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Giants getting defensive in this draft

4/24/2010
The Giants strengthened their defense by drafting Jason Pierre-Paul, Chad Jones and Linval Joseph. Cliff Welch/Icon SMI

Giants coach Tom Coughlin began the offseason by firing his defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. He hired Perry Fewell to take over that side of the ball based on the assistant's reputation for being aggressive and fiery.

And on the first two days of the draft, Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese sent another powerful message to their players. They will not simply keep their fingers crossed that key players on the defense will have bounce-back seasons. They may just replace them all together. On Thursday night, Reese selected South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 15 overall based in no small part on his freakish athleticism. The Giants already have a couple players who are built like Pierre-Paul -- Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora -- but that didn't matter to Reese and Coughlin.

They selected three defensive players during the first two days of the draft because they're determined to regain their identity. Coughlin was embarrassed that his team was blown off the line of scrimmage during a miserable 2010 season. He tried benching players down the stretch, but that only made him look more desperate. The Giants didn't have enough depth at safety when Kenny Phillips injured his knee in Week 2 against the Cowboys. Reese vowed to never let something like that happen again and that's one of the reasons he selected LSU safety Chad Jones with the 76th overall pick Friday. If Phillips isn't fully recovered by the start of the season, the Giants should be covered with Deon Grant and Jones waiting in the wings.

Last offseason, Reese added defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard in free agency. Canty suffered an injury in training camp and he was hobbled throughout the season. I'm not sure if Bernard had any excuse for his awful season in which he spent a lot of time backpedaling. The Giants were blown off the ball at the line of scrimmage, which made it tough for linebackers to make plays. That's why Reese went after 6-foot-4, 319-pound defensive tackle Linval Joseph out of East Carolina in the second round. He should fit in immediately at left defensive tackle, where he'll try to overpower guards like Fred Robbins did in 2007. Joseph has a 31-inch vertical and a penchant for blowing up running backs at the line of scrimmage.

"I like to stop the run," said Joseph. "I like to hit the running back, I don’t why. I just like to hit the running back. So, I like to play inside. I feel comfortable inside. But I also like getting outside and trying to hit the quarterback."

Coughlin talked briefly Friday about his vision for Joseph, who bypassed his senior season at East Carolina.

"What we were able to do was to penetrate and of course to keep people off the linebacker level," Coughlin said, referring to the 2007 and 2008 seasons. "No one was being pushed back into the linebacker depth. That is what has to be re-established again -- keep some people clean so they can go to the ball carrier"

Of course, Giants fans might be curious to know if Reese and Coughlin are interested in finding a middle linebacker. That was certainly an area of need, but it wasn't addressed on the first two days. For now, the Giants are more interested in regaining their identity up front.

And if someone doesn't like it (Osi), that's too bad. Reese has always talked about how the Giants want to create competition in the offseason and training camp. He doesn't believe in handouts -- even when players and their agents go to great lengths for guarantees.

The Giants are still a work in progress, but they took a major step Thursday and Friday.