Commentary

Giants Draft: Survival of the biggest

While NFC East gets quicker, G-Men keep 'big' in Big Blue with Hankins, Moore

Updated: April 27, 2013, 12:51 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Half of the NFC East is getting faster, quicker and more deceptive.

While the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles are going with the trendy and deceptively quick offenses that are all the rage these days, the New York Giants are keeping it old school and making a concerted effort to get bigger and stronger up front.

With their first three picks in the draft, the Giants drafted nearly 900 pounds of linemen. Following his first-round pick of versatile offensive lineman Justin Pugh, Jerry Reese focused on his defensive line Friday by adding Ohio State's space-eating defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and Texas A&M's productive defensive end Damontre Moore with the team's second and third-round picks.

[+] EnlargeDefensive lineman Johnathan Hankins
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesOhio State defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins adds bulk to the Giants' defense.

Co-owner John Mara said earlier this offseason that he wanted to see the Giants get stronger in the trenches. Mara felt the Giants got pushed around a bit too much last year, especially down the stretch when they faltered.

So after drafting skill players like David Wilson and Rueben Randle high last year, the Giants went back to what they typically do in drafts -- add to their front line on both sides and focus on defense.

"Yeah, for us, for me, that is where it starts -- up front," head coach Tom Coughlin said. "And you have to continue to develop and build. Be strong up there -- competitive."

The Giants want to win the physical battle, especially in December and January. They won two Super Bowls by dominating the trenches. Even though they will go as far as Eli Manning can take them, the Giants want to control the line of scrimmage, especially on defense where they finished 31st overall last season.

"We are in the NFC East," Coughlin explained. "We do have two teams now -- one of which has established itself as running the option. However, if you look at their offense, the plays that hurt you the most are the power-type plays -- the dive, the zone run, and of course when the quarterback keeps the football.

"In Philadelphia that will change a little bit as well," Coughlin continued. "But we still have Dallas and the Giants in this division that are primarily the run game that we have to come to acknowledge here as the professional football running game."

The Giants couldn't stop the run last season. That's why they jumped on the 6-2, 320-pound wide body known as "Big Hank" from Ohio State. The Giants had a first-round grade on Hankins, 21, and hope he can complement more agile defensive tackles like Cullen Jenkins and Linval Joseph. Joseph is also entering the final year of his deal.

Reese, who drafted a defensive tackle in the second round for the third time in the past four drafts, made a concerted effort to add more muscle and size in his defensive middle by signing Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Shaun Rogers in free agency.

"If you don't have big guys, it's hard to win in this league," Reese said.

The Giants can use reinforcements at the linebacker level and in the secondary, but they always start with what they have up front. They want to be stout against the run and they love their pass rushers.

They hope Moore can be next in a growing line of successful pass rushers to follow in the footsteps of Michael Strahan.

The 6-5, 250-pound defensive end was considered by many to be a second-round talent, but he slipped to the Giants in the third. The Giants like his effort on game days, but Coughlin believes Moore needs to improve his practice habits. Also, teams may have shied away from him because of a marijuana possession arrest in 2011, a slow 40 time at the combine (4.95) and his maturity level. Moore is only 20 and will learn from the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka.

"Some people may have gotten scared off a little bit in the combine when he ran so slow," said Marc Ross, team director of college scouting. "A Terrell Suggs, a Trent Cole, a Derrick Burgess, those are guys who ran really slow but played fast on the tape."

The Giants have seen how fast Robert Griffin III is in person now and have an idea of what they will be dealing with once the Redskins quarterback gets healthy again. Nobody truly knows yet what Chip Kelly will have in store for opponents at Philadelphia besides his desire for speed.

Coughlin has great respect for the kind of blazing speed that has burned his team at times over the past three years. But he's going to stick with what has worked for him -- size, strength and numbers in the trenches first, complemented by the skill players the Giants already have surrounding Manning.

On Friday night, Coughlin and the Giants went all defense, hoping size will slow down opposing speed at the line of scrimmage.

"You have to continue to build," Coughlin said. "We were 31st in the league on defense. I think that is enough said."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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