The New York Giants' ideal plan with their defensive tackles is to rotate them to keep them fresh. At this point, they project to have a four-man rotation at that position that includes veterans Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and young players Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn.
Coming out of minicamp, the Giants' coaches felt very good about Hankins and Kuhn, and the plan going into training camp will be to give them more reps than their veteran counterparts. The idea is to accelerate the young guys' development and also make sure the veterans get the appropriate amount of rest they need to get to Week 1 in the best possible physical condition.
"They're solid guys, solid veteran guys," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said of Jenkins and Patterson. "And they understand where they are in this stage of their careers. We'll have to take care of them through training camp, but both of those guys had outstanding offseasons. It's so hard to tell, because we're so limited in what we can do in the offseason now, but those guys are in great shape and a really good frame of mind. They've done a really good job with leadership with the younger players."
Hankins was the Giants' second-round pick in 2013 but had a tough time getting on the field for much of the season due to the depth the Giants had at defensive tackle. When he did play, he impressed his coaches with his performance and left them eager to see what he could do this year as the internal replacement for free agent Linval Joseph. Kuhn was a seventh-round pick in 2012 who appeared in 10 games as a rookie but only five last year due to injury. The Giants picked the German-born Kuhn as a project they hoped could develop into a starter-quality NFL defensive lineman, and they think that time may be arriving.
"He had an outstanding offseason, really oustanding practices, he and Hankins," Nunn said. "He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations, there wasn't a day that went by that we didn't call Markus' name out in a positive manner."
The Giants knew they were letting go of a quality young player when they let Joseph sign with Minnesota. But part of the reason they did so was because they felt they had enough talent on their roster that they could replace him. Hankins and Kuhn will get a chance in 2014 to show them whether they were right.