Defensive tackle Linval Joseph emerges from the Giants tunnel.
During Joseph’s short career, he has been bookended by All-Pro defensive ends Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul, and often times his efforts go unnoticed. However, Joseph has the potential to have a breakout season in 2012.
His statistics will not jump off the page. Joseph accumulated 49 tackles and only two sacks in the regular season last year. Statistically, he may have a similar season in 2012, but the big man in the middle plays much larger than his numbers show.
When the Giants selected Joseph out of East Carolina University in the second round (46th overall) of the 2010 NFL draft, the team expected him to be their next big run-stuffer.
After playing his rookie season in the shadow of Barry Cofield, Joseph received a much larger role in the Giants’ defense during the 2011 season. He played in all 20 games (including playoffs and Super Bowl), recording at least one tackle in each contest except for Week 2 versus the St. Louis Rams.
The Giants were initially attracted to Joseph back in 2010 because of his incredible size. At 6’4” and 323 pounds, the mammoth defensive tackle often requires the attention of two offensive linemen. The only defensive player currently on the Giants’ roster weighing more than Joseph is Shaun Rogers—a free-agent acquisition from earlier this year—who tips the scales at 350 pounds.
Joseph also had the strength to compliment his size, making him an incredibly attractive prospect. At the 2010 NFL Combine, Joseph pumped out 39 reps on the bench press—second most among interior defensive linemen. With that kind of strength, Joseph has the ability to fight through the double teams he so often garners.
New York’s defense struggled until late last season, ranking in the bottom third in total yards allowed. However the Giants were slightly better against the run in 2011, ranking 19th in the NFL with 121.3 rushing yards allowed per game. That number improved to 111.0 yards per game during the Giants’ playoff run, and Joseph was a huge part of the equation.
The mammoth defensive tackle effectively clogged up the middle. Many times, Joseph was able to get penetration into the offensive backfield, disrupting the play before it even had a chance to develop. But even when Joseph did not get penetration, he rarely ever gave up ground.
Joseph—or as I like to call him, “Linval, the Immovable Object”—would create a multi-man logjam, forcing running backs to run away from his side of the field.
With multiple men accounting for Joseph, opposing offensive linemen could not get to the second level, giving the Giants' linebackers a clear shot at the ball-carrier. Thanks in large part to Joseph’s efforts; linebackers Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka each had career seasons with 136 tackles between the two of them. So even when Joseph is not the one making the play, he makes his teammates’ jobs a lot easier.
Joseph’s expertise against the run was expected, but his ability to get after the passer late last season came as a surprise to many. For a team that had some of the best edge-rushers in the league, the Giants got a big push up the middle from Joseph in the playoffs.
Let’s take a look at Joseph’s highlights/lowlights video (above) from the 2011 playoffs, which has been made available by NYGiantsCentral’s YouTube channel.
Many times, Joseph relies on brute strength to get to the quarterback (see the 5:42, 5:54 and 6:06 marks in the video for three straight plays against the Green Bay Packers in which Joseph successfully utilizes a bull-rush to get to quarterback Aaron Rodgers).
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But also notice the finesse move he puts on New England Patriots All-Pro left guard Logan Mankins at the 11:02 mark to put pressure on quarterback Tom Brady, forcing him to roll out of the pocket and throw an ill-advised deep ball. Although Joseph missed the sack, the play ended with a Chase Blackburn interception, which was just as good, if not better.
So not only is Joseph big and strong, he can also move his feet. He’ll need to improve his quickness in 2012, though—he let a few sacks slip away last year after beating his man. But if Joseph makes the necessary adjustments, he has the ability to become a legitimate pass-rushing threat on a team that is already loaded with that brand of talent.
Teams better watch out if Joseph hones his pass-rushing ability, as he has the potential to become one of the league's top interior defensive linemen.
With fellow defensive tackle Chris Canty beginning training camp on the physically unable to perform list, Joseph will get an early opportunity to stand out. He will be competing primarily with veterans Rocky Bernard and Rogers, as well as 2011 second-round draft pick Marvin Austin in camp this August.