Monday, June 18, 2012
Position series: Giants defensive line
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
Our position-by-position analysis of the NFC East's four teams wraps up its day on the defensive lines with a look at the most decorated one in the entire league -- that of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Osi Umenyiora had nine sacks as Jason Pierre-Paul's backup.
Potential strength: In a league that prizes the pass rush more than it ever has, there's simply no team that can match the Giants' group's combination of talent, depth and championship experience. Umenyiora could start for almost any other team in the league -- 4-3 or 3-4 defense, and he's a reserve on the Giants behind Tuck and the sky's-the-limit ability of Pierre-Paul. Mathias Kiwanuka could be a starting 4-3 end for someone, but he plays outside linebacker on the defensive end-rich Giants, who can still move him up to the front line (and play Tuck at defensive tackle) when they want to really make a quarterback sweat. There is some concern about a loss of depth with Dave Tollefson having left in free agency, but assuming Tuck and Umenyiora are healthier in 2012 than they were in 2011, they should be able to cover that loss.
Potential weakness: Canty and Joseph are underrated players, likely because of their proximity to the superstars at the ends. But overall, the Giants weren't great against the run last year. They ranked 19th in the league in rush defense, and there were times during the first half of the year when they looked as though they were being pushed around physically by stronger offensive linemen. Like almost everything about the 2011-12 Giants, that issue got better in December and January. But they signed the veteran Rogers and brought back Bernard to make sure they had enough depth on the interior. The key to the whole thing could turn out to be Austin, the 2011 second-round pick who's missed the past two seasons (one college, one pro) due to injuries and could be a huge impact guy if he (a) can see the field and (b) isn't too rusty from all of that time off.
Keep an eye on: Tracy. He was a linebacker last year, but injury denied him a chance to make much of an impact in spite of a great opportunity to do so. This offseason, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week, the Giants have been working Tracy as a defensive end, and they like him there. Fewell named Tracy and Trattou as candidates to take Tollefson's spot. And while Tollefson wouldn't have played as much as he did last year if the front-line guys had been healthy, it's possible that turns out to be an important spot. Watch Tracy in the preseason and see how he takes to playing up front.