Giants roster preview: Defensive line

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
10:00
AM ET
Two weeks ago, we took a position-by-position look at the Giants' offense heading into training camp. We'll do the same for the defense this week, one position group per day. Today's edition looks at the defensive line.

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Evan PinkusThe Giants need Jason Pierre-Paul to become a star again on the defensive line.
Projected starters: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Johnathan Hankins

Projected backups: DE Robert Ayers, DE Damontre Moore, DT Mike Patterson, DT Markus Kuhn, DT Jay Bromley

Others competing for roster spots: DE Kendrick Adams, DE Emmanuel Dieke, DE Jordan Stanton, DE Kerry Wynn, DT Everett Dawkins, DT Kelcy Quarles

Pierre-Paul is the key to the defense, no matter how much money the Giants spent on cornerback this offseason. He's the one pass-rusher they have who they've seen perform at an elite level, and with Justin Tuck gone off to Oakland, the pass rush will depend on Pierre-Paul's ability to stay healthy and perform the way he did in 2011 and early 2012. If that doesn't happen, they have major issues trying to fill in for him and make up for that production with underwhelming or questionable options.

Kiwanuka's penciled in atop the depth chart at the other DE spot, though he could be surpassed by Ayers or even Moore. Ayers has proven something as a run-stopping defensive end in Denver, though he's never piled up sacks. Moore is a second-year player with a lot of athletic ability and a very high motor who needs to progress in terms of learning the defense and playing with discipline. He's a helper on special teams, where he likes to block kicks and punts, and if he can develop enough to be used as either as a starter or a situational pass-rusher, that'd be a fun thing for the Giants' defense. Kiwanuka is best off as a rotational player, and ideally Ayers or Moore would show enough to allow them to continue to use him that way.

Jenkins is the sure-thing starter at defensive tackle right now, and the hope is that second-year man Hankins is ready to take over Linval Joseph's starting spot with Joseph now in Minnesota. They also like Kuhn's upside, and they'll give him a look in camp, while Patterson was a strong contributor as a backup and rotational guy last season. The goal is to have at least four defensive tackles they can rotate in and out, though they're likely to keep at least five on the roster while Bromley, this year's third-round pick, develops. Of the "others," Quarles is the most interesting to watch as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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