Justin Trattou, a UDFA out of Florida last summer, is a leading candidate to replace the departed Dave Tollefson as the Giants' fourth defensive end.
When Dave Tollefson left for Oakland via free agency this spring, it appeared on the surface to be a minor loss. Well, it isn't. Tollefson was a valuable part of both the Giants' defensive line rotation and their special teams. He will be missed.
Tollefson was a smart, agressive player who perfectly complemented the other, more heralded members of the d-line: Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. Now, they are scouring their roster for his replacement.
The obvious option would be for Mathias Kiwanuka to move back to end from his OLB position, where he serves as the "joker" in several of DC Perry Fewell's defensive packages.
"Obviously losing Dave was a blow for us, but we do have a plan and Kiwi will rotate and play some defensive end," Fewell said at minicamp last month. "More? I don’t know, that remains to be seen. He’s definitely going to be in that rotation."
Of course, the Giants would prefer to keep Kiwi right where is, but putting him back at DE sure makes sense to me. If they choose not to move him back permanently and just spot him on occasion, they will need a fourth wheel on that line at end. The two players next up for that spot are Justin Trattou and Adrian Tracy.
More from Fewell: "Since Dave Tollefson, he was mentioned earlier, he is gone, we’re looking to fill that spot, that role. So a guy like Trattou, a guy like Tracy, we lost Dave and Kiwi is always an alternative choice to go there, but if one of those guys can come on, then we don’t have to tax Kiwi that way. That’s how you look at those guys and that’s what we’re trying to find out. Can those guys fill that role that Dave Tollefson left...."
Who will it be? From our colleague at Inside Football, Pat Triana:
It’s not quite as sexy as say the second running back or the third receiver or, if you disagree with my Most Overrated Camp battle choice, but the battle for the fourth defensive end between Justin Trattou and Adrian Tracy is huge on several levels.
The winner of this battle will replace the departed Dave Tollefson, the guy who was good for 19 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, six quarterback hits, five sacks and one pass defensed last year. Those might not sound like gaudy numbers, but they were a part of the defense’s pass rush production and cannot be dismissed.
There’s another reason , though, why this battle should get a little more attention than it’s been getting. Should Trattou and Tracy struggle, the likely solution would be to move Mathias Kiwanuka to that spot. While Kiwanuka will continue to play with his hand in the dirt in some packages – he’ll likely return as a member of the Four Aces pass rushing package as one of the defensive ends – I’m sure the coaches would much prefer to put Kiwanuka on the line according to a plan and not according to necessity. With the latter, that could potentially disrupt things in the linebacking unit if no one emerges as a clear backup on the strongside.
So who has the edge in this battle? Right now, I’d have to go with Tracy only because he has a little more versatility, in that he can play both standing up and with his hand in the dirt.
I personally like Trattou only because he's a natural DE. Tracy, as Patty points out, is "versatile" and has been here longer but Trattou is bigger and has actually played in games where Tracy has not.