- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Examining who faces the most challenging season for the New York Giants and why.
This was a tough one, since the Giants are basically playing with house money after their second Super Bowl title in five years. Sure, they're expected to defend that title, but if they don't, how disappointed can Giants fans really be? After everything the Giants' players proved in December, January and February, the roster isn't exactly loaded with guys who have much left to prove.
So to answer the question of who faces the "most challenging" season, I'm going with running back Ahmad Bradshaw. He's proved he's tough by playing through pain. He's proved he's good by putting up big numbers when given the starting job. He's proved he has leadership qualities by calling out his offensive line early last year. But with Brandon Jacobs gone off to San Francisco in free agency and a group of very young backups behind him, Bradshaw in 2012 has to prove he can handle a full season's workload without breaking down.
This isn't going to be easy. He has said the procedures he had done this offseason on his chronically injured foot have corrected the problem and he's going to be 100 percent going forward. But there's no way to know that until we see (and he sees) how this particular season wears on him. Jacobs got about 40 percent of the Giants' running back touches last year, and unless someone like Da'Rel Scott, D.J. Ware or first-round pick David Wilson is ready to step in and assume Jacobs' share of the work, more is going to fall to Bradshaw. He has the ability and the will to be "the guy" at running back for the Super Bowl champs, and he may well be able to pull it off. He could be one of the breakout offensive stars of the NFL season -- a fantasy sleeper, even. But he heads into the season with less help than he's had in the past and without the safety net that's always been provided by his friend Jacobs.