2012 vs. 2013: Which New York Giants roster has the edge?

Patrick McDermott

After the additions and losses of free agency and the NFL Draft, which version of the New York Giants roster is actually better?

Free agency is coming to a close, the NFL Draft has come and gone, and we're rapidly approaching training camp.

The New York Giants were not the most active team in free agency, nor did the team enjoy the sexiest of drafts. But the team did undergo pretty significant changes this offseason, in the trenches and in key positional groups.

And despite some concerns about -- let's say, the linebacking corps and secondary, or perhaps running back depth -- did the team actually improve?

You be the judge.

Offense

Quarterback

2012: Eli Manning, David Carr

2013: Eli Manning, David Carr, Ryan Nassib

This one seems sort of moot, as the New York Giants added the quarterback out of Syracuse in the fourth round, a player many draft analysts expected to land somewhere in the first or second.

Obviously, re-signing Carr and adding his future replacement in Nassib makes the team a bit stronger in 2013. Carr has been Manning's backup for four of the last five years, so his presence allows for continued consistency.

Running Back

2012: Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson, Andre Brown; Henry Hynoski (fullback)

2013: David Wilson, Andre Brown, Ryan Torain/Da'Rel Scott/Michael Cox; Henry Hynoski (fullback)

The difference here is Wilson, who has been elevated to the projected No. 1 running back. Down the stretch of 2012, in the absence of Bradshaw and Brown who were dealing with injuries, Wilson emerged, showing why he was the team's first-round draft pick.

With Wilson as the starter and Brown as the most likely option for short-yardage and goal-to-go situations, it's the No. 3 back that can really elevate this group. Torain and Scott will not turn anybody's head, but it's not yet known what Cox brings to the table.

It's hard to argue that losing Bradshaw makes the team worse, though his injury still makes him a bit of a question mark. But Bradshaw at full strength gives the 2012 backs the advantage.

As for Hynoski -- should the fullback return healthy for Week 1, it's obviously a moot point. But if Bear Pascoe shifts to the position, it might be a slight downgrade. Barring the signing of free agent Vonta Leach, let's call it even.

Wide Receiver

2012: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden

2013: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Louis Murphy, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden

There are obviously concerns about the 2013 wide receiving corps, including Nicks' health and if and when Cruz will ever make an appearance.

If we play the "what if" game, then the question that needs to be asked is how much better are the New York Giants simply if Cruz returns and Nicks is healthy. If that's the case, the 2013 crop is already better.

Hixon is now with the Carolina Panthers, but his impact was mostly on special teams. In his place, veteran Louis Murphy has a chance to make an impact, as does second-year receiver Randle who flashed some signs in his rookie season.

Jernigan has also turned some heads during OTAs this off-season, so it appears that if everything goes to plan, the New York Giants wide receiving corps actually improved despite the drama.

Tight End

2012: Martellus Bennett, Bear Pascoe

2013: Brandon Myers, Adrien Robinson, Bear Pascoe

Bennett made a strong impression in his first year with the New York Giants, hauling in 55 receptions and five touchdowns. Now a member of the Chicago Bears, it's expected his loss will barely be noticed.

Why's that? His replacement, Brandon Myers, is considered one of the more underrated pass-catchers in the league. The tight end led the Oakland Raiders in receptions and receiving yardage last season.

The addition of Myers, in addition to the emergence of Robinson, gives the '13 crop of tight ends the edge.

Offensive Line (projected starters)

2012: Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee, David Diehl

2013: Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, David Baas, Chris Snee, Justin Pugh

The big question is whether the first-rounder from Syracuse gets the nod at right tackle.

Adding Pugh in the first round, despite obvious needs at a number of different positions, demonstrated the New York Giants' off-season plans to bolster their offensive line.

Brewer, a former fourth-round selection during the 2011 NFL Draft, is a viable option at right tackle for most teams and would likely have a better shot of unseating Diehl if the Giants had not drafted Pugh in the first round. There will be competition for the position, but I believe it will be Pugh who wins out. The team's sixth lineman becomes Diehl, which gives the team a strong group of starters along with more than capable backups.

Defense

Defensive Line

2012: Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora

2013: Jason Pierre-Paul/Mathias Kiwanuka, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Justin Tuck

Of course, the big question here is whether the New York Giants have pass-rusher extraordinaire JPP back in time for the Sept. 8 season opener. If not, it's Kiwanuka, making the switch from linebacker back to defensive end, in the lineup.

The 2012 collection of D-linemen, by name, is impressive. But the name value did not translate to production in 2012, as those four starters combined for 20.5 sacks.

It was a down year for Pierre-Paul, a season removed from a breakout campaign. The same goes for Tuck, whose production has decreased each of the last two years, and Umenyiora, who was merely a part-time contributor.

The new face in this group is Jenkins, who will likely emerge as the starter over second-round pick Johnathan Hankins. Should Jenkins have a bounce-back year, JPP returns healthy and Tuck awakes from his slumber, you have to believe this new group of linemen -- deeper and younger than in 2012 -- can have a higher ceiling.

Linebackers

2012: Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley, Keith Rivers

2013: Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers

With Blackburn gone and Boley out of the league for now, the Giants must find a way to replace two of their three leading tacklers from a year ago.

The door is now open for Herzlich, who racked up 30 tackles as a reserve last season, to man the middle. Williams is battling back from injuries, but is expected to beat out Spencer Paysinger for the weak-side job. And Rivers, as long as he can stay on the field, should remain the strong-side linebacker.

The unit does not appear as talented as the 2012 group, nor is it as deep. The best reserve is the veteran Dan Connor, who seems unlikely to even win out Herzlich for the starting job. Blackburn may not have been the most talented backer, but his production spoke for itself.

Also on the roster is Aaron Curry, fighting to revive his NFL career, and Kyle Bosworth, a bit of an unknown at this point. Too many unknowns at this point to say the 2013 group of backers are better. This will be certainly the biggest question -- at least defensively and probably overall -- heading into the season.

Secondary

2012: Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown

2013: Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown

So, obviously the starters remain the same from 2012 to 2013. Kenny Phillips is gone to the Philadelphia Eagles, solidifying Brown's job as the starting strong safety opposite of Rolle.

The biggest changes are on the depth chart and whether Webster remains the No.1 corner for the majority of the season.

Jayron Hosley is expected to the nickel back, but could he eventually replace Webster to start opposite of Amukamara? Or would he step in if Amukamara suffers yet another injury?

On that note, can Amukamara be the difference-maker on defense he was expected to be?

The depth behind Hosley is a bit suspect. Aaron Ross has returned from his hiatus as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Behind him, there's unknowns in Terrence Frederick and Trumaine McBride.

The one new addition is safety Ryan Mundy. The former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers will serve as the third safety for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, and will be an asset in three-safety coverages.

Depth is not a luxury for the 2013 New York Giants secondary, but talent among the starters should above average. The catalyst, of course, is how well Webster can perform in a prove-it-or-lose-it kind of year.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs

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