By Craig J. Santucci | Managing Editor
I love a good nickname. It makes being a fan all that more fun and this year I am giving Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo a nickname and it shall be…the magician.
Spags is back for a second tour of duty and is challenged with the task of resurrecting the pounding, relentless defense he had in 2007 and 2008. It might just be magic if he can pull it off with the band of castoffs and unknowns he has to work with; however if anyone can make a New York Giants defense “hum” its Steve Spanuolo.
Outside the pending draft and Jason Pierre Paul, Spags has a list of defensive lineman that are primarily role players or one-dimensional, so finding just the right mix may take some tinkering.
The Spags legacy did not start off smoothly in New York as the 2007 Giants lost their first two games of the season by giving up 80 points. Even though “The Magician” had Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, he also had an unproven Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins the cast off from the Vikings and a 1st year Barry Cofield.
Eight years later Steve Spagnuolo will have to work his magic to maximize the talent on an even larger group of unproven players. Outside of JPP manufacturing pressure on the quarterback will take some creativity and maybe some “slight of hand”.
1. Jason Pierre Paul – franchise player tagged by the Giants at roughly 15 million. Outside of his break out year in 2011, JPP has been hot and cold. In 2015, JPP needs to play like a 15 million dollar player. Look for Spags to move JPP inside and outside causing mismatches on the offensive line.
2. Robert Ayers – The free agent signing was a pleasant surprise in 2014. You might even say that his snaps were cut in half due to the loyalty to Mathias Kiwanuka. After tearing a pectoral muscle one can only hope he comes to camp healthy. Ayers reminds me of younger Kiwi and Spags needs to push him to be stronger against the run.
3. DeMontre Moore – The 3rd rd. pick from Texas A&M might be the player that will most benefit from Spagnuolo being in the building. Moore has been slow to break out; however, Spags will maximize the 250 lbs DE. With the same body type as Umenyiora, Spags will put him in the position to succeed even as a pure speed edge rusher. In ’07 Osi had 40 tackles, 13 sacks and 5 forced fumbles, one of his best yrs. as a pro.
4. George Selvie – The newest free agent signing from Dallas. Selvie was a 7th round pick by the Rams in 2010. Since then he has played from St. Louis, Carolina, Jacksonville and Dallas. The well-traveled end does not get after the quarterback very often but plays the run fairly well. Because he is bigger then DeMontre Moore, Spags could use him in the Justin Tuck roll and move him inside in the NASCAR package.
NASCAR is 3 edge rushers and 1 defensive tackle. The key is to have one very strong DE that can beat a guard to inside and still stop the run.
5. Jonathan Hankins – Big Hank is an enormous man than has ability to stuff the run, while he maybe laterally challenged, Big Hank will easily become an impressive two down lineman.
6. Marcus Kuhn – Spags will like Kuhn because he has brings a nastiness to the group and should be able to a contribute against the run.
7. Cullen Jenkins – Jenkins got hurt last year so he didn’t get to make any big plays; however, the year before he was my “surprise player” of the year. With a new DC, and a healthy body Jenkins will still be one of the leaders on the defense in 2015.
8. Jay Bromley – in his 2nd year Bromley is going to have to show he belongs. Sources say he is a bit soft and will be ranked behind Jenkins, Kuhn and Hankins.
We can only hope that Spaguolo has a few players that will buy in and perform a little magic themselves.