One season after the New York Giants finished as Super Bowl champions, they finished the 2012 season on the outside of the playoffs looking in. While the offense took a small step back from its 2011 form, the true issue for the Giants was a defense that finished the season with the second-most yardage allowed in the NFL.
The Giants defense didn't allow as many points as the yardage would suggest, but a late-season collapse defensively, including 533 yards allowed to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 ended up keeping the Giants out of the postseason.
Where exactly do the Giants need to find upgrades defensively? Ed Valentine of SB Nation's Giants blog, Big Blue View, says that the Giants need upgrades across the board:
The defense is another story. Defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback, depth at defensive and even safety could be an issue. In other words, there are leaks everywhere.
Biggest need: Defensive tackle
The Giants have made a name for themselves by drafting several defensive ends that they can rotate through and keep fresh. However, the interior of the defensive line doesn't have nearly the same depth and became a little slimmer when the Giants released Chris Canty in early February.
Linval Joseph has developed into a solid starting defensive tackle for the team, but who will start next to him in 2013 is still an answer to be determined. With the absence of Canty, Rocky Bernard would presumably be the starter next to Joseph. However, that is a position that could certainly use an upgrade for a team that finished in the bottom 10 of the league in rushing yards allowed.
Other needs: Cornerback, linebacker, offensive tackle
As Valentine said on Big Blue View, the Giants need fixes across the board and cornerback is among those needs. Peter Damilatis of ProFootballFocus listed it as the top need for the Giants in the 2013 offseason after a season of regression for starting cornerback Corey Webster.
At 30 years old, Webster is entering the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2008, while Prince Amukamara hasn't quite played up to his first-round billing when the Giants selected him in the 2011 NFL Draft. Amukamara is still young, though, and improving; the same cannot be said for the player opposite him in the defensive backfield.
Linebacker and offensive tackle are two other positions that are certainly needs for the Giants, as they don't quite have adequate play at either position.
NFL Draft outlook: Giants will pick in latter half of first round
While the Giants didn't make the playoffs, they'll select in the back half of the first round with the No. 19 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
In the latest joint mock draft from SB Nation's Dan Kadar and Matthew Fairburn, the Giants are projected to begin their defensive rebuild by selecting a new middle linebacker, Kansas State's Arthur Brown:
With pending free agents at the linebacker position, the Giants could soon be in the market for multiple players at the position. Arthur Brown is considered by some to be undersized, but there isn't a linebacker in this class who plays the run as well as he does. He gets off blocks with ease and is just as effective in coverage. New York would be lucky to have him.
Salary cap situation: Giants have made moves to get under salary cap
The Giants are one of a few teams that will make a few changes during the 2013 offseason to ensure that they are under the salary cap; however, their situation isn't quite a disaster. In early January, ESPN's John Clayton listed the Giants as $4.7 million over the cap and they've already made moves to help the issue with the releases of Canty and running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
Eli Manning's mammoth contract is still the largest one on the Giants payroll, but other players like Webster, Chris Snee and Antrel Rolle each have contracts with big cap numbers for the 2013 season.