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Oh, those injuries! What are the Giants really missing?

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How could the players on IR have helped the Giants this season?

Prince Amukamara
Prince Amukamara
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Every time you looked up on Tuesday it seemed like the New York Giants were adding players to their injured reserve list. Let's not obsess over the total number of players on IR. Let's look at the quality of players who have been lost, and how they were expected to help the 2014 Giants.

Difference-Makers

Prince Amukamara -- The fourth-year cornerback was in the midst of his best NFL season when he went down with a torn biceps after eight games. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffering injuries of his own, Amukamara had begun shadowing the opposition's best receiver. Zack Bowman and mid-season pickup Chykie Brown haven't been terrible in coverage. Neither is close to Amuakamara in ability, though. Another thing that can't be overlooked is that Amukamara was the best corner on the roster in terms of run support.

Robert Ayers -- We can argue that Ayers should have played more, and there really isn't much doubt that has merit. The guy heads to IR now as the team-leader in sacks with five. He has a +17.6 overall Pro Football Focus grade, a +18.8 in the pass rush and his pass-rush productivity score of 15.2 percent is the best in the league among 4-3 defensive ends.

Jon Beason -- You can make a great argument, as Pat Traina does here, that the loss of Beason has been the biggest issue faced by the Giants defense all season. That viewpoint is probably correct. Beason played four games this season, but he was never right after suffering a toe injury during OTAs. Antrel Rolle might be the public voice of the defense, but Beason is the real on-field leader. He is the signal-caller, the guy who gets players lined up. Here is a great chart from Pat on the defense with and without Beason in 2013:

jon beason

Beason isn't the athlete he was during the early part of his career, but his presence, his intelligence and his run defense have been missed. Jameel McClain has done what he can, but he can't replace what Beason could do in the middle.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week that losing Beason was "like losing your starting quarterback."

Beason has two years left on the three-year, $17 million deal he signed last off-season. It will be interesting to see if the Giants bring him back next season.

Victor Cruz -- How good would a Cruz-Odell Beckham pairing have been had they been together all season. Cross your fingers that following his devastating torn patellar tendon injury Cruz is still Cruz next season so we can find out.

Geoff Schwartz -- The offensive line has been an issue all season. Schwartz was supposed to be part of the solution after he signed a four-year, $16.8 million free-agent deal. In the one full game he played we got a glimpse of how big a difference Schwartz could have made. He actually made John Jerry look like a good player.

Walter Thurmond III -- The Giants added Thurmond and DRC and looked to have one of the best secondaries in the league. Thurmond last only two games before landing on IR with a torn pectoral muscle. He had signed a one-year free-agent deal. It says here that the Giants would be smart to bring him back next season and try again.

These Guys Could Have Helped

Peyton Hillis -- The veteran running back is on IR thanks to a concussion. He isn't a star, but he can pass block, he can catch passes, he can get whatever yardage is available when he runs the ball. Think he could have been useful at the end of Sunday's game with Rashad Jennings unavailable and the Giants trailing.

Jerrel Jernigan -- Let's be honest. Jernigan was really struggling on the outside, where the Giants were using him with Odell Beckham out with his early-season hamstring woes. Jernigan is a slot receiver. Preston Parker has done a decent job in the slot, but Jernigan is better. Remember what he did replacing Cruz at the end of last season, catching 19 passes in the final three games? Think the Giants could have benefitted from that this season?

Mathias Kiwanuka -- I know how poorly he has played and how he is viewed by fans. You have to wonder how long the knee has been an issue, and how much he could have helped if healthy.

Trumaine McBride -- He showed last season he is a good player. McBride was slated to be the first cornerback off the bench, either in the slot or on the outside. With him the Giants still had a good secondary. Without him? Way too much Jayron Hosley and assorted guys picked up off the street.

David Wilson -- Rashad Jennings is a nice back, a true pro who can do a lot of things. Andre Williams is a power runner who flashes potential. Neither is a breakaway runner who can create huge plays by outrunning guys or catching the ball in space and making guys miss. The Giants need a guy like that, and it could have been Wilson.

Adam Snyder -- The Giants brought him in to add veteran depth. When he finally got a chance he got hurt. We really will never know if he could have helped at all.

Young Guys Who Might Have Helped

Michael Cox -- Did a nice job returning kickoffs after being elevated from the practice squad. Without Cox and Hillis the Giants have been reduced to picking up running backs from practice squads and the street.

Marcus Harris -- Would almost certainly have made the team if he hadn't injured his shoulder at the end of the preseason. Would have been a useful player on special teams, and might well have gotten into the wide receiver rotation.

Cooper Taylor -- Was impressive in pre-season. Considering the way Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps have struggled at times there is a decent chance that Taylor would be starting at safety by now.

Other Guys

Wide receivers Trindon Holliday and Mario Manningham went on IR before the season started and are now out of the organization. Offensive lineman Troy Kropog went on IR. Offensive tackle Rogers Gaines had an impressive preseason, got hurt and ended up waived/injured. Rookie cornerbacks Bennett Jackson (sixth-round draft pick) and Travis Howard both ended up on IR. Could either of them have helped? Jackson would probably be on the roster by now, at least. Terrell Manning just showed up, and he's already on IR. Let's not even talk about guys who have missed games while still on the active roster. That makes it even uglier.

Final Thoughts

All of this looks bad, and it is obvious that a lot of players who could have helped make this a much better season for the Giants never really had that chance. Realize, though, that this is life in the NFL. Believe it or not, there are teams in the league who have more players on IR than the Giants do.

Per ESPN Stats and Information, the Dallas Cowboys have 23 and the Seattle Seahawks 21 through Sunday. Both of these teams could end up in the playoffs. There are several other teams with 15 or more players on IR.

It is all about depth and being able to overcome the inevitable injuries. The Cowboys lost star linebacker Sean Lee and their defense has gotten better. The Giants haven't built the needed depth. They have missed on too many middle- to late-round draft picks over the years, and had too many of their free-agent signings prove inadequate.