The NFL better be on notice. The off-season "New Sack City" moves made by the Giants have them poised to return to defensive dominance.
Led by 2008 NFL First-Team All-Pro defensive Justin Tuck, 2008 Sports Illustrated First-Team All-Pro Fred Robbins, and 2005 NFL First-Team All-Pro Osi Umenyiora, who is returning from a season-ending knee injury, the team is looking at the upcoming season as a return to its potent speed rushing ways after a lackluster, disappointing, no-sack performance against the Eagles in the 2008 NFC Divisional Playoffs.
The loss reflected how much the Giants rely on pressure as a philosophy. With Donovan McNabb under no duress, the 10-year veteran executed a game plan of ball control and solid third-down efficiency, converting 50 percent of the time.
Justin Tuck battled both the flu and constant double-teams and was ineffective, while 2006 first-rounder—Mathias Kiwanuka—did not step up and provide the rush that Osi Umenyiora gave the Giants during their Super Bowl run.
The team was also let down by young veteran tackles Barry Cofield and Jay Alford who registered no sacks and did not get enough up the middle push to disrupt the McNabb in the passing pocket.
The decision not to sign outside linebacker Kawika Mitchell, a relentless up-the-gut blitzer with great closing speed to the ball, ended up a bad call for a team searching for a rush.
GM Jerry Reese took no time addressing this need, signing Rocky Bernard from the Seattle Seahawks, who generated a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2005, and Chris Canty, a blossoming 6'7" athlete from the Dallas Cowboys.
The moves are consistent with the Giant philosophy of signing tackles with quick sturdy feet with the ability to make moves into pass rushing creases.
The increased competition along with the return of Umenyiora should give Tuck, the Giants most versatile performer, the needed relief from the double-team and should return the group to the good old days of 2007, when they tied the league-record for sacks in a game, (12), and led the NFL with 54 sacks.
The Giants D-line has an average age of 27.1 and is now in its prime. The Giant brain trust is expecting them to be the centerpiece of the defense and with these additions, possibly, do something no other team has done - have four players with 9 or more sacks from the defensive line.
The 2007 Super Bowl team was the second team in league history to have three players with 9 or more sacks—Umenyiora (13), Tuck (10), and the now-retired Michael Strahan (9).
The first team?
The 1985 Giants. That team featured Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor (13), Leonard Marshall (15.5), and George Martin (10). Both teams won a Super Bowl.
This year Tuck, Umenyiora, and Kiwanuka, (8.0 sacks in 2008), could repeat this feat, with either Robbins, Bernard, and Canty emerging as the fourth candidate to break the record.