagined he would come on this quickly. It is scary to think how good he will be when he reaches his prime, which could come as early as this season. If JPP suffers no health setbacks, he could be one of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history. But I digress. Right now he’s one of the best young defensive players in all of the NFL, let alone on his own team.
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