Giants owner John Mara was not to be hyperbolic when he said the Giants would completely overhaul their roster. The team decided to part ways with long time veterans like Justin Tuck, and welcomed in 15 free-agent signings. As a result, many Giants, new and old, will have a lot to prove this upcoming season. The players with the most to prove will be those who survived this off-season’s roster cuts.
Prince Amukamara is at the top of the list. The Giants focused on retooling their secondary during free agency, but chose to pick up the 2015 option on Amukamara’s rookie contract. The former first rounder out of Nebraska hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations that first round picks usually garner. In his first three seasons, he has just three interceptions and has only played one full season. His one full season was last season, in which he showed considerable improvement. He proved that he could be more than just a nickel corner and eventually took over the number two corner position. This year he will start opposite free agent signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and he will be expected to be the playmaker he was in college.
Johnathan Hankins is another young player that the Giants are expecting big things from in 2014. Unfortunately, he will have to fill the spot left vacant by highly touted run stopper Linval Joseph. Hankins, the second year player from Ohio State, did not see much of the field in his first season, but Pro Football Focus called him the Giants “secret superstar.” According to the website, Hankins actually graded out better against the run than Joseph did. The Giants must agree with PFF’s assessment of Hankins, as they were more than willing to let Joseph sign with the Vikings. Joseph is in the prime of his career at just 25, and he was a great player for the Giants during his four years with the team. Hankins will have to prove that he is capable of producing the same types of numbers he put up in limited playing time throughout a full NFL season.
On the offensive side of the ball, Jerrel Jernigan will have to prove he can be a productive member of the offensive unit or he may be playing elsewhere next season. The only problem with his late season surge in 2013 was that it was the first time he had any sustained success in three seasons. It is a contract year for Jernigan and the Giants’ new offensive could mean that he will see more playing time this season than he has in the previous three seasons combined. Rueben Randle will have to show some consistency as well. While he did lead the team with six touchdowns last season, he also looked lost at times, as he and Eli Manning struggled to stay on the same page.
As for Manning, the Giants raised a lot of eyebrows around the league when they decided not to extend to their two-time Super Bowl MVP. The team could have also saved a considerable amount of money for this year’s cap by extending Eli, but still chose not to. It’s not inconceivable to think that Giants may be thinking towards the future, and prepping Ryan Nassib to be ready in a few a years if Eli cannot bounce back this season. Manning is coming off his worst since since his rookie campaign, but the Giants have no plan in place to replace him.