In Giants.com's "Top 5" series, we rank the best games, plays and moments from the 2016 season. Here are the Top 5 Unsung Heroes of 2016:
LB JONATHAN CASILLAS
He wasn't unsung among his teammates, who voted him the defensive captain before the season began. But you can't overstate the job Casillas did with both the tangibles and intangibles. On the field, he had the most productive season of his eight-year career, recording personal bests in tackles (96) and passes defensed (eight).
His signature play was a key fourth-down stop on the goal line against Baltimore in Week 6. But just as importantly, the two-time Super Bowl champion with the Saints and Patriots was the voice that helped bring together so many new pieces on what turned out to be the No. 2 scoring defense.
PUNTER BRAD WING
Punters are weapons, too. Wing ranked 10th among all punters with a net average of 40.9 yards and was also tied for 10th with 28 punts downed inside the 20. In back-to-back victories over Dallas and Detroit, the two best teams in the NFC at the time, Wing forced the Lions to take possession at their own three, four and 19-yard lines after five of his kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line against the Cowboys.
For those efforts, Wing became the first Giants player to win back-to-back Special Teams Player of the Week awards since they were instituted in 1984.
DT JOHNATHAN HANKINS
Coming off a season-ending injury in 2015, Hankins played 68.9 percent of the defensive snaps this season, trailing only Olivier Vernon (93.7) and Jason Pierre-Paul (91.0) on the defensive line. The fourth-year pro had 43 tackles (eight for loss), three sacks, 10 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. Next to him, All-Pro defensive tackle Damon Harrison rightfully received much of the spotlight, but the Giants wouldn't have boasted the No. 2 defense in yards allowed per carry (3.6) without Hankins. They were also tied with New England for third in rushing yards allowed per game (88.6).
DB LEON HALL
The longtime Bengal was signed a month before the season and added another veteran presence to the secondary, which became one of the best in the league. He was a jack of all trades, and despite a four-week stretch as a healthy scratch, Hall helped the defense clamp down over the final month of the season. He grabbed his 27th career interception late in the third quarter of the second Cowboys game, and on the ensuing possession, Odell Beckham Jr. broke a 61-yard touchdown that proved to be the game-winner.
THE UNDRAFTED ROOKIES
The Giants wouldn't have notched their highest win total in eight years without help along the way from safety Andrew Adams, defensive end Romeo Okwara, and wide receiver Roger Lewis. Adams was asked to step up when Darian Thompson, the Giants' promising third-round draft choice, went down with a season-ending foot injury after just two games. He went on to start 13 games opposite All-Pro safety Landon Collins and recorded 46 tackles, five passes defensed, and an interception.
Similarly, Okwara took over when Pierre-Paul had to undergo surgery to repair a core muscle injury. In his first start, all he did was lead the team with eight tackles, three quarterback hits, a sack and a pass defensed against Dallas.
Meanwhile, Lewis had only seven receptions on the year, but two of them went for touchdowns of 30 and 24 yards that propelled the Giants to victories.