STATEMENT: *The Giants 2009 free agency class (Boley, Canty, Bernard) proved to be key in 2011.
*EISEN: Fact - Those three players were clearly key performers in the championship season. Boley was the Giants' second-leading tackler and was a leader on defense, Canty started all 20 games and Bernard played in ever game as the top defensive tackle substitute. That's a pretty significant impact.
SCHMEELK: Fact - All three of those players played their best football as Giants in 2011. Michael Boley took on a leadership role with a young linebackers corps and his value was never clearer with all the athletic tight ends the Giants had to contend with down the stretch of the season. Chris Canty was an anchor in the middle of the defense, and played consistently despite injuries late in the season. Rocky Bernard stayed healthy all year and provided depth at defensive tackle, something that was needed when second round draft pick Marvin Austin went out for the year during training camp.
STATEMENT: WR Domenik Hixon will be the #1 Kick/Punt returner in 2012
EISEN:Fact and Fiction - Assuming hie is healthy, I think Hixon will be the Giants' punt returner next season. But my guess is Jerrel Jernigan and Da'Rel Scott will split the kickoff return duties.
SCHMEELK: Fact - Right now I don't think there's any doubt that he's the leader in the clubhouse. It remains to be seen if the Giants bring in anyone in free agency or the draft that can help in the return game, but Hixon has proven that he can do it well when healthy. Of course, this is the second straight year that he has suffered a serious knee injury so depending on him to be there could be a dicey proposition. The Giants will be sure to have a number of options in the return game when the team hits camp. Jerrel Jernigan will probably get another look as well, but he'll have to prove he can field punts consistently.
*STATEMENT: Jason Pierre-Paul will lead the NFL in sacks next year
*EISEN:Fiction - This has nothing to do with JPP's ability or potential, which are both off the charts. But I think opposing offenses are going to put a bullseye on him next year and constatnly commit two or even three blockers to stop him. Pierre-Paul will get his share of sacks, but he's going to have to slog threw a thicket of blockers for almost everyone of them. That will keep his numbers down.
SCHMEELK: Fiction - But I do think he will be a favorite for Defensive Player of the Year along with other guys like DeMarcus Ware. I wouldn't be surprised if he led the league in sacks, but I'll say he won't only because his snaps will be somewhat limited with both Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. He'll be on the field plenty, just not for 70 snaps a game. He'll also play on the inside at tackle where it's easier to give help to block him. Having so many great pass rushers might actually hurt his final numbers a little. It's all about sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
*STATEMENT: Signing their own free agents will be a top priority for the Giants.
*EISEN:Fact and Fiction - The Giants always look first to in-house solutions to roster questions. When possible, the Giants will look to the players they know best. But when that help isn't on hand, they will import it, as they did last year with David Baas and Steve Weatherford.
SCHMEELK: Fact - We already saw the team place the franchise tag on Steve Weatherford and bring back Domenik Hixon, two key contributors on special teams. I'm sure Jerry Reese would like nothing more than to have starting caliber players like Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross back as well, but it will have to be at the right cost that fits the Giants salary cap situation. They'll have to judge how much veterans Kareem McKenzie and Deon Grant have left in the tank. Guys like Devin Thomas, Bear Pascoe, Dave Tollefson, and Chase Blackburn all contribute on special teams and provide valuable depth and shouldn't be too costly. Then there are starters who suffered injuries last season, like Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff, two guys the Giants would certainly like to return and given a chance to get healthy. But with every one of these players it has to do with price and value. Those two things won't be known until the market defines itself when free agency opens next week.