This is the heart and soul of the Giants, they win or lose with this unit. If you look at both super bowl wins they were won in trenches and by the Giants dominance on the defensive line. They just did not let the opposing offense get the edge. They held them when they had to and let Eli Manning have that chance to win those games, which he did.
Not every play that does not end in a sack or INT means that the defense did not have a great play. So many times it’s a game of inches and the long arms of a defender can make a difference between a huge play and a punt. A tipped ball, a fumble recovery or a goal line stance, there are so many ways a defense can change the course of a game. It’s the defensive line that controls what the defense does, especially in the 4-3 alignment the Giants play.
Putting together an effective defensive line is not an easy task. It takes years of drafting and player development as well as signing the right free agents. It seems Jerry Reese does this better than find linebackers, although this season he may have gotten both right. The herd is thinning on defensive ends, lucky for or wait maybe Reese designed it this way, this coming 2013 draft is filled with defensive lineman that can rush the passer. As I said in my mock draft last week this is where Reese fills the pass rush cup with fresh replacements. There are some intriguing prospects, but the line as constituted looks like a headache for any offensive coordinator to game plan against for this season.
If healthy this is one of the deepest and best defensive lines since Strahan was here for super bowl XLII. That’s #42 for those who don’t know Roman numerals, do they still teach that in school anymore? I remember learning them and wondering why, now I know. In grade school they knew that even before the first super bowl game was ever played the NFL would use Roman numerals for super bowls, imagine that. Just like when you learn that math you think you’ll never ever use, wrong, you will.
LDE –Justin Tuck – 6’5” 268 8 yrs – Tuck was a good prospect, I liked him and thought he might even be switched to linebacker watching him at Notre Dame. He was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft yet was projected and rightfully so as a first round pick. Tuck is a smart player and played with his head up like a linebacker in college. Under the tutelage of Michael Strahan and the Giants coaches he learned how to be the complete DE, one who could play the run as well as rush the passer. The 4-3 defense requires the LDE to do that in the schemes the Giants have used during the Coughlin years. Even though Tuck has more talent than Strahan, even Strahan admitted so, he was never able to match Strahan’s dominance because of nagging injuries. He has played at a high level even with those injuries many times. A true leader of the defense like Strahan he has shown the team what it takes to win. He has a few good years left in him but like Osi is breaking down and will eventually in the near future be regulated to fewer and fewer snaps to keep him healthy and at his peak. He seems injury free this season and maybe set to make a huge impact with JPP on the other side and those huge DTs. Please tell me who is going to block whom, it’s an offensive coordinators nightmare, especially with the improved linebacker play. I can’t wait to see this line just blow away offensive lines like at one time the Jets had a defensive line called the Sack Exchange who totally dominated. Tuck will always be one of my favorite players because of his excellence as a person and also on the football field, a true role model.
LDT – Linval Joseph – 6’4” 323 3yrs– In college Joseph was a big chubby kid, after injuring his back he knew to play football he had to get serious, lose the baby fat and get into shape to become the player he knew he could be. That’s exactly what he did and the Giants took a chance on him with the second round of the 2010 draft. That last name left a sour taste for Giant fans with William Joseph, everything he wasn’t Linval is. He started off playing the right side but last season he was moved to the left and I think that is his more normal position. Joseph is a BIG man, not the tallest yet is closer to 6’5”. He has the frame to carry that weight and still be mobile and able to make plays, he ran a 5.09 40 at the combine in 2010 which is amazing for a man his size. Now that he has a few years playing he in the NFL I would not be surprised if he doesn’t get to the probowl, he flashed last season and should make a name for himself. He is surrounded by quality NFL players that will allow him to do so. Go and look at his pictures during the combine, I did not remember how big he was.
