By Paul Dottino
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The Giants ended the season with a solid victory – grabbing a 20-6 rain-soaked win over the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium.
So Tom Coughlin’s crew went on a 7-3 run after starting 0-6, but remained on the outside looking in at the playoffs. The organization has begun to compile its final evaluations and, for the purposes of this blog, we will not break down the season finale, but rather will identify this season’s game balls and gassers.
We’ve tried to keep the categories to one player each, but you will understand why we just could not avoid adding a second player in a few instances.
And, by the way, our picks on Giants games finished 10-6 this season – which we will quantify as a playoff-caliber campaign! So here we go:
Offense-WR Victor Cruz. LG Kevin Boothe.
Although a video review ruled his final catch of the season incomplete and cost him a 1,000-yard season, you have to admire the way he competed and lived up to the first year of his new contract.
Cruz missed the final game of the season because of knee surgery. He finished with 73 catches for 998 yards and four touchdowns, doing his best to meet his standard of play while fellow WR Hakeem Nicks was having a subpar season. Cruz had six dropped passes, his lowest total since becoming a starter in 2011. In addition, Boothe has to get a game ball for his professionalism and his ability to slide over to center whenever asked and do an adequate job for the injury-riddled line under very difficult circumstances.
Defense-S Antrel Rolle, DE Justin Tuck.
Rolle had his best season as a Giant, leading the team with 98 tackles and tying for second in the NFL with six interceptions. The Giants’ 0-6 start and also-ran status cost him his rightful place in the Pro Bowl. Not only did he perform at a very high level, he was one of the leaders Coughlin counted on to keep the team from coming apart.
Tuck? Wow. He rebounded from two injury-plagued seasons to play the run very well – and rediscovered his pass rush over the final two months of the season. He rattled the Redskins with a career-high four sacks at Washington and finished with sacks in five of the final six games. Tuck made 63 tackles, the fourth-highest total of his nine-year career. He also was one of the leaders who – despite being in a contract year – Coughlin leaned on to prevent a fractured locker room.
Special teams-PK Josh Brown.
He set a team record by hitting 17 consecutive field goals until going wide left on a 50-yarder in the Week 17 downpour. Brown finished 23-of-26 for the season and did a solid job on kickoffs.
Offense-LT William Beatty, WR Hakeem Nicks.
Beatty allowed just three sacks in 2012, then signed a big contract and said he felt a lot of pressure to live up to the deal this season. The result? He unofficially was charged with 11 sacks before he suffered a fractured leg in Week 17. He is a finesse tackle, which means mistakes in his technique will cost him because he cannot overcome them by mauling his way through the play.
Nicks had five drops while catching 56 passes for 896 yards and failed to reach the end zone – somewhat uninspiring numbers for a Pro Bowl-caliber player who was in his contract year. At times, he appeared to lose focus. He said he was healthy at different times this season, but team president John Mara said “he played hurt all year,” referring to Nicks’ abdominal strain and a possible early-season dislocated finger. The bottom line is Nicks was not the top-flight receiver the offense needed him to be, regardless of whether emotional, mental or physical issues prevented him from doing so.
Defense-CB Corey Webster.
The Giants expected him to have a bounce-back season after an injury-plagued 2012. Instead, what they got were more injuries. Webster labored through groin and ankle injuries that limited him to just four games in the least productive season of his career in what also happened to be his contract year.
Special teams-DE Damontre Moore.
Yes, we know he got a piece of three punts this season, but he also had four of his six penalties on special teams and all four of his flags extended drives by producing opponents’ first downs.
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