Heading into the 2012 season, the New York Giants have talent at nearly every position on the field. The depth chart is filled with young, promising players that have the potential to become indispensable aspects of the team's future. That being said, in the NFL, talent does not always translate into productivity.
Several players on the Giants' roster possess physical attributes that suggest they have the potential to become significant contributing members of the team. However, for one reason or another, these players have not yet harnessed their potential at this point in their respective careers. Below, we will examine five players that need to show improved production in the upcoming season in order to keep their current position on the roster.
Ramses Barden (WR) – When one looks at Ramses Barden, it's hard to imagine how the team could possibly have a hard time finding a role for him within the offense; however, he only has 15 catches in three seasons with the Giants. Barden stands 6'6" and weighs 224 lbs. Although he has seen limited playing time in his short career, his length makes him a tough match-up for almost any defender, and his stature allows him to make some improbable catches. Furthermore, Barden has developed into a relatively effective run blocker on the perimeter. His long arms allow him to quickly engage defenders on the line of scrimmage and block them down the field.
However, Barden has yet to demonstrate the speed, quickness, or route running ability necessary to create separation from defenders on the outside. He has shown the ability to play in the slot and find the soft spots in zone coverage; but, he does not have great hands and tends to drop passes that should be caught. In fact, in Week 16 against the New York Jets, Barden played so poorly that he was made inactive for the remaining five games of last season.
If Barden wants to make an impact in 2012, he must stay healthy and improve his catching ability. He is not going to get any faster, so he most likely will never be a threat down the field. But if he can show he has the ability to make plays with his hands, he could become a red-zone target for Big Blue this season. Barden is never going to be covered by any opposing defenses' best player, so if he can get on the field, he will have the opportunity to use his size to make plays. This season is most likely his last chance to become a productive player before the team decides to move in another direction.
Travis Beckum (TE) - Travis Beckum tore his ACL in last year's Super Bowl, and could begin the season on the PUP. Needless to say, the fourth-year veteran out of Wisconsin is coming into this season at a disadvantage to the several players the Giants have added to the tight end depth chart.
Beckum is an undersized tight end (6'3"/ 234 lbs) that makes up for it with above average athleticism. He has good hands and is a decent route runner; however, he struggles in knowing where he is on the field and has trouble finding the soft spots of a defense. Although Beckum does bring versatility to Big Blue's passing attack, his size makes him a liability in the run blocking department.
With Martellus Bennett, Bear Pascoe and Adrien Robinson lining the depth chart, the team now has several options at the tight end position. If Beckum does not have a break out year this season, it is likely that the team will stick with the bigger, more versatile tight ends on the roster in both Bennett and Robinson for the foreseeable future.
Keith Rivers (LB) – Keith Rivers was the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals; however, his career has been plagued by injuries up until this point. That being said, Rivers has an incredible combination of size, strength, and athleticism. He tackles well in the open field and is athletic enough to be effective in both man and zone coverage schemes.
Rivers is in a contract year, so he has every incentive to become a productive, contributing member of the Giants' defense; but that will depend on whether he can learn the defense or not. He is a new member of a linebacker core that is filled with young, promising players that all have more experience in Big Blue's defensive schemes.
The Giants are in a win now mode, so if Rivers does not demonstrate his ability to play within the confines of the defense during training camp, he will have to wait to get on the field during the season. He has as much ability as almost any other NFL linebacker, but if he does not show increased productivity this year, we may not see Keith Rivers back on the roster in 2013.
Domenik Hixon (WR) - Domenik Hixon is coming off two torn ACL's in consecutive seasons. As a player who does not have great size or strength, he relies heavily on his speed to be a productive NFL wide receiver. With his history of suffering major knee injuries, it is unknown whether we will see the same burst from him that he has shown in the past.
Hixon is currently competing for the third wide receiver role with Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan. Although reports indicate he has looked good in offseason workouts, with young options behind him on the depth chart, it will be difficult for Hixon to hang onto the number three receiver role for an entire season. In order for him to see significant playing time, Hixon must play well early on to the point where he becomes an integral aspect of the offense. Otherwise, the team will likely go with younger players in 2013.
Will Beatty (LT) - The fourth year veteran out of UConn played relatively well at left tackle for the first nine games of last season, but he suffered a detached retina in his right eye that caused him to miss the remainder of the year. Furthermore, Beatty has not participated in the the Giants' offseason programs because of back issues.
When healthy, Beatty has an impressive combination of both size (6'6"/ 319 lbs) and athleticism. He has good technique and is relatively strong at the point of attack, which makes him a more than serviceable pass blocker. However, Beatty needs to gain more strength in order for him to become an effective run blocker as well. Given time and experience, he has the potential to become a very good player.
The issue with Beatty is that his health is a question mark. Back problems are generally considered a bad omen for offensive linemen. Unfortunately for him, he plays a position that is vital to the protection of the team's franchise player in Eli Manning. If Will Beatty can not stay healthy for the upcoming season, the team will most likely seek a more stable option at the left tackle position.
The 2012 New York Giants will be a formidable adversary for every opponent they face, However, like every other NFL team, there are players on the roster that must answer serious question marks in the upcoming season in regards to their performance and productivity. It will be intriguing to follow the progress of these players throughout both training camp and the regular season.
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