Retooled And Ready To Go
Defensive Line Coach: Mike Waufle (5th Year)
Defensive Quality Control: Al Holcomb (1st year)
Defensive Coordinator: Bill Sheridan (1st year)
Ends: Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora (Starters), Mathias Kiwanuka, Dave Tollefson, Robert Henderson, Maurice Evans
Tackles: Chris Canty, Barry Cofield (Starters), Rocky Bernard, Fred Robbins, Jay Alford, Jeremy Clark
Ernie Accorsi always said, "You can never have enough pass rushers." The Giants are trying to prove him wrong by bringing in any and every able body they can find. The Giants felt they needed to get the pass rush back to to 2007 production levels, when they led the NFL in sacks with 53.
Last year, without injured Pro Bowl DE Osi Umenyiora and future Hall-of-Famer Michael Strahan, the pass rush declined, dropping to 42 sacks, which was good enough for sixth in the league, but way below what the team is accustomed to. It's no secret the Giants are tougher to beat when their DL rotation is going great guns.
Justin Tuck led the Giants in sacks in 2008 with 12. He has become one of the league's best defensive ends and the former Notre Damer has developed into a leader both on and off the field. Osi Umenyiora missed the entire 2008 season with a torn lateral meniscus. He remains a starter unless his recovery from that injury holds him back. Mathias Kiwanuka will see plenty of action as well. Last season, Kiwi registered a career high nine sacks filling in for Umenyiora.
Dave Tollefson has provided steady play and is becoming a valuable part of the rotation. Robert Henderson spent last season on the practice squad. The Giants will be interested to see how much this former sixth pick has improved since last training camp.
Maurice Evans is an interesting undrafted free agent rookie out of Penn State. The highly-recruited 20-year-old from Brooklyn chose to forego his senior year to enter the draft. He was not chosen because of off-field issues even though he was a pre-season All-American selection.
The Giants are thrilled with the way Barry Cofield has worked out. The fourth-year man out of Northwestern has been as steady as they come, playing in every game since he got here in 2006. He had a knee scoped in the off-season that concerned the Giants to the point where they felt they needed to acquire depth. He will also be a free agent this season.
Chris Canty comes over as a free-agent from Dallas. The 6'7" Canty will be taking the reins from 12-year veteran Fred Robbins, who is also coming off knee surgery. There were rumors the Giants might cut Robbins, but thus far they have kept him on the roster.
Jay Alford has also played well for the club. The Penn Stater has not missed a game since being drafted in 2007, where he also recorded a sack on Tom Brady in the final drive of Super Bowl XLII.
Rocky Bernard was brought in to solidify the rotation after a seven-year stint with Seattle. Bernard can provide pressure up the middle and will be a valuable piece in most passing situations. Jeremy Clark, in his second year out of Alabama, began to see action late in 2008 and will be given a long look again in camp this season.
As stated, when this unit gets cooking, they overwhelm opponents and take over games the fourth quarter. The Giants may have won 12 games last year, but they only won one game in the final five. That was due to the lack of depth and production on the defensive line. The return of Umenyiora and influx of new bodies should get them back to that jailbreak-style rush that won them a Super Bowl two years ago. Coach Mike Waufle now has enough in the arsenal again to get that done.