The New York Giants officially began their first mandatory mini-camp on Tuesday, starting their quest to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since the New England Patriots did it in 2003-2004.
There are several players who will need to step up and have big seasons if the Giants hope to even contend for their division, let alone another championship. But which players have the most to prove in 2012? I have five in mind.
No. 5 – C David Bass
The Giants acquired Baas last season in the hopes that he could replace long time Pro Bowl center Shaun O’Hara, who was released from the team due to injuries. It wasn’t the best year for Baas, who battled injuries and did not seem to gel with the group as well as the team hoped. With a full off season under his belt, hopefully he shows improvement. Lord knows the Giants need it as they finished dead last rushing the football in 2011.
No. 4 – WR Domenik Hixon
Since having a solid year as the Giants fourth receiving option in 2008, Hixon has had a tough go at it. He tore his ACL in each of the last two seasons, appearing in just 1.5 games during that stretch. With Mario Manningham gone, the third wide receiver position is completely up for grabs. Hixon would appear to have the early edge in that department, but second-round pick Rueben Randle has been opening eyes at camp so far. With Hakeem Nicks likely missing most of the off season workouts, this is a prime opportunity for Hixon to strut his stuff.
No. 3 – LB Keith Rivers
The Giants acquired Rivers for a fifth-round pick this offseason, and the former Cincinnati Bengal is eager to prove he was a steal. The Giants do not really know where Rivers will be lining up just yet—they are bringing him along slowly so he can learn the defense before assuming a starting role with the team. That said, the Giants made a concerted effort to improve the linebacking corps, so Rivers won’t be riding the bench this season. He will be on the field, and the Giants need him to be the player he used to be before sitting out the entire 2011 season with a wrist injury.
No. 2 – OL Will Beatty
To say the Giants new-look offensive line was unsuccessful last season would be a huge understatement. It did not help that Beatty was forced to play next to David Diehl, who played poorly at left guard, but Beatty had his own share of issues at left tackle. He missed the final six games of the season and the playoff run, so he is already on thin ice.
Add to that the Giants taking two offensive tackles in the 2012 draft and bringing in a third via free agency, and Beatty should be looking over his shoulder. He has already missed some time at camp due to a lingering back problem. If he can’t get on the field and prove why he won the job in the first place, he risks losing the job altogether.
No. 1 – CB Terrell Thomas
The Giants pass defense struggled during the 2011 season, mostly due to the loss of five cornerbacks to season ending injuries. The most important of those was starter Terrell Thomas, who tore his ACL in the preseason. He is still sitting out of camp recovering from that injury, but he expects to be ready to go by training camp.
In 2010 the Giants boasted a top 10 pass defense; they fell all the way to 29th without Thomas. He was arguably the best defender in the 2010 season, but will need to play well to keep his job. The Giants did not exactly give him a vote of confidence when they signed Antwaun Molden and added Jayron Hosley through the draft.
The Giants were smart when they re-signed Thomas this offseason. His deal is loaded with incentives and protects the Giants should Thomas fail to come back 100 percent from his knee injury. The deal is worth $17 million over the next four years, but could be worth up to $28.4 million with incentives.
Hopefully the deal works; the Giants are not the same without Thomas in the lineup.
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