Draft preview: Giants defense/special teams

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
12:00
PM ET
At the end of the Giants' failed 2012 title defense, Jerry Reese made it clear that he felt the roster was not "that far off" from contending again.

But the disappointed general manager said his team "will look a little differently" in 2013. As the Giants near next week's draft, Reese's defense will definitely sport a different look.

Osi Umenyiora, Kenny Phillips, Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn are gone.

Former Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are now Giants run-stuffers. Dan Connor is projected to start at middle linebacker and Aaron Ross is back in the secondary.

Despite cap constraints, Reese made a concerted effort to try to fortify a defense that finished 31st overall and 25th against the run last season. That effort will continue next week when Reese will add more defensive players.

When Reese selected running back David Wilson and wide receiver Rueben Randle last year, it was the first time the Giants did not draft a defensive player in the first two rounds since 2004.

It would be a surprise if Reese goes offense again with his first two picks. While the Giants have a need at offensive line and could opt to take a lineman early, Reese can use another pass-rusher.

Umenyiora is gone and Justin Tuck is entering the final year of his deal. And we know how much Reese values his defensive ends and how he has no issue spending a first-round pick on one.

The Giants pick 19th overall and it remains to be seen what the caliber of defensive ends will be when Reese is on the clock.

Ends like BYU's Ezekiel Ansah and LSU's Barkevious Mingo are expected to be long gone. But Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, UCLA's Datone Jones, SMU's Margus Hunt and LSU's Sam Montgomery are among the defensive ends who could go in the first two rounds.

If Reese feels the quality of pass-rushers available at 19 are not that much better than what he might be able to get in the second round, the GM could opt to plug another area at 19.

The Giants are stocked at defensive tackle with Linval Joseph, Jenkins, Patterson, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin and Markus Kuhn. But Reese has never been one to shy away from taking the best player available on his board, regardless of position, and the defensive tackle position is considered to be deep in this draft.

But Reese has other areas of concern on defense. The cornerback play was shaky last season and the future at the position remains a concern with Corey Webster, Ross and Terrell Thomas, who is making a third comeback from an ACL injury, all on one-year deals.

So drafting a cornerback, potentially high, to go with young corners Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley makes sense for the future. That's why Washington’s Desmond Trufant, who could be available at 19, is intriguing. Houston's D.J. Hayden, Boise State's Jamar Taylor, UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay all could be options in the first three rounds. And of course, there's LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, who comes with his share of talent and baggage.

The Giants will move forward this season at linebacker without Boley and Blackburn –- two players who helped the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2011 and were valuable extensions of Perry Fewell on the field in the past.

Fans will continue their annual call for Reese to add a stud linebacker early. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o have been linked often by draft prognosticators to the Giants. But the franchise hasn't spent a first-round pick on a linebacker since selecting Carl Banks in 1984. So if the Giants opt to pass on linebacker in the first round, they could look to take one later in the draft.

The Giants seem set at safety for this season with Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Will Hill, Ryan Mundy and Tyler Sash. But Brown is playing this season on a one-year restricted free-agent tender and it is always possible Reese could draft a safety for the future with Phillips gone and Rolle's contract expiring after 2014.

On special teams, the Giants are moving on without Lawrence Tynes after signing kickers Josh Brown, David Buehler and kicker/punter Jake Rogers in the offseason. Punter Steve Weatherford and long-snapper Zak DeOssie return.

The Giants, though, can always use a dynamic punt returner and they could look to add a receiver or cornerback with return skills in the draft with Domenik Hixon gone. A returner on kickoffs also makes sense since Wilson's workload at running back will increase.

Tell us how you feel about the defense and special teams entering the draft.
Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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