With the initial "final"-53 having been announced on Saturday, the New York Football Giants still have some lingering position/depth questions as week 1 of the 2013 NFL Season is almost finally upon us.
As of Monday afternoon, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (PUP), rookie defensive end Damontre Moore, defensive tackle Mike Patterson, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, defensive end Justin Trattou and defensive end/line leader, Justin Tuck were left on the roster to pressure at least 13 different quarterbacks this year.
In four “meaningless” preseason games, the defensive line (the aforementioned players minus JPP and Kuhn who were on PUP) accounted for 52 tackles, 24 assists and 9.5 sacks. Sure, these were tryouts for some against other players that may not make their respective teams, but that isn’t where this is going. Most of these players are returning in some capacity for the Giants (except Jenkins, Patterson and Hankins — all new) and know how defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and defensive line coach Robert Nunn want things: an improvement from last year’s maddeningly disappointing 33 total sacks as an entire defensive unit.
Along with starters Tuck, Pierre-Paul, Joseph and Jenkins, the Giants are looking to not only add true depth, but players that are situational for the pass as well as the run. As vanilla as the preseason gets, the unit showed a few vastly different looks, which weren’t on a trial basis — getting those pass-rushers on the field, but also disguising them. A major goal during the immediate offseason was to improve on stopping the run. A few of these big guys up front can (and have) done that (think Shaun Rogers). The second improvement has come in the form of gap control. Most of the first two lines of defensive players are (so far) maintaining their lanes.
Next was that previously-mentioned missing pass rush. Some of the guys fighting for a roster spot are gap-stop big-heavies that can also rush. Mike Patterson has come out swinging with 4 tackles, 5 assists and 1.5 sacks. Those stats are better than his from last year in five games with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ernie Accorsi’s “you can never have too many pass rushers” comes to mind at this time. Justin Trattou picked up right where he left off before getting injured last season and ending up on Injured Reserve (IR). 5 solo, 3 assists and 3 sacks isn’t poor when you’re in rotation with these other hungry guys.
Earlier last week, Mathias Kiwanuka came out with a bold and confident statement about the capabilities that can come from a Giants defensive line that has seemingly endless possibilities.
“Up front, I think we have the ability to take this to the Super Bowl. We have all the ability we’ve had in years past, said Kiwanuka. “We just have to put it together…when we have all of our pass rushers on the field, teams have to make a decision on who they’re going to leave single-blocked. We always feel like that one individual who gets that single should win.”
Most of us rabid defense-loving Giants fans feel the same way, Kiwi, and expect it this season.
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