Giants sort through defensive line depth


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Much of the attention on the New York Giants' defense this summer has focused on the secondary, where they beefed up significantly at cornerback and believe that's the strongest position group on the team. But there's no secondary that's at its best when the big guys up front aren't doing the job, and for that reason the Giants are spending time this summer figuring things out on the defensive line.

In Saturday's 20-16 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Giants' defensive line was a mixed bag, but I saw more good than bad. Some specific thoughts:

  • Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was better in this game. When the play was to his side, he was unquestionably a factor. He got into the backfield to pressure the quarterback at least once that I saw. He ran down Markus Wheaton from behind on a first-quarter end-around that looked as though it could have gone for a lot more yards than just 10. He was credited with four tackles and a hurry.

  • Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, starting in place of a still-injured Mike Patterson, showed good ability to crash the pocket from the interior. He's more or less been a run-stopper for the Giants in his short career so far, but if he can generate pressure up the middle, that will be a bonus.

  • Hankins comes off the field on third downs, and the Giants put defensive end Robert Ayers in at defensive tackle next to Cullen Jenkins and between Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka. That's the new "NASCAR" look with four pass-rushers, and Ayers said he enjoys the role. "It's something I've done in the past, but for whatever reason in Denver last year they didn't ask me to do it," he said after the game. "It's nice to be with a team that appreciates that I can do a lot of different things."

  • Jenkins seemed to struggle a bit with the Steelers' interior offensive linemen, getting pushed back on a couple of run plays in the first quarter. He needs to play stronger up front in the run game.

  • Damontre Moore is fast enough to beat these second-team offensive tackles off the line and into the backfield. I'll be interested to see whether they start giving him first-team looks in the remaining preseason games to determine whether they can give him more significant snaps once the games count.

  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who I thought was a reach in the third round and would be a developmental guy, showed up nicely in the second half against those same backup linemen. He shows an ability to break through the line and get into the backfield. He did it once to snuff out a run play and once to pressure the quarterback. Bromley's played better than expected.

  • Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn and backup defensive end Jordan Stanton each got a sack. Stanton also got credit for the forced fumble that C.J. Barnett recovered in the fourth quarter.