The New York Giants have hit the midway point of their 2013 season. How to wrap up what we've seen thus far? Grades? Position-by-position reviews? Around here, there is only one way -- a mid-season 'Kudos & Wet Willies.'
Below, I haven't assigned 'Kudos' or 'Wet Willies' to every player on the roster. I have placed a handful of players I believe to be the most deserving in each category. Let me know what you think.
Kudos To ...
Jon Beason: When the Giants acquired Beason from the Carolina Panthers earlier this month there were lots of justifiable questions about what the three-time Pro Bowler had left in the tank. After all, he had suffered Achillies, knee and shoulder injuries since he last made the Pro Bowl in 2010, had played five games total in 2011 and 2012, and had lost his starting out linebacker job to ex-Giant Chase Blackburn this season.
Turns out, all Beason needed was a return to his natural middle linebacker spot and a defense to call his own. In three games with the Giants he has led the team in tackles twice. More importantly, he has taken over the signal-calling duties and quickly become a leader on a defense that, after an atrocious start, has given up only three points in its last 10 quarters of play.
Justin Tuck: Tuck is finished. He is on his last legs. He's done. He spends too much time doing Subway commercials. That's the kind of stuff we heard all throughout the offseason about the Giants' veteran defensive end. Well, his play thus far in 2013 begs to differ.
Terrell Thomas: Thomas has done much more than make it back to the NFL after three ACL tears to the same knee, including back-to-back tears that cost him the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He has returned as an effective player, punctuated by his winning Defensive Player of the Week honors this week. Thomas has been available every week, though his playing time has fluctuated. His story is inspirational, and his role on the Giants' defense is growing in importance.
Antrel Rolle: His play has been good, whether it's been at safety or at times sliding down to nickel cornerback. His leadership, with his emotions worn on his sleeve most of the time, has been even more critical for a Giants' team that has needed it during an awful beginning to the season.
Run Defense: Fixing the run defense was a priority for the Giants after they gave up 4.6 yards per attempt last season. Through eight games the Giants are fourth in the league, giving up just 3.6 yards per carry. They have bottled up stars LeSean McCoy (twice) and Adrian Peterson. It's impossible, and incorrect, to credit the change to a player or two. It's been a team effort.
Victor Cruz: The Giants' offense has not produced this season the way it has in past years, but don't blame Cruz. He is sixth among wide receivers with 47 catches and with 677 yards is well on his way to a third straight season of more than 1,000 yards receiving. He has four touchdown catches.
Peyton Hillis: He has only been with the Giants for two weeks, but in that time he has done far more than anyone could have anticipated. His numbers (2.8 yards per carry) are not impressive, but the fact that he has carried 38 times and caught eight passes in two games after being out of the league is. Hillis has been critical in the Giants' two season-saving victories.
Wet Willies To ...
David Wilson: You really can't fault Wilson for getting hurt. You can fault him for pretty much single-handedly being responsible for the Giants losing their season-opening game to the Dallas Cowboys. Two fumbles and an improeprly executed screen pass that went for an interception killed the Giants in that game. Rather than grab the job the Giants handed to him this season all Wilson did while he was playing is raise more questions about whether using a first-round pick on him in 2012 was a smart move.
Will Beatty: After a very good 2012 season the Giants gave Beatty a five-year, $37.5-million contract. So far in 2013 Beatty has made that look like a huge mistake. In 2012 Beatty allowed three sacks, 22 hurries, no hits on Eli Manning and had a +22.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. This season he has already allowed five sacks, six hits, 23 hurries and has a PFF grade of -3.9. The Giants better hope the real Beatty is the one they saw in 2012, not what they have seen so far this season.
Hakeem Nicks: Two really good games accounting for 16 of his 34 catches, but that means only 18 catches in the other seven games. Incredibly, no touchdowns. That's not good enough for a guy who is supposed to be the Giants' No. 1 receiver, and who will be seeking a huge payday in the free-agent market at season's end. Maybe with the trade deadline having passed, Nicks will play better the rest of the way.
Mathias Kiwanuka: The Giants finally moved Kiwanuka back to defensive end full-time this season, hoping he could replace some of the pass-rushing productivity that went to the Atlanta Falcons when Osi Umenyiora left as a free agent. Kiwanuka leads the team in sacks, but with a paltry 2.5. He also has a -13.5 rating from Pro Football Focus, worst on the defense. There was a time when Kiwanuka might have become a terrific defensive end, but at 30 and in his eighth season it looks right now like that time has passed.
Punt coverage: Three returns of longer than 80 yards for touchdowns. A bad snap from Zak DeOssie that led to a Philly touchdown. The unit has been awful, and that might be a nice way of phrasing it.
Kwillies To ...
Will Hill: Hill has played exceptionally well in four games this season with 25 tackles and a +6.0 rating from Pro Football Foxus. The problem is that for the second straight season Hill got himself suspended for four games by the NFL, this time for drug use. Every time he plays he shows how much the Giants missed his athleticism when he wasn't available. If Hill could ever stay out of trouble he could be a star.
Eli Manning: An awful start to the season with 15 interceptions through six games, but two much better games in the Giants' recent victories. Manning's upward trend has to continue if the Giants are going to make a real run in the second half of the season.
Rueben Randle: Honestly, at this point in his career the 'Kwillies' category was made for Randle. He's a big play waiting to happen -- it's just that when the ball is thrown toward him you don't know which team the big play will end up benefitting. He has 23 catches, 4 touchdowns and averages an impressive 16 yards per catch. He is tied for the league lead, however, with six passes thrown toward him having been intercepted. He also has five drops in 45 targets, meaning he is dropping 11.1 percent of the passes that come his way. Add that to the intercepted balls and that's 17 bad plays in 45 throws in his direction, an ugly number. His average of 6.5 yards per punt return isn't very good, either.
David Diehl: I have to give Diehl props for fighting his way back from a thumb injury, for his leadership and for once again moving to whatever position the Giants have asked him to play. He has, however, been -- I'll be generous -- less-than-stellar as a right guard. His -14.3 PFF grade is the worst on the offense, twice as bad as Brandon Myers' -7.2.
I am sure there are other players who fit in each of these categories. These are the ones I felt were most obvious. Feel free, as I'm sure you will, to offer your own lists.