The Giants' Defensive-Line has become the relatively-new creator of household names for Big Blue's defense; in this the fourth edition of assessing the needs for 2013's off-season we'll look directly at the first line of defense.
The three prior editions have broken down the: Safeties, Cornerbacks, and Linebackers; for more on those stories see the links below:
- The Safeties (click here)
- The Cornerbacks (click here)
- The Linebackers (click here)
In the last edition, we looked at the history of the fabled position of Linebacker with the Giants, led by guys like LT and Harry Carson. While the Defensive line position, until the switch to the 4-3 base defense, was not as sexy as was Linebacker it has produced some very top notch players in its own right; some that are, pre-NFL, Hall of Famers and a few that are borderline and future Hall of Famers.
Historically speaking the Giants' D-Line has produced a couple of Hall Of Fame players: DE, Andy Robustelli & DT, Arnie Weinmeister. Also some Giants' greats: DE, Leonard Marshall; DE, George Martin; NG, Jim Burt (each played in the Parcells/Belichick 3-4 scheme, which again emphasized the Linebackers).
Moving forward to the post-Parcells/Belichick era and into the 4-3 base scheme the most notable, retired, D-Lineman HOF'er to be: DE, Michael Strahan (Giants all-time sack leader) and secondarily, recently departed, DE, Osi Umenyiora.
The two are the standard bearers for the current era of Giants D-Lineman, as they were key cogs in the wheels of Super Bowl victories and set the bar for the Giants QB-pressure emphasized defense. Strahan though made his mark as a two-way defender great as both a pass-rusher and extremely stout against the run, commanding double-teams from the offense most of the time!
Onto the focus of this story:
2013: The Defensive Line (aka: the first line of defense)
The completion of the Draft & Restricted-Free Agency period, and thus far, has seen the Giants address this unit more than any other (front-line "Active Roster" expected players); all toll the Defensive Line has seen the addition of 5 D-Lineman not on last seasons active roster:
Three via Free Agency:
- DT, Cullen Jenkins (signed away from the Eagles)
- DT, Mike Patterson (also, signed away from the Eagles)
- DT, Shaun Rogers (resigned with the Giants after spending all of last season on I.R.)
Two via the 2013 Draft:
- DE, Damontre Moore (from Texas A&M)
- DT, Johnathan Hankins (from Ohio State Univ.)
The off-season for the Giants D-Line has had its losses though, notably the defection of the aforementioned Osi Umenyiora (signed with the Falcons) along with DT, Chris Canty (signed with defending Super Bowl champion Ravens) and DT, Rocky Bernard (remains an unsigned Free-Agent; the 34 year old 11 year vet has probably seen his last days with the Giants barring another rash of injuries). Umenyiora, a 9 year veteran pass-rushing specialist and strip sack master, takes with him 75 career sacks along with 32 forced fumbles; while his production was down last season, his off-the-edge threat is one that must be replaced going forward. Canty's loss is equally important as in 4 seasons he became an integral part of the Giants Defense, particularly because Canty's size (6'7"/315lbs), power & athleticism from the interior Defensive Tackle spot brought an invaluable aspect to the Giants. His best season 2011 saw him contribute with 47 tackles and 4 sacks, and became a beast for offenses to contend with, as a three down lineman, in the middle. His absence, in 2012 in which he played in only 9 games and even then was hampered still recovering from off-season knee surgery, became a major issue for the Giants attempting to replace his production!
Remaining from last season's Defensive Line are:
- DE, Justin Tuck
- DE, Jason Pierre-Paul
- OLB/DE, Mathias Kiwanuka (The Joker Role, continued?)
- DE, Adewale Ojomo
- DE, Adrian Tracy
- DT, Marvin Austin
- DT, Linval Joseph
- DT, Marcus Kuhn
Future-Reserves include: (Most probably neither will make the 2013 Active Roster)
- DT, Bobby Skinner
- DE, Justin Trattou
In the current scheme of things the Giants have a glut of Defensive Lineman; considering how last season started and played out that might not be a bad thing. Looking back:
- coming out of training camp immediately lost for the season was Shaun Rogers, and Canty was on the PUP list until week 8
- starting the season Marvin Austin, recovering from back spasms that began in training camp, was limited and remained that way most of the season playing in only 8 games and totaling only 8 tackles.
- Markus Kuhn, forced into action with the losses of Austin, Rogers, and Canty, played admirably but the rookie often found himself over matched technically. His season was cut short in week 10 due to a leg injury.
- throughout the season the best known of the D-Line, Tuck and Pierre-Paul spent time dealing with nagging injuries and production fell off considerably for both. Tuck managed only 4 sacks, the lowest in his 9 year career; Pierre-Paul managed only 6.5 sacks after his breakout 16.5 sack performance in the Super Bowl season of '11.
Looking deeper beneath the numbers injuries, more than anything, were the demises of the once feared unit. The Giants Defense overall ranked a putrid 31st in total team defense amongst all NFL teams in 2012. Inside of that stat is the major drop off in sack production from 2011's total of 48 (3rd most in the NFL) to 2012's total of 33 (dropping them in rank to 22nd). If the Giants are to return to their recognition as one of the most feared defenses in the league this unit's health and production must return to form.
Let's take a closer look; share your comments and opinions on the moves and needs for 2013 at the end of the slide show: