How did the New York Giants, a perennial contender in the NFC, fall off the NFL map and end up 0-6 to start the 2013 NFL season? Let's take a quick position-by-position look at the roster, see what decisions the Giants made and what they might have been able to do differently.
Quarterback (3) -- Eli Manning, Curtis Painter, Ryan Nassib
The Giants chose to trade up and draft Nassib in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. I have no problem with that, though it has meant they have had to sacrifice a roster spot to keep three quarterbacks. In the grand scheme of things the choice of Painter over David Carr as No. 2 is inconsequential.
Running Back (5) -- David Wilson, Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis, John Conner, Michael Cox
Plain and simple, the Giants are in crisis mode at this position due to the incredible number of injuries they have suffered. Jacobs, Hillis and Conner were not Giants when the season began. This, honestly, is a situation they thought they were leaving behind when they made the decision to part ways with Ahmad Bradshaw. That was the right decision, and the oft-injured Bradshaw is now on IR with a season-ending neck injury.
The problem is that we still don't know if Wilson, the 2012 first-round pick, is the right replacement. Wilson's issues with ball security and pass protection, the weak offensive line and now Wilson's own neck injury have really made it impossible to figure that out.
Fullback Henry Hynoski is lost for the season and Andre Brown, counted on to be a huge part of the rushing attack, is on short-term IR due to a fractured leg. Those injuries, along with the injuries to the recently waived/injured Da'Rel Scott, have turned the backfield into a mess. Jacobs had a terrific game against the Bears, but he is hardly a long-term answer.
Tight end (4) -- The Giants chose not to pay big money for Martellus Bennett during the offseason, letting him go to the Chicago Bears for four years and $20.4 million, $9.125 million guaranteed. They signed Brandon Myers to what is essentially a one-year deal for $1.125 million to be his replacement. Myers has 18 catches, on pace for 48, so he is basically replacing the 55 catches Bennett had a season ago. The 6-foot-7, 275-pound Bennett has historically been a better run blocker than the 6-4, 250-pound Myers. That has hurt the Giants.
In addition, while I was in favor of the Giants carrying both Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson the fact that Robinson has not played due to a foot injury is another thing that has hamstrung the Giants' roster and likely hurt the development of their offense, especially the run game. That's misfortune, not poor judgment by the Giants. Robinson may still be the long-term answer at the position, but he has to get on the field to figure that out.
Offensive Line (8) -- Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, David Diehl, Justin Pugh, James Brewer, Jim Cordle, Brandon Mosley.
Chris Snee, counted on to return to something resembling his All-Pro form this season, is on IR with another hip injury. His career may be in jeopardy. Baas, after multiple offseason surgeries, is again breaking down. The Giants did draft Pugh with their first-round selection, but perhaps it was too little, too late. The line has needed an infusion of youth for several seasons and the Giants waited until Day 3 in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 drafts to address it. It also might be considered a bit surprising that no veteran offensive lineman was added to the roster at the end of the preseason, especially one who could play center.
Wide Receiver (5) -- Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Louis Murphy.
The Giants bid adieu to Domenik Hixon and Ramses Barden, adding only Murphy to the mix as a free agent. They were, of course, able to get Cruz to sign a long-term deal. Murphy has caught only one pass, but that isn't really a major issue. The issue has been the inconsistency of Randle, with the Giants getting some great results and some disastrous ones throwing him the ball. It's hard to have any issues with the decisions here, the Giants just have to live with the growing pains and Randle and Manning continue figuring each other out.
The really interesting, and roster-shaping decision at this position is yet to come. That, of course, is what to do with Hakeem Nicks? Trade him now? Hang onto him and gamble that you can keep him long-term at your price? It's certainly not an easy call.
Defensive Tackles (5) -- Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, Mike Patterson, Johnathan Hankins.
The Giants were determined to improve their run defense, and they let Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Marvin Austin go in trying to do it. Jenkins, Rogers and Patterson are playing well, but you can probably accuse the Giants of overkill here, signing all three AND using a second-round pick on Hankins.
