Who is the most indispensable member of the New York Giants? That is the question I originally asked Big Blue View contributors as a 'Big Blue View Round Table' discussion topic. Both Chris and Alex balked, saying that quarterback Eli Manning was the obvious -- too obvious, in fact -- answer. So, the question has morphed into a discussion of the most indispensable Giant not named Manning.
Here are the opinions of some of your BBV writers.
Chris Pflum -- Johnathan Hankins
I'm just going to make a point of skipping over Eli because he's too obvious.
"The most indispensable Giant? The easy way out is to go with Eli Manning, so I'm not going to take that route.
That leaves me with four candidates. Odell Beckham Jr, Jon Beason, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Johnathan Hankins. We all saw how the offense spit and sputtered without a true Number 1 wide receiver to command the defense's attention in the games before Beckham made his debut. However, with the addition of Shane Vereen, and some growth in the offense by Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell, and maybe a few other guys, the offense could at least function.
My next thought was Beason. We saw in 2007 and 2008 how important having a field general who can truly quarterback the defense was to Spags' scheme. The ability to read an offense and adjust blitzes to play the chess game on the field is a difference maker. However, I also believe Devon Kennard is smart enough and a hard enough worker to take that responsibility if the need arises.
JPP is, quite simply, the defense's best player. There are very few players in the league who can do what he does, and force offenses to game-plan around his ability to rush the passer and defend the run. But while the Giants may not have anybody who can take over a game like JPP, Robert Ayers, DaMontre Moore, George Selvie, Kerry Wynn, and Owa Odighizuwa make for a pretty deep stable of defensive ends behind him.
That brings me to John Hankins. The big guy might be the best defensive lineman in the league that nobody knows about. When the lists of top defensive tackles get made, he isn't on it, but he is one of the very few tackles to rank in the top 10 in both run defense and pass rush. The defensive tackle position isn't considered a "premier" position, but it is very important. A player like Hankins brings the ability to collapse pockets, pressure quarterbacks up the middle (which is crippling to any pocket passer), command double teams to free up edge rushers, clog running lanes between the tackles, and protect linebackers, allowing them to make plays. Unlike the defensive end position, the Giants don't have much backing up Hankins. Jay Bromley may be set to blossom like Hankins and Linval Joseph did before him, but he still needs to prove his mettle. Cullen Jenkins is in the twilight of his career isn't much more than a role player at this point. Kenrick Ellis is a massive human being, but he was brought in to be a run stopping specialist.
In short, by being the rock that the Giants' defense is built upon, Hankins fills a very important role, and there isn't anyone else on the team who can do it.
Alex Sinclair -- Victor Cruz
To me, the guy who is an absolute must-have in 2015 is the player who became the catalyst for the 2011 Super Bowl run. While correlation does not equal causation, there is a clear parallel to be drawn between Victor Cruz' production and how the Giants have fared in recent years. Cruz is coming off two years cut short by injury. The Giants are coming off two straight losing seasons. He was a fundamental weapon in the passing game and an integral cog in the Kevin Gilbride offense, but we only got to see a few games from him in Ben McAdoo's new scheme before he got injured in that Philadelphia shutout, so it remains to be seen just how much he can bring to the table. The strange thing for the Giants is that they don't only have to hope Cruz can match his previous production in a new scheme, but now they have the added worry of player health.
Nobody knows if Cruz will be full strength at any point this season, let alone in time for the season opener. After two knee surgeries in as many years, he may not be the player he once was. Health and scheme are big question marks and the sad truth is that if this is a loss, it has already happened and there's nothing to be done about it.
I fully believe that, if healthy, Cruz could be that much-needed counter-punch to a defense double-covering Beckham, so scheme isn't a huge worry of mine. His modest production in 2014 was reflective of the offense as a whole. However, Cruz is not a possession receiver. He's not a deep burner. He's a nimble slot threat with the potential to take any ball to the house. If injuries have cost him his agility or speed, he loses that safety blanket status which saw him to rack up a high volume of targets and yardage.
With a single off-season signing at the receiver spot coming in the form of Dwayne Harris (a special teams ace), and spending a lone sixth rounder on the position, the front office is betting that Cruz returns to his former salsa-dancing glory. If the team wants to be successful this year, they can't just rely on Beckham's rookie numbers to transfer to his sophomore season. Sure, the first-year player looked unstoppable in 2014, but so did Cruz in 2011.
Mike Gallop -- Odell Beckham Jr.
Even though it may seem too obvious, my pick is ODB. My conclusion boils down to one word; scheme.
His storybook rookie season was one for the record books, and really was the saving grace for another non-playoff season for Big Blue. It wasn't just his gaudy stats and one-handed catches that caught the NFL by storm; it was the reality that NO defensive back in the league could cover him one on one. His game tape alone has surely increased the blood pressure of the league's defensive coordinators, and this is why I believe he's so valuable to this team.
Full disclosure: I do not believe Beckham Jr. will replicate his rookie season. Defenses in the NFL struggle to adapt to in-season developments, especially when a "short,over-drafted WR" turns into Spiderman in front of our very eyes. Nobody knew what ODB was until week 5 last year, including the Giants themselves. But now, every team has dissected the game tape, realizes he's a true freak, and will make stopping him priority number one. All this attention will be a beautiful thing for the rest of the Giants offense, especially our new Swiss army knife, Shane Vereen. Eli Manning has never had so many weapons and a more QB-friendly system than this upcoming year, but the Giants' offensive success will hinge on Beckham's ability to dictate coverages and draw multiple defenders on every snap. I think Beckham Jr. will have a fine year from a production standpoint, but his presence on the field from a scheme standpoint will prove invaluable to the offense and to the overall success of the Giants.
Valentine's View -- Jason Pierre-Paul
Truth is, the most indispensable Giant is Manning. Sure, everybody is curious what kind of NFL player backup Ryan Nassib might be. As usual, though, Giants fans should be hoping they once again do not find out. When it comes to backups, the cause usually is that you want to see them until you really SEE them. Then, after a couple of games, you figure out why they were backups rather than starters to begin with. No offense to Nassib, but the Giants would be better served in 2015 if they don't have to find out whether or not he fits that description. Do you really want a potential playoff berth, and the future of a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, riding on the backup quarterback?
Anyway, we are looking for the most indispensable Giant not named Manning. Chris, Mike and Alex all made excellent choice, along with compelling, logical arguments for their selections.
I can't go with the wide receiver argument, whether it's Beckham or Cruz. Both Beckham and Cruz make the Giants better, and together they could make the passing attack lethal. Beckham is the best player on the roster, the biggest game-changer. Perhaps, then, it should be case closed and the answer should be Beckham. If that is your belief I don't blame you.
I am going to the other side of the ball, though, and choosing the single player on the defense who is a proven game-changer. That, of course, is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. As Chris noted above, the Giants do have some other talented defensive ends. The only player they have who defenses have to account for on every play is Pierre-Paul.
The Giants acknowledged his importance to them in 2015 by slapping the franchise tag on him. They may not be sure about making a rich, long-term commitment. They obviously know, however, that it would be extremely difficult for them to build a top-notch defense unless Pierre-Paul is part of it.
Perhaps Devon Kennard becomes that guy. Maybe it will be Hankins. Perhaps Moore or Odighizuwa become that type of player. In the secondary, maybe Landon Collins develops into that type of game-changing presence.
The one we KNOW the Giants have is JPP. Despite whatever flaws he has, that makes him my choice.
Vote in the poll and let us know who you think is right.