It’s no secret the Giants defensive line was the staple for both Super Bowl runs in New York for 2007 and 2011. From Michael Strahan to Justin Tuck, and now, Jason Pierre-Paul, New York has boasted some of the best athletes along their front line-but last season it all went south.
The trio of Tuck, Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora only racked up a combined 16.5 sacks last season, a sharp decline from the 30.5 total they set back in 2011.
The lack of pressure exposed the secondary and lead to a giant letdown last season. (pun intended)
New York ended up finishing 31st in total defense, 28th against the pass, and 25th against the run, not numbers fans have come to expect. Allowing a franchise-record 6,134 yards last season doesn’t exactly scream Super Bowl.
With Umenyiora going off the Atlanta, the Giants will need Tuck and JPP to pick up the pace heading into next season. New York seems likely to switch the two from their normal sides, putting Tuck on the right side and Pierre-Paul on the left. With Osi out of the mix, the two will see more playing time, and will need to prepare this off season for the extra workload.
Last season Pierre-Paul couldn’t even keep up with being a part-time starter, as he showed up out of shape and overweight for the season, which could explain his drastic drop in production. He went from 16.5 sacks to 6.5, and 72 total quarterback pressures to 55.
With that said, the Giants still boast two of the top defensive duos in the game. The depth at the position could be a different story, as Adrian Tracy and Adewale Ojomo are still raw and unproven. The line between high hopes and reality shouldn’t be blurred here, so don’t expect the Giants to keep making diamonds just because they have a ton of coal.
Mathias Kiwanuka is a different story, as the hybrid defensive end could be moved around to share the workload, but his talents may be better suited for linebacker this season than anything else.
New York will look to the draft to secure some depth, and quite possibly a replacement for impending free agent Justin Tuck whose contract is up after the season.
Florida State’s Bjoern Werner could be a possibility in the first round for the Giants even though they have more pressing concerns at linebacker, cornerback, and offensive line. Werner is above average against the run, something Umenyiora was never good at.
Alex Okafor of Texas, and Sam Montgomery of LSU could be second round possbilities as well.
Okafor is worth a second round selection because of his size and ability. The 6-5 senior registered 12.5 sacks last season, and showed steady improvement throughout college. He has an active motor, a trait the Giants love, and can defend well against both the run and the pass.
The Giants will need to address the position at some point in the draft, as they failed to retain Umenyiora, and never signed any real depth behind Pierre-Paul and Tuck. If the Giants want to have any success next season, it all lies on that defensive line, but it all starts with their star duo living up to their reputations.