Defensive Ends (4) -- Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore.
It's inarguable that the Giants have not gotten enough production from this position in 2013. I don't know what they could have done differently, however, in terms of personnel decisions. Osi Umenyiora is in Atlanta, and after years of bickering with Giants' management it was time for him to move on. The problem here has not been decisions made by GM Jerry Reese or anyone else. The problem is that Pierre-Paul has been a shell of his former self following back surgery and that Moore, the third-round pick, has not been able to stay healthy long enough to have any sort of impact.
Linebacker (6) -- Spencer Paysinger, Jon Beason, Keith Rivers, Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Allen Bradford
The Giants, as has been discussed again and again, lack true play-makers at this position. It is difficult to point to a single roster decision -- this unit, and the Giants' defense, is paying for years of neglect at this spot. The recent trade for Beason might be a step in the right direction, but it was also an acknowledgment that this group wasn't good enough. GM Jerry Reese has tried for years to duct tape this group together with castoffs, low-round draft choices and undrafted free agents. You have seen the impact this season when Perry Fewell dials up the blitz -- there are no linebackers who can get to the quarterback. Paysinger has the group's only sack.
The Giants made the proper moves in letting veterans Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn go -- they need to revamp this group. They again bypassed the position in the draft, however, and brought in only journeyman Dan Connor. Connor won the middle linebacker job, but quickly landed on IR. Among free-agent options on the market the Giants passed on was veteran Daryl Smith, now playing well for the Baltimore Ravens.
We know, of course, that the Giants' philosophy in recent years has been to load up on pass-rushing defensive ends. Even then, a couple of true play-makers at linebacker would really help this defense.
Cornerback (6) -- Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas, Trumaine McBride, Jayron Hosley, Charles James, Corey Webster
The Giants made the decision this offseason to go retro at corner. They brought back Corey Webster for one more try after a horrendous 2012 season. They brought back Aaron Ross after the Jacksonville Jaguars realized giving the mediocre at best Ross big money was a bad decision. They banked on the return of Terrell Thomas after two seasons away due to torn ACLs. Amazingly, the only decision that has panned out at all is Thomas. Ross is on I and Webster has not played since Week 2 with a groin injury
The Giants still have no idea what Hosley, the 2012 third-round pick, might become. For the second straight year, injuries are keeping him off the field. Of course, maybe they do have a good idea what Hosley is since Webster, Ross and Thomas were all ahead of him on the depth chart to begin with
Rather than being stuck in the past the Giants did have some offseason options on the free-agent market. Brent Grimes signed a one-year, $5.5-million deal with the Miami Dolphins after playing only game in 2012. He has a +6.0 rating from Pro Football Focus thus far this season, top 10 among corners, and quarterbacks have a 77.8 passer rating targeting him. There were also several other corners on the free-agent market. I won't go through all of them.
Looking back on it, though, the Giants' reliance on the familiar has not helped them.
Safety (4) -- Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy, Cooper Taylor, Will Hill
The Giants made the right decision here by letting Kenny Phillips leave via free agency. The fact that Phillips, a former first-round pick, could not make the Philadelphia Eagles' roster and is currently out of football, verifies that. Mundy, a backup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been a nice find.
Misfortune, though, struck the Giants here. Stevie Brown, the ball-hawking safety who intercepted eight passes last season, was lost with a season-ending knee injury. Hill missed four games with his second NFL-imposed suspension in as many seasons. That didn't help, either.
No team gets to 0-6 for a single reason. The Giants are not in this mess simply because of the draft, because it's been too long since they have found an impact linebacker, because their offensive line or pass rush fell apart, because Eli Manning is having an off year or because of any other reason you can think of. It is a combination of many factors, including in some cases plain misfortune.
Running down the roster you see things they might have been able to do differently. Yet, you also see plenty of places where good decisions have been made and somehow things still have not gone well.