Giants' midseason report card

Tom Pennington

The New York Giants have hit the midway point of the 2012 NFL season. That means pretty much everyone is turning in mid-term grades for the Giants. Here are mine.

Quarterback

Eli Manning will never be the prettiest quarterback in the NFL. IN the fourth quarter, though, is there another guy you would rather have running your offense? No. Forget the 89.1 passer rating, which is 12th in the league. The thing Manning does best is win, and that is what matters most. He has 2,301 yards passing and had led two fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories. You wish he had thrown fewer than eight interceptions, but with Eli we know it isn't always perfect. Grade: A-

Running back

Ahmad Bradshaw has been good, but not great -- aside from his 30-carry, 200-yard game against the Cleveland Browns. He has 570 yards and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Andre Brown (236 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, five touchdowns) has proven the decision to keep him and release D.J. Ware to be the right one. First-round pick David Wilson has flashed his speed, but is still waiting for a full-blown opportunity. Fullback Henry Hynoski keeps getting better and is a huge part of the reason for the improvement in the Giants' running game.

As the season progress it seems like the Giants would be well-served to rely less on the banged-up Bradshaw and more on Brown and Wilson. We shall see if Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride agree. Grade: B

Wide receivers

Victor Cruz is fourth in the league with 52 catches and has a league-leading seven touchdowns despite his running mate, Hakeem Nicks, being out for three games and limited the rest of the way by foot and knee issues. Domenik Hixon, Reuben Randle and Ramses Barden have all had their moments. Nicks has not been dominant since his 10-catch effort against Tampa Bay in Week 2, but seems to be getting healthier. Grade: B+

Tight ends

Martellus Bennett has 29 catches and is proving to be the Giants' best pass-catching tight end since Jeremy Shockey. He hasn't been perfect, and he has been slowed some by a hyper-extended knee, but his combination of pass-catching and blocking ability have been a huge asset to the Giants' offense. Bear Pascoe has been solid as a blocking tight end. Grade B

Offensive line

This unit is much-improved from a year ago. Will Beatty is playing very well at left tackle. Sean Locklear replaced an injured David Diehl on the right side, and is keeping Diehl on the bench. David Baas and Chris Snee are healthier than they were a season ago, and playing better. Kevin Boothe is solid. The line has surrendered only six sacks, and the run-blocking is better than a year ago, though still not dominant. Grade: B+

Defensive line

The Giants have only 9.5 sacks from their big three of Jason Pierre-Paul (5.5), Osi Umenyiora (three) and Justin Tuck (one). Umenyiora and Tuck have often been invisible. The run defense has been spotty, and the line has to take a hit for that. At defensive tackle, Linval Joseph has played well, veteran Rocky Bernard was playing well before injuring a quad and missing several games, rookie Markus Kuhn has done a decent job and Chris Canty is playing well since returning from the PUP list after knee surgery. The Giants need more -- no, much more -- from Umenyiora and Tuck down the stretch. Grade: C+

Linebackers

Michael Boley has done his typical good job. Chase Blackburn has been better than expected, and now that he is likely to miss Sunday's game we might find out more about how valuable he really is. Jacquian Williams and Keith Rivers have contributed when they have been healthy, and Spencer Paysinger is seeing some work on defense. Mathias Kiwanuka is having a quiet year. Grade: B

Defensive backs

Cornerbacks: Second-year man Prince Amukamara has clearly been the Giants' best corner. Quarterbacks have a 49.5 rating throwing in his direction. Veteran Corey Webster (94.1 passer rating) and rookie Jayron Hosley (112.2 passer rating) havent been as effective. When injuries have forced the Giants to play Michael Coe and Justin Tryon the results haven't been good. The Giants have surrendered 35 plays of 20 yards or more this season, second-worst in the league. This group needs to play better. Grade: C-

Safeties: Stevie Brown has been a huge surprise. Antrel Rolle hasn't been perfect, but there has been a lot more good than bad. Kenny Phillips was playing well before he went down with a knee injury. Will Hill flashed some potential before being suspended. Grade: B

Special teams

Lawrence Tynes has been spectacular, making 24-of-26 field goals and kicking off very well. Steve Weatherford has been solid, although maybe not as outstanding as he was a season ago. Wilson is the best kickoff returner the Giants have had since Willie Ponder. Randle does a solid job on punt returns. The coverage units have excelled. Grade: A

Mid-season Awards

I am going to borrow this list from Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York. I will, however, make my own choices. Compare if you must.

Offensive MVP: Manning. If you want to argue, you're wrong.

Defensive MVP: Stevie Brown. Yes, Jason Pierre-Paul is the best player. But has anyone made more impact plays, or a more important contribution, in the first eight games?

Special Teams MVP: Tynes. The guy belongs in the Pro Bowl.

Most Improved: Andre Brown. I will agree with Ohm here. I wondered why the Giants were keeping him around. Now I know. He has to carry the ball more in the second half of the season.

Least Improved: Jernigan. Again, I will agree with Ohm. The Giants passed on middle linebacker Mason Foster for this?

Biggest Surprise: Stevie Brown. The guy got let go by the Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders. Nobody expected this.

Biggest Disappointments: Corey Webster and Justin Tuck. We have come to expect more from these two veteran stalwarts.

Best Rookie: David Wilson. Two weeks ago I would have said Jayron Hosley, but he has really struggled against Washington and Dallas. Reuben Randle and even Markus Kuhn have done some good things. Wilson's work on kickoff returns has had the biggest impact, however.

Best Offseason Acquisition: Stevie Brown. With honorable mentions to Bennett and Locklear.

Worst Offseason Acquisition: Shaun Rogers.

Best-Kept Secret: Hynoski. Right now, he belongs in the Pro Bowl. He is the highest-rated fullback in the league by Pro Football Focus (+6.4) and his +6.7 blocking score dwarfs every other fullback in the league. Thing is, I believe he is going to get better.

Biggest Concern: All of those big plays the Giants are giving up in the secondary. They have talented players and they need to get that under control.

Key To The Second Half: Consistency. The Giants have reached 6-2 despite inconsistencies on defense and with the running game. Both of those have to improve. Oh, and do not lose to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Best Coaching Move: Leaving Locklear at right tackle even though David Diehl is healthy enough to resume full-time duty. There is no reason to remove Locklear from the lineup at this point.

Worst Coaching Move: The handling of the end of the Philadelphia game, which the Giants lost when Lawrence Tynes missed from 54 yards. The Giants got greedy when they had a shot at a game-winning 44-yarder. Play the end of that game properly and the Giants are 7-1.

Game To Watch: The season finale vs. the Eagles, unless of course the Eagles and Cowboys completely implode and the game is meaningless.

Giants Will Win The Division If: They go 4-4 the rest of the way. I just don't see anyone else in the division getting to 10 wins. Beating the Eagles would help.

Only Way The Miss The Playoffs Is: Nothing is guaranteed with the Giants. A serious injury to Manning and losses in the remaining division games to Washington and Philadelphia could be devastating.

Player Ready To Emerge: Wilson. Remember what Bradshaw did at the end of his rookie year? We might see the same kind of thing from Wilson by the end of the season.

Player Least Likely To Return In 2012: Umenyiora. He needs to move on and the Giants need to get Kiwanuka full-time snaps on the defensive line. Plus, Adrian Tracy looks ready to help.

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