There is no doubt that missing the playoffs in 2012 was a disappointment for the New York Giants. And the failure to do so has put pressure on the team to bounce back this season.
Certain players in certain positions will be counted on for resurgent campaigns in order for the Giants to have a chance in a very fierce NFC East.
Among the Giants on the hot seat entering training camp are cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive end Justin Tuck, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, offensive tackle David Diehl and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Webster's younger counterpart, Amukamara, is entering his third season with the team and -- to this point -- has yet to prove he was worthy of a first-round pick.
Amukamara has showed an inability to remain on the field and play consistently from game to game. Webster showed obvious signs of decline last year, but took a pay cut to remain with the Giants and to try and revive his career; Amukamara, on the other hand, should be entering a breakout year, and if he is unable to fulfill those lofty expectations, questions about the corner and the future of the Giants' secondary will certainly surface.
Amukamara enters the summer completely healthy. As the No. 1 corner Amukamara will be tasked with reviving a defensive backfield that was bullied last year, so the unit's success or failure lies with him.
The veteran defensive end is an obvious candidate for the hot seat. The Giants lost a veteran in Osi Umenyiora to free agency, and with Jason Pierre-Paul undergoing back surgery the pressure is on Tuck -- the defense's supposed leader -- to perform.
The Giants defensive line is the heart and soul of the defense, and pressure generated from the ends is crucial to the unit's success. Last year, when the team failed to put pressure on opposing signal-callers, it was obvious the rest of the defense struggled.
Tuck admitted his focus has shifted to off-the-field issues at times, but he's looking at 2013 as a chance to have a resurgent year. Since 2010 when Tuck racked up 11.5 sacks, he's totaled nine over the last seasons combined, which is simply unacceptable for someone tagged as a leader.
One of the obstacles for Tuck will be remaining healthy. At age 30 it'll be a little more difficult, but he is not yet out of his prime. And you would have to expect that being in a contract year will help motivate the defensive end.
Tuck's performance sets the tone for the younger Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka, who will shift back to end this year.
One of the Giants' top wide receivers just signed a long-term deal. Now the attention will be shifted onto Nicks.
Nicks has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, but is expected to be 100 percent for training camp and the coming season.
Much of the talk centered around Nicks has also included second-year receiver Rueben Randle, who has been touted as a breakout candidate on the offensive side of the ball. Some reports have indicated if Randle can emerge in 2013, the Giants may look to move on from Nicks and stick with the tandem of Cruz and Randle moving forward.
Whether that's in the cards for Randle or not, Nicks has proven he's a top-tier wide receiver. Unlike Cruz, who is touted for being a premier slot receiver, Nicks will warrant a deal closer to the likes of Dwayne Bowe or Larry Fitzgerald, because when healthy he performs at a level of an elite receiver -- and he'll likely command that sort of money on the free-agent market.
So if Nicks wants to prove to the Giants he's worthy of remaining the team's No. 1 receiver or wants to show other teams he is healthy and ready to be their new top target, success in 2013 is absolutely necessary, and it starts with being able to remain on the field.
Diehl will have every chance to retain his starting right tackle job during training camp, but the pressure will certainly be placed upon the veteran lineman as first-round draft pick Justin Pugh waits in the wings for opportunity to supplant him.
Like Webster, Diehl accepted a pay cut to remain in New York. And with that second chance comes pressure to perform. In 2012, Diehl certainly struggled to protect Eli Manning in 2012, allowing a team-high 30 pressures and compiling a -6.8 Pro Football Focus grade, worst on the offense. At age 33, there are question marks about how much longer he can be a viable starter.
If Pugh -- or former third-round pick James Brewer -- ends up starting at tackle, Diehl is a great option for the Giants' sixth lineman. He can fill in at both the guard and tackle slots, a luxury most teams don't have.
So yes, Diehl is on the hot seat, but it's seemingly a losing battle. He'll likely be the opening day starter, but it seems a matter of time before Pugh unseats him. The pressure is on him to simply perform in whatever role he ends up in.
No, he won't have to perform on the field in 2013, but the Giants' defensive coordinator's job could be on the line if his defense cannot perform up to par for a second straight year.
Every area of the Giants defense under-performed last year. The defensive line was unable to generate sacks on opposing quarterbacks. The linebackers were unable to consistently stop the run. And the secondary was torched time and time again.
The team didn't make wholesale changes, but Fewell will need to hope Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck can have bounce-back seasons. Fewell must also be confident Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara can anchor a more consistent defensive backfield.
In terms of the linebacking corps, Fewell will be counted on to put together a patchwork unit able to match the production of Mchael Boley and Chase Blackburn, two of the team's three leading tacklers a season ago. Fewell needs to somehow get even better production from Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams, who will likely fill those roles.
If Fewell can pull off these miracles, get under-the-radar players to produce in big spots and coach his superstars back to superstar form, the Giants' defense can dominate again.
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