Grading the first half of the Giants' season
The New York Giants are 6-2 at the midpoint of the 2012 NFL season. That is no surprise. During Tom Coughlin’s nine years as Giants coach the team has won at least five games in the first half of each of those seasons.
Can the Giants, winners of four straight games, keep up the pace the second half of the season? Let’s take a closer look at the Giants through eight games.
Passing: Eli Manning is having another stellar season, completing 62.6 percent of his passes and on par to throw for 4,600 yards. Victor Cruz is fourth in the league with 52 receptions. Hakeem Nicks has missed time with foot and knee injuries, but with Martellus Bennett, Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle and Ramses Barden all making contributions, Manning has had no shortage of weapons. Grade: B+
Running: The Giants were last in the league a season ago in rushing and are 12th this year, averaging 114.6 yards per game. Ahmad Bradshaw has a 200-yard game and a 116-yard game, and backup Andre Brown ran for 113 yards in a win over Carolina. First-round pick David Wilson is still waiting for his chance. Grade: B+
Other stuff: The offensive line play has been much improved from a season ago. Will Beatty has returned at left tackle and is playing well. Sean Locklear stepped in capably at right tackle when David Diehl was injured, and may keep the job.
The biggest concern offensively for the Giants is red-zone efficiency. The Giants have scored a touchdown only 44.44 percent of the time when they reach the red zone, 26th in the league.
Overall grade: B … The red zone issues mean the Giants are leaving points on the table.
Pass defense: The Giants are built to rush the passer, yet have been inconsistent in this area. They are tied for seventh in the league with 21 sacks. The secondary has been problematic at times due to injuries and some inconsistent play. Veteran cornerback Corey Webster, second-year man Prince Amukamara and rookie Jayron Hosley have all struggled at times. At safety, Stevie Brown has been a pleasant surprise filling in for the injured Kenny Phillips and has a team-high five interceptions. Grade: C
Run defense: This has also been spotty at times, but the recent return of defensive tackle Chris Canty helps there. Canty was on the PUP list with a knee injury for the first six games. The Giants are 19th in the league against the run, surrendering 4.6 yards per carry. That must improve. Grade: C-
Overall: Canty’s return is huge for the Giants. Even with Brown playing extremely well, the Giants look forward to the return of Phillips. They need better play from veteran defensive end Justin Tuck (one sack) and more consistent play from their cornerbacks.
Overall Grade: C
Placekicker Lawrence Tynes (24-of-26) is having a Pro Bowl type season. Kickoff returner David Wilson is among the best in the league, averaging 27.1 yards per return. Punter Steve Weatherford is having a solid season. The Giants’ punt and kickoff return units have been excellent.
Overall Grade: A-
MVP: Eli Manning … who else?
Most Disappointing Players: Corey Webster and Justin Tuck … neither of these guys looks like the dominant player he has been in the past.
Biggest Surprise: Stevie Brown .. So, why did the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts cut this guy?
The second-half schedule includes games against the Steelers, Bengals, Packers, Redskins, Saints, Falcons, Ravens and Eagles. No breathers in there at all.
The Giants, though, have control of the NFC East with a 2.5-game lead over Dallas and Philadelphia. Barring a complete second-half collapse, another trip to the playoffs appears to be in the offing for the defending Super Bowl champs.