COMMENTARY | Forget the NFL draft, the New York Giants need bounce-back seasons from several returning players in order to get back to the playoffs in 2013. Sure, the draft will be vital to the team's future success, as Big Blue must add depth on both sides of the ball. The G-Men especially need to bolster the defense, which allowed a franchise-record 6,134 yards last season. However, unless they get production from these key players next season, it's not going to matter who they draft.
David Diehl (RT) -- Diehl, who started every game in eight of his first nine seasons in the league, made nine starts in 13 games and wasn't very good when he played in 2012. Consequently, he took a pay cut in the offseason to remain with the team. The good news is that the offensive line, which includes re-signed tackle Will Beatty and guard Kevin Boothe, will return in full next season. If Diehl can return to form (or close to it), the Giants' O-line will be a strength of the team.
Hakeem Nicks (WR) -- Nicks' 2012 season was ruined by injuries. The banged-up receiver missed three games and finished with 53 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns. To put that in perspective, he had 444 yards and four TDs in the 2011 postseason alone. The Giants need a healthy Nicks to extend the passing game and make life easier on Victor Cruz. In addition, Nicks is entering the final year of his contract, so he has add incentive to rebound from last year's off season.
Corey Webster (CB) -- Webster, who had a down year in 2011, agreed to restructure his contract in order to stay with the Giants. However, he was a major reason why the team gave up so many big plays. According to ProFootballFocus, the eight-year pro was beat for 988 yards and eight touchdowns, as New York finished with the 28th-ranked passing defense in the NFL. Keep in mind, Webster is only two seasons removed from a career-high six interceptions, so he could bounce back.
Justin Tuck (DE) -- After 10 years with the Giants, Osi Umenyiora signed with the Atlanta Falcons, leaving Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul as the only proven pass-rushers on the team. Unfortunately, Tuck's production has been on the decline over the last few seasons. In 2012, he had four sacks, his lowest total since an injury-shortened 2006 campaign. Tuck's drop off from two years ago when he had 11.5 sacks had me wondering, can the Giants rely on him next season? They may have no choice.
Jason Pierre-Paul (DE) -- By most standards, Pierre-Paul had solid season in 2012. He recorded 66 tackles with 6.5 sacks and even returned an interception for a touchdown. But the Giants need Pierre-Paul to be a game-changer, like he was two seasons ago with 86 tackles and 16.5 sacks. A couple of weeks ago, head coach Tom Coughlin told the New York Post that JPP reported to training camp out of shape and played part of last season overweight. That can't happen again.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo! Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.
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