RDT – Chris Canty – 6’7” 317 8yrs – I remember Canty being talked about a lot by Giants fans before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. People where surprised he went in the 4th round, that was due to some injuries. He was expected to be a defensive end in a 4-3 and to dominate. He ended up a 2 gap DE in a 3-4 and a good solid player, not the dominate one draft experts thought and I say draft experts tongue in cheek. Many wanted the Giants to take him, they took Justin Tuck instead in the 3rd and Jacobs in the 4th round. Canty was not happy in Dallas, they wanted him to 2 gap yet rush the passer too. Now that shows how Dallas fans and their coaching staff where not realistic. Very few if any 2 gap defensive lineman can rush the passer. By being a 2 gap lineman it means you must handle the run and take responsibility for 2 lanes. Most lineman have a one gap responsibility except for a 3-4 nose tackle who usually handles both gaps on his left and right and is double teamed. So people expected more than Canty or most other lineman could do, he had 2 gap responsibility and was double teamed a lot. When he became a free agent he could not get out of there fast enough, I guess especially being born in the Bronx borough of New York City. I was glad that Reese signed him over that waste I won’t mention that went to the Redskins. I knew Canty was not a super star, he was a solid professional player and fit well in that LDT position and being more comfortable with a one gap responsibility, unless you know, let me tell you, those two are completely different worlds. It took a little while to make the adjust but having Tuck on one side and some other talented players on the other made the transition easier. He started to come on and make plays. Right now he is injured and will return before the start of the season, hopefully. He will probably play the RDT now, with Joseph on the left and JPP on his wing life is good and he will not face the constant double teams he has had to deal with and the overly high expectation as a pass rusher.
RDE – JPP – 6’5” 275 3 yrs – In 2010 Jerry Reese took a huge gamble not only on a player but his job if this kid busted. He selected a little known player who had huge size and amazing athletic ability yet little real football experience. The people in the know said Reese got a steal, everybody else was not so sure. I was disappointed, I have seen players like him become busts so many times in the NFL. Great athletes that can’t play football, like the Jets Gholston who is the poster boy for that, Mel Kiper coined the phrase “Looks like Tarzan, Plays like Jane”, the Giants drafted a true Tarzan. In all honesty I wanted the Giants to draft a much needed center that the Steelers did, Pouncey turned out to be a great player and rookie of the year although he has been suffering with injuries. But JPP is turning into a dominate defensive player, not just a good one or a great one, a dominate one. He just may be the next LT, JPP has already made the probowl in his second year. Jason Pierre-Paul could run a 4.7 40 at 6’5” and 270 pounds and do back flips, not to mention an over 7 foot wingspan. His frame was huge and at 270+ pounds he was actually skinny. I think this year he looks closer to 290 and is still thin but has huge muscularity. He could probably easily carry a little more weight and not lose anything in terms of athletic ability and speed, maybe even get faster. I think I invented a new position for him, defensive side, as he has said “I don’t get blocked.”
RDE – Osi Umenyora – 6’3” 250 10 yrs – Osi was always a great pass rusher but honestly he never played the run that well. He and Strahan, than Tuck made a great pass rush duos. But Osi was always a liability against the run especially not having a great linebacker corps. Now with JPP that has changed and Osi can be a pass rushing specialist giving JPP a break or moving JPP to DT which he is suited for. Osi can play for much longer by being more of a partime player since he does have some injury issues, even if he cannot let his ego accept the truth. If he was still an every down player I don’t think his health would hold up, he had a serious hip injury. Osi is a very important piece to making another super bowl run this season. If the Giants do what I think they will his time with the Giants might be coming to an end. Reese might want to sign him to one year contracts until a replacement can be found. As I have mentioned the 2013 draft is filled with pass rushers.
DT – Marvin Austin – 6’2” 312 2 yrs – Marvin was disqualified from playing his senior year and put himself in the next draft. He was an extremely talented player who dominated so Reese took a chance with a second round pick for Austin. If he had played that year no doubt he was going in the first round at his size he still ran a 4.8 40, that’s fast for someone who weighs 300 pounds. Unfortunately Austin was injured with a torn pectoral muscle and that takes a long time to heal. He’s ready now but he hasn’t played in two years, I don’t think that is a big deal for a young lineman who is only 23 years old, he can get in shape and has been learning the defense and the proper techniques, now he has to do it. He came into OTAs out of shape and Chris Canty along with the coaches really gave it to him and chewed him out. Marvin got the message and came into camp in shape and ready to go. It will take a little time but with his size, strength and natural ability it won’t be long till he’s pushing for starters time. Like I always say some big men like him take some time to mature, let’s hope Marvin woke up and realized he has to work hard to even make the roster in the NFL. There is very little entitlement and even being a high draft pick will get you just so much leeway. If he performs like he’s capable of the Giants defensive line will be a force in the NFL this season.
DT – Rocky Bernard – 6’3” 301 11yrs – Hey Rocky!!! I remember Rocky had some great games against the Giants when he was with Seattle. I was glad Reese signed him, he certainly had his ups and downs with the team being let go and then coming back. He knows where he belongs and so do the Giants. He’s a good solid veteran backup, as long as he stays in shape he can play for another few seasons and fill in a few snaps at a high level. The perfect backup, he’s strong enough to take on offensive lineman and still has quickness to penetrate which the Giants do with their DTs.
