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Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

We now move over to defense, and start with the defensive line. Many people, myself included, were surprised when the Giants signed Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard in the offseason. Not because they were bad players, but because their defensive line was already really, really good. Those additions add more firepower to what I think is the best defensive line in the league. Remember to check out our other position breakdowns here

Justin Tuck: After Osi Umenyoria got hurt, Tuck stepped up and became a star player. He had 12 sacks a year ago, and I expect that to go up with the additions of Canty and getting Umenyoria back from injury. Tuck is equally good defending the pass and the run. The only problem last year was that he seemed to wear down. That shouldn’t happen with the new additions on the line. If he needs a rest, there’s a guy who can get it done. This could be a huge year for Tuck.

Osi Umenyoria: Fans panicked when Umenyoria went down last year, and rightfully so. He’s one of the best defensive ends in football, and was coming off a Pro Bowl appearance. We have to assume that Umenyoria has regained his old burst from before the injury. If he has it, it makes the line that much more powerful. He’s good for double digit sacks, and will force double teams off of Justin Tuck. If he’s a step slower after the injury, Chris Canty and Mathias Kiwanuka need to step up. I think he’s healthy and ready for a big year.

Mathias Kiwanuka: Moved back to defensive end after Osi went down, Kiwanuka was solid, racking up 8.5 sacks. Like Tuck, he seemed to tire at the end of the year, but that should change with the new additions. Kiwanuka’s numbers might go down this year. He won’t be starting. But he’ll come in when Tuck and Osi are tired, and can still make a big impact.

Dave Tollefson: Tollefson is your classic grind it out player. Not flashy, he still manages to get pressure on the QB. His playing time will be reduced dramatically this year, but he can still make his impact on special teams.

Chris Canty: The big, literally and figuratively, free agent signing. Canty is 6-7, 299. He’s a space eater. He’ll be playing primarily defensive tackle, but can slide outside. His greatest value is that he gives the line versatility, and outstanding depth. On 3rd downs, you can bring in Umenyoria, Kiwanuka on the edge, and Tuck and Canty inside. Offensive lines will not be able to stop that. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that combination a lot during the year. Canty will move outside when Umenyoria and Tuck need a rest. He was never a sack artist in Dallas, partly because they play a 3-4. With Tuck and Umenyoria needing double teams, he should be able to get a bunch of sacks. This was a great pickup by the G-Men.

Fred Robbins: Robbins was tremendous last year, providing consistent pressure. I think he will start alongside Canty, although there’s doubt in that. He has to prove he’s healthy. If he is, Robbins will benefit from all the stars on the line and produce. He will be rotated with Cofield, Alford and Bernard, so he should be well rested to make a long run.

Barry Cofield: Kind of the lost man in all of this. Cofield was great last year, but with the new additions he seems headed for the bench. And that’s a shame. Cofield is solid at both run and pass defense. He will get his snaps, I just feel they won’t be as much.

Rocky Bernard: Bernard is a pass rushing specialist, and even though his sack numbers went down last year, there’s no reason to think they can’t go up with all the stars on the line. Think of it as a domino effect. Tuck and Umenyoria are the first worries. Then Canty. There’s going to be someone in single coverage, and Bernard can take advantage of that. I think he, at some point, will overtake Robbins as the starter.

Jay Alford: Alford’s main role will be on special teams. He’s a good, if not great, pass rusher. His sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, was one of the most explosive plays I’ve ever seen. But Alford will not see a lot of playing time with the new additions. He will continue to snap for field goals, and that’s where is main contribution will be.

The defensive line is going to be outstanding this year, but it will leave some guys with reduced playing time. That said, they are going to rack up sacks, and provide consistent pressure. One of the best groups in the league. Next up: Antonio Pierce and the linebacking corp.

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