Justin Tuck is the heart of the defense, as he combines tenacious pass rushing abilities with run stopping prowess. Even though he is featured on a number of television commercials, he still manages to be underrated by the national media. He is a top five defensive end in the NFL.
Osi Umenyiora has had a roller coaster of a career, although the peaks have certainly outweighed the valleys. At his best, he can be one of the hardest pass rushers to contain in the league. He is not as strong against the run as Tuck, but he is not a liability. After injuries sapped his playmaking abilities, Umenyiora came back strong last season and set the record for forced fumbles. He has had some run-ins with the Giants’ front office and is no longer the fan-favorite he used to be, but he’s still a very talented defensive end.
If that was it for the defensive ends, the Giants would have a very good group of pass rushers. However, the defensive line also includes Jason Pierre Paul and free agent Mathias Kiwanuka. Whether Kiwanuka stays is up in the air right now, and smart money is on him signing with another team, but JPP has the raw talent to turn into a phenomenal defensive end. If he takes a step forward this year, he will combine with Tuck and Umenyiora to form a relentless pass rushing machine.
Dave Tollefson is solid depth and a nice“glue” player.
The defensive tackles lag significantly behind the ends, but that is not to say that the Giants are completely barren in the middle. When they were signed as free agents two years ago, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard were expected make an impact. That has not been the case, but they are still solid rotational pieces. BarryCofieldwas the team’s best defensive tackle last year, but he is likely to leave via free agency.
What this means is that a lot of the onus will fall on the duo of Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin. These two youngsters were chosen in the second round of each of the last two drafts, respectively. Joseph did not have an impact last season, but he will likely be forced into action this year. Austin missed the 2010 season atNorth Carolinadue to suspension, but I would not be surprised if he is the Giants’ rookie of the year.
Like almost every unit on every team, there are a lot of moving pieces here. It’s hard to predict how this unit will play not knowing the destinations of two valuable pieces. Still, there is so much talent and athleticism in this unit, namely in the ends, that even if Kiwanuka and Cofield are not re-signed, the defensive line should be the team’s strength.