Throughout their history, the Giants' championship formula consisted of a strong pass rush. Since they last appeared in the postseason in 2011 , winning Super Bowl XLVI, the Big Blue has had anything but a wrecking crew up front on defense. They have not gotten consistent pressure on the QB off the edge as they would have liked.
Jason Pierre-Paul, once a dominating force, has been felled by a bad back and shoulder. He's had a difficult time as has another former first-round pick, Mathias Kiwanuka. Both have posted lukewarm numbers the past two seasons.
Last year, with the Giants seeking to move on from an underperforming Justin Tuck, they drafted Texas A&M's Damontre Moore, an
accomplished sacker in one of college football's top leagues - the SEC. Moore injured his shoulder early on and did not factor into the Giants' DE rotation until the very end of the season.
This year, JPP vows he will get himself righted and resemble the player that recored 16.5 sacks in 2011 when he was named an All-Pro. He's been crowing about how he'll show everyone that he's not finished. Giants DL coach Robert Nunn was asked last week at minicamp if JPP discusses his plan for redemption with him.
"We talked a little bit about that but really our conversations are more from day-to-day, what we’re working on and going back and looking at some things that have been successful for him, things that weren’t successful so that’s mainly our conversations. But he’s been impressive. It’s too early to tell until we get the pads on and see where it goes," Nunn said.
JPP has lost weight and knows his days of getting by on natural ability alone may be over. He's got to use all the tools in his box going forward. He's prepared physically and mentally for the upcoming season.
"I think he’s in as good of shape as he’s been since I’ve been here," said Nunn. "He’s in good shape, good condition, really worked hard from the end of last season. He hasn’t indicated anything to me as far as any setbacks and so I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing him react when the real bullets start flying."
JPP is not the only player Nunn wants to see hit the field in earnest this summer. Moore and another second-year pro, DT Jon Hankins, are players the Giants are counting on to inject some life back into the line:
"I thought Damontre really took a step forward and Hankins really took off at the end of last year and has done a great job in the offseason working out, coming in in really good condition and he’s really given them a chance to, both of those guys, have really given themselves a chance to, once we get in pads… we’ve got to see. They’ve got to go out there and do it. But I like where they are at now."
With Linval Joseph leaving via free agency this spring to Minnesota, the Giants used their third round selection in this year's draft on Syracuse DT Jay Bromley. Nunn spoke of Bromley's progress thus far:
"You know, he’s come in very willing to learn. He’s very green, very raw but hey, he’s got to get started. Those guys are the ones that really suffer as far as how limited we are with what we can do. He needs all the work he can get but he’s shown enough that hey, he’s got to show up when the pads come on. We’ll see when that happens."
GM Jerry Reese has been stockpiling defensive lineman the past two years. This spring, in the UDFA market, he may have scored big with South Carolina DT Kelcy Quarles. They also signed DE Robert Ayers, a former first round selection of the Denver Broncos who claims his numbers were low because wasn't used correctly.
Last year, Reese signed two veteran DTs as a fallback plan: Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, who are both back this season after successfully reestablishing the Giants' run defense in 2013.
"They’re solid guys, solid veteran guys. And they understand where they are in this stage of their career and we’ll have to take care of them through training camp," said Nunn. "Both of those guys have had outstanding offseasons, I thought Mike came in here in really good shape. Cullen’s always been in good shape ever since I’ve been around him. We’ll see where it goes. Again, it’s so hard to tell, we’re so limited in what we can do in the offseason now but they’re in great shape and a really good frame of mind and have done a really good job with leadership with the younger players. We’ll see where it goes."
Then there is Markus Kuhn, a third-year player whose career was sidetracked by an ACL tear. He's back and the Giants would like to keep him in their plans. Kuhn has gained some ground this spring.
"He had an outstanding offseason, really outstanding practices," said Nunn. "He and Hankins, they’ll definitely get more reps in training camp than Mike P and Cullen if everything goes as planned. He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations Markus was, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t call his name out in a positive manner."
Nunn has been given the horses, no doubt. The hope is that JPP and Kiwi can get the pass rush started with Moore and Ayers getting reps in the rotation as well. The inside of the line is the strength, however, with Hankins, Kuhn, Patterson, Jenkins, Bromley and Quarles providing stability vs the run and pushing into the pocket.