Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora make up New York’s vicious three-headed monster at defensive end. All three of these players have been named All-Pro at some point in their career, but that doesn’t mean they can keep the Giants pass-rush afloat on their own.
If you look beyond the limelight, New York actually gets a lot of its pass-rush help from unlikely sources. In fact, 36.5 percent of the team’s sacks in 2011 were by players not named Pierre-Paul, Tuck or Umenyiora.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to have fresh legs on the field, and as a result, the Giants benefit from a ton of production out of their reserves. One particularly valuable reserve from last season, Dave Tollefson, is no longer with the team.
Tollefson accounted for five of the Giants’ 48.0 sacks last season, but this year, he’ll be chasing quarterbacks on the West Coast. Fewell will want to replace Tollefson’s production if he wants to continue to field one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushes.
But who will step up and win the job?
With no clear-cut favorite, chances are that no one player will claim the role outright. Instead, it may turn into a feeling out process—something that Fewell, who has shown flexibility with his defensive personnel in the past, will figure out as the season progresses.
As of right now, there are three primary candidates to grab hold of the Giants’ fourth defensive end role:
The Giants drafted Adrian Tracy in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL draft (184 overall). Tracy was named All-American twice (2008 and 2009) during his collegiate career at William & Mary, an FCS school.
He played defensive end in college, but when New York drafted him, the team thought the 245-pounder would be better suited to play linebacker. So far in Tracy’s short career, injuries and difficulty adjusting to a new position have prevented him from making the Giants’ active roster.
Things are looking differently in 2012, as the team has made the decision to switch Tracy back to his natural position. Now at defensive end, Tracy has a much better chance to not only make the team, but also make an impact on Sundays.
Tracy has a frame and explosive burst similar to that of Umenyiora’s, earning him the nickname “Young Osi” amongst his teammates. The 25-year-old showed in the team’s first preseason that he doesn’t just look like Umenyiora—he can play like him, too.
Tracy recorded two tackles, a sack and a QB hit against the Jaguars on August 10. His speed and motor were impressive, as he was able to disrupt the offensive backfield on multiple plays.
At the time, Tracy was the clear front-runner for the fourth defensive end position. However, a hamstring injury sustained during the Jets game has put Tracy out of action for the past week-and-a-half.
With Tracy sidelined, much of the attention has been diverted to the players trying to replace him. On Monday, Tracy sent out a warning to all his Twitter followers:
: All this talk ... Y'all can forget about me if you want to. But don't be surprised when I say "I told you so"
— N9Gi8nt (@N9Gi8nt) August 27, 2012
If you thought Tracy’s tweet displayed confidence, you haven’t heard anything. Undrafted free agent Adawale Ojomo, the team’s preseason sack leader, has been talking a pretty big game lately.
Ojomo didn't see much action against the Jaguars, but after recording two sacks against the Jets and another against the Bears, the young pass-rusher is boasting with confidence.
Regarding the Giants’ impending matchup with the Patriots in the final preseason game of the year, Ojomo told Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger, “I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a couple more sacks this week.”
Ojomo has quickly become the fan favorite. At 6’4” and 270 pounds, the former Miami Hurricane fits the typical mold for a defensive end better than Tracy does. Much like Pierre-Paul (only not to the same degree), Ojomo’s size is complemented nicely by incredible athleticism.
If he can continue to impress in the Giants’ final preseason game, the team may decide to keep him around. If not, it will probably develop the young defensive end’s talent on the practice squad.
Fellow UDFA Matt Broha is the dark horse in the race for the fourth defensive end position. With Ojomo receiving a lot of the attention lately, Broha’s consistent play has slipped between the cracks.
Broha, who played his college ball at Louisiana Tech, had two sacks in the team’s first two preseason games. But at only 255 pounds, Broha is still trying to prove that he will not be a liability when defending against the run.
Although Broha has received plenty of snaps in the third and fourth quarter this preseason, he has only accumulated four total tackles through three games. He will need to really stand out against the Patriots if he wants to move forward in this competition.
Like Tracy and Ojomo, Broha has the confidence that he can get the job done. In a recent interview with Alex Raskin of CBSSports.com, Broha said, “I obviously can” when asked if he can effectively defend the run.
“I’ve shown it in the preseason. I feel good about it and I get better each week at it,” Broha added.
Ultimately, Broha is a long shot to land the team’s fourth defensive end role. He may become a solid NFL player in time, but right now, he’s not quite ready to crack the Giants’ 53-man roster.