DT – Shaun Rogers – 6’4” 350 13 yrs – Rogers is a mountain of a man and a probowl defensive tackle. He’s always had some weight issues but showed up for camp in good shape, yes at 350 pounds. Shaun should really help in short yardage situation and even by using a big line and going into a quasi 3-4 defense. Having talent and players with different skill sets allows the coordinator to do more things to nullify and confuse the offense. Plus having these older veterans helps show the younger players what to do, in some cases what not to do. Hopefully like Canty he helps the other young DTs in camp with some of the tricks of the trade and what it takes to be a successful NFL player.
DE – Matt Broha -6’4” 255 R – Broha showed some good skills at his proday but not enough to get drafted, he ran a 4.84 40. He needs a lot of work but has good athletic ability. I’m surprised some 3-4 teams didn’t make a play for him as an OLB. The Giants are thin at DE this season and Broha just might make the roster with some of the other bubble players hurt. It’s a numbers game and you can’t play if you’re hurt. He has some talent and might be the next Tollefson who played well during the times he got a chance. Broha will have to get stronger and learn some moves, he might surprise and make it.
DT – Markus Kuhn – 6’4” 299 R – A rookie 7th round draft pick Markus has an uphill battle to make the roster, the Giants have more defensive tackles season. At 26 he’s a little old to be a rookie yet Reese saw the upside and his athletic ability. Since the Giants play a 4-3 smaller faster DTs can be utilized in their schemes although it’s hard to think of a man 6’4” and 300 pounds as small, next to Rogers and Canty he is. I expect to see Kuhn on the practice squad until and if he shows some real promise or becomes a special teams demon. Many times a place will be made for players who give their bodies for special teams. So far he is having a good camp.
DT – Dwayne Hendricks – 6’3” 305 4yr – Hendricks has had his ups and downs with the Giants being signed in 2009 he had been on the practice squad, the roster and inactive for most of his career only appearing in one game. At 26 years old it’s time to make a move to remain in the NFL but Dwayne was hurt recently in camp and his status is unclear.
DE – Justin Trattou – 6’4” 255 2yr – Trattou was a pretty good college player who went undrafted and signed by the Giants. He was showing some promise, he’s a good athlete. He ran a very good 4.72 at his proday in 2011 and showed some strength. He needs to keep improving to make the roster, right now he has an ankle injury that’s holding him back. He might just end up on IR to stash him until next season.
DT – Martin Parker – 6’2” 303 2 yrs – Parker was at the combine in 2011 but did not get drafted. He was rated fairly high though and was considered a high priority free agent. Signing with the Giants his career was slowed down with the lockout, he must catch up and get working to make this team. I have not read anything about him on the camp reports so I have no idea what’s going on with this player.
DE – Adewale Ojomo – 6’4” 270 R – A good sized player with athletic ability but very raw. He is a project without doubt and will probably be on the practice squad if he makes it. He really needs to work hard and learn his craft as well as spend time in the gym to get stronger. The Giants are one of the best teams in terms of player development. So if he can be a NFL player the Giants are the team to mold him into one.
DE – Craig Marshall – 6’4” 279 R – He’s probably camp fodder but honestly he didn’t look bad in his college game film. To make the roster or even practice squad he’s going to need to get to work like so many other players, get in the gym and get stronger, learn the techniques for his position. In the NFL nobody makes it on athletic ability alone so having a minimum of such means you must work that much harder. He has some skills and some good football playing ability.
So that’s the defensive line, it’s a deep bunch and a mixture of crafty veterans and young talent. This is the heart of the defense and with improved linebacker play they should be able to control a game. Having this depth will keep them fresh and wear down an offensive line. There’s some hefty dawgs in there with Joseph, Canty, Bernard, Austin and now the 350 pound Rogers. Plus they’re not just run stoppers these players can move and rush the passer. The Giants defensive ends are three probowl players rotating, not many teams can say that about their ends, you have to also include Kiwi in there too who will see action at DE in certain situations.
As an offensive coordinator I would have to consider this line as something I have to game plan against. I would have to double team JPP not just chip him. Chipping him would just make him mad and you don’t want that. I have seen him beat double teams so even though he’s doubled anybody in the backfield will have to be aware of his presence. What that does is allow for the other lineman to be one on one and that will not be enough to control these beasts. I expect offenses to come out and test the defense to try and find a soft spot. That used to be the middle of the field and so many tightends would have a career day. I don’t see that happening anymore, there should be no soft spots to exploit on this defense.