Enemy Intel: Giants

Enemy Intel: Giants
July 16, 2013, 1:30 pm
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New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) runs with the ball as Washington Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) and Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield (96).

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Over the past four months, we’ve kept a watchful eye on the teams who appear on the Redskins’ 2013 schedule.

We’ve tracked their free agent signings. We’ve examined their drafts. Now, in our final edition of Enemy Intel, we’re taking a look at three storylines that will dominate each team’s preseason.

Up today …

Opponent/Week: Giants/13 & 17

2012 record: 9-7

Key acquisitions: WR Louis Murphy, TE Brandon Myers, LB Dan Connor, LB Aaron Curry, DT Cullen Jenkins, CB Aaron Ross, S Ryan Mundy, DT Mike Patterson, K Josh Brown

Draft picks: OL Justin Pugh, DT Johnathan Hankins, DE Damontre Moore, QB Ryan Nassib

Storyline No. 1: Can the Giants’ defense turn it around? Last season, the Jason Pierre Paul-led unit ranked 31st in yards allowed, giving up a franchise-worst 6,134 yards. 

GM Jerry Reese responded by making a number of personnel changes this offseason. Gone are LBs Chase Blackburn (team-leading 98 tackles) and Michael Boley as well as DE Osi Umenyiora, S Kenny Phillips and DT Chris Canty. In are DT Cullen Jenkins, LBs Aaron Curry and Dan Connor and rookie linemen Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore, among others.

The key to a turnaround, it seems, will be improved play along the line. In 2012, the unit yielded 4.6 yards per carry (28th) while an inconsistent pass rush (33 sacks/22nd) allowed quarterbacks to get too comfortable in the pocket.

The front four figure to be Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, Jenkins and Pierre-Paul, who could miss Week 1 while recovering from back surgery. On paper, that sounds like a group capable of dominating. With Tony Romo, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton on deck the first three weeks, we'll know right away if Reese made the right moves.

Storyline No. 2: Earlier this month, Victor Cruz became the highest paid receiver in team history when he signed a six-year contract extension worth more than $45 million, including $15.6 million in guarantees.

With the drawn out, back-and-forth negotiations finally done, the Giants have a key piece of their future locked up through the 2018 season. Cruz, meantime, can now can now shift his focus back to what he does best – and that's bad news for the rest of the league.

The salsa-dancing slot receiver ranked 15th in receiving yards last season (1,092) and was tied for seventh in touchdowns with 10, including his game-winning, 77-yard touchdown reception from Eli Manning against the Redskins in Week 7.

With Cruz, 26, and Hakeem Nicks, 25, the Giants have one of the best young receiving tandems in the league. Nicks, however, is up for a contract at the end of the 2013 campaign.

Storyline No. 3: Who’s going to carry the load at running back?

With last season’s leading rusher, Ahmad Bradshaw off to Indianapolis, Coach Tom Coughlin will turn to a pair of promising young backs: speedy David Wilson and physical runner Andre Brown.

Last season, Brown rushed for 385 yards on 73 carries for an impressive 5.3 per attempt average. He also scored eight rushing touchdowns. Wilson, meantime, gained 358 yards on 71 attempts (5.0 per) and also led the NFL in return yards (1,533).

The talent is there. The experience is not.

But the hope is that Wilson and Brown will become the Giants’ current version of thunder and lightning.