Thursday, April 25, 2013

New York Giants Draft Preview: Defensive Line

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)

The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, as we get closer to the primetime opening round April 25th.  This will be the seventh part in a series where I will discuss the current and needs for the upcoming NFL Draft for the Giants.

The seventh position I will take a look at is the defensive line.

Currently on the depth chart for the Giants is Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Adrian Tracy, Adewale Ojomo, Justin Trattou and Matt Broha at defensive end and Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin, Markus Kuhn, Bobby Skinner and Michael Jasper at defensive tackle.  From last season the Giants will not have defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who signed with the Falcons and defensive tackles Chris Canty, who signed with the Ravens and Rocky Bernard, who is a free agent.

The defensive line is usually the strength of the Giants roster, but last season they struggled to generate much pressure on opposing offenses and the team suffered.  Specifically, the Giants were weak in the interior and focused on that during the offseason.  Last season the Giants ranked 25th against the run, so they added some people to help that while subtracting from a rival as they brought over former Eagles Jenkins and Patterson. 

Homegrown talent Joseph should only continue getting better for the Giants with even more talent surrounding him after totaling 59 tackles and four sacks last season.  What was a weakness last season is now a strength for the Giants, as the depth at defensive tackle cannot be rivaled by many if any other teams in the NFL.

The sack production had a major drop last season and is a big reason the Giants struggled so mightily on defense during parts of the season, getting only 33 after getting 48 the previous season.  Last season Pierre-Paul only had 6.5 sacks, so the Giants will need to find a way to take the target off of him and let him operate.  A bounce back season from Tuck would also be nice to see as he struggled last season fighting injury problems en route to only four sacks.  Umenyiora’s departure hurts more on paper than on the field as his production should be able to be filled by Kiwanuka and one of the younger players in Tracy, Ojomo or Trattou stepping up. 

The last time the Giants drafted a defensive lineman was in 2012 when they drafted Kuhn in the seventh round; don’t be surprised if they draft one much earlier this season.  with Umenyiora gone and Tuck in the final year of his contract adding a young defensive lineman to groom would be the direction the Giants could head in as adding a player through free agency is unlikely with their money going towards Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz presumably. 

After BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah and LSU’s Barkevious Mingo, both of whom are expected to go in the top 10 and not be around when the Giants are on the clock, the next best defensive lineman is widely considered to be Florida State’s Bjoern Werner.  Werner had 13 sacks last season and passes the eye test of exactly the type of the player the Giants would add to their roster.

Other pass rushers to keep an eye on later in the draft for the Giants is UCLA’s Datone Jones, Werner’s running mate at Florida State Cornellius “Tank” Carradine or SMU’s Margus Hunt.  All are considered possible first round picks and are players the Giants could target as the depth of impact pass rushers is not the greatest this season.

Defensive tackle is set for this season, but beyond has question marks like defensive end for the Giants.  Joseph is in the last year of his contract, while Patterson and Rogers are on one-year deals making the future very cloudy at the defensive line for the Giants past this season.  On a scale of 1-10, defensive end ranks as a 7.  There are some legitimate questions Jerry Reese and the Giants have to answer about the future of this defensive line, the machine that really makes the Giants go.

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