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32 in 32: Hakeem Nicks faces prove-it year on Giants

"NFL Total Access" has launched its "32 in 32" series, breaking down the biggest subplots of every NFL team with training camp nearing. We here at Around The League are offering our own deep thoughts every night. Next up: The New York Giants

  1. Contract stalemates dominate headlines in the offseason, and then are forgotten once the games start. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks aren't under contract for 2014, but does it really matter? Cruz isn't going anywhere. It would be surprising if he entered the season without a new contract. The minute Cruz signs, we'll forget the whole "stalemate" ever happened.

Signing Nicks will be trickier, but that's what next offseason is for. His fluctuating production and injury history make this a prove-it year. The bigger story is if Nicks can fulfill his enormous potential for a passing attack that was too sporadic last season. The Giants boast one of the top receiver duos in the NFL with a top-10 quarterback in Eli Manning, so their passing game shouldn't be so streaky.

  1. Jason Pierre-Paul's back surgery is a very big deal until proven otherwise. His readiness for Week 1 is less important than his ability to go full JPP this season. He was one of the best run defenders in the league last year, but his pass rush productivity somewhat tailed off. He has the ability to carry a defense on his back, but I didn't expect it to be a surgically repaired back so early in his career.
  1. With Pierre-Paul hurt, the return of Mathias Kiwanuka to defensive end looms even larger. So does the hoped-for return to form by Justin Tuck and the arrival of rookie Damontre Moore. This defense was once defined by its pass rush, but there are a lot of questions now. Like so many Giants defenses under coordinator Perry Fewell, this group could range anywhere from awful to awesome.
  1. Fantasy leaguers who draft running back Andre Brown early are expecting him to have a big role alongside David Wilson. Those owners are a wee bit insane. Brown is a nice role player who's not necessarily a lock to make the Giants. It wouldn't be surprising if a free-agent-to-be-named-later is added to the running back mix.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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