Five biggest questions facing the Giants in the offseason
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For the first time in two years the Giants enter an offseason unfulfilled. Sunday's 42-7 win over the Eagles may have given them something of a high note to end on, but there will be plenty of questions the Giants must answer in the coming months if they hope to get back to the postseason in 2013.
What happens to the pass rushers?
The marquee members of the Giants' defense, the pass-rushing defensive ends, had very little impact on opposing quarterbacks this season. Now it might be time to change things up in terms of personnel. Osi Umenyiora is a free agent and unlikely to return and Justin Tuck has had two disappointing seasons and one year left on his contract. Jason Pierre-Paul is the only one of the group who is ascending, and even he had a down season. The Giants have always drafted big pass rushers, but it might be time to bring one or two in through free agency.
Perhaps the player who is watching how the Giants handle negotiations with Cruz even more closely than Cruz is Nicks. He'll be a free agent after the 2013 season and the amount of money and years the team gives Cruz will tell a lot about their plans for their 2009 first-round pick. Nicks was hampered by injuries for most of the season and should be an important piece in the offense next season. But it'll be hard for the Giants to fit two premier receivers and their premier salaries under the cap. They may have to make some choices.
Can Ahmad Bradshaw stay healthy?
The veteran running back is already acquainted with his eventual replacement. The Giants drafted David Wilson in the first round this spring with the expectations that he would one day become their every-down back. Now the Giants must figure out if that day is here. Bradshaw is a warrior who plays through pain, something that Tom Coughlin and the Giants admire deeply. But the fact that he has to is troubling. His feet give him chronic troubles, his knee became an issue late this season, and he is rarely healthy enough to practice. Bradshaw is only 26, but he's taken a beating and with two years left on his contract the Giants may want to get out a year early rather than a year too late.
Why is every season a game of Chutes & Ladders?
The Giants won six of their first eight games and then lost five of their next seven. That kind of slide seems to happen almost every season, and no one seems to be able to figure out why. Even when the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, they first had to take a few steps backward in November and early December before finding their footing and pushing onward. These second-half swoons are so common they have to be caused by something, be it Coughlin's approach or the players' mentality or training. The Giants need to figure it out because while they like to say that they play their best in big games when their backs are against the wall, in actuality, in three of the last four years, just the opposite has been true.
Who will play linebacker in 2013?
It may not be Michael Boley. The 30-year-old veteran who last year played just about every snap of every game for which he was healthy and was a key contributor earlier this season was benched in recent weeks and relegated to sub packages even in linebacker-heavy schemes. He's also due $4.1 million in the last year of his contract. Chase Blackburn has been invaluable this year, but he has limited upside. The Giants took a flier on Keith Rivers this season and it didn't exactly come up huge. Next season's starters could be a trio of third-year players in Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, a full changing of the guard at the position.