When the season ended, the defensive end position initially didn’t seem like that big of a concern. However, recent events have pushed it closer to the top as far as needs go.
The first thing that is a concern is the recent news of Damontre Moore’s shoulder surgery, which was reported by Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger.
While it’s not known exactly when Moore had the “minor” surgery, he expressed optimism to Orr about being able to train and add on 15 pounds of muscle to his frame, even if he’s not cleared to lift weights just yet.
Then there was the news to come out during Super Bowl week about Justin Tuck’s plans to test the free-agency market.
“I’ve never been in this situation before, and it’s a great opportunity for myself,” Tuck told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t see what the market is, and I will.”
As Hubbuch pointed out in his article, Tuck’s sudden curiosity about testing the free-agent market is a “far different cry” from what Tuck told reporters at the end of the season when he said that he wanted to retire as a Giant.
Tuck, who had planned to meet with general manager Jerry Reese after Reese gave his year-end press conference to reporters, must not have liked what Reese had to say.
It also wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Tuck’s turnaround was probably a result of that discussion.
Then there is Jason Pierre-Paul. At the end of the season, Pierre-Paul, who missed the final five games of the season with a shoulder problem, hadn’t ruled out surgery to fix his issue, telling reporters that if he were to have the surgery, he’d do so by the end of January.
The end of January has since come and gone, and apparently Pierre-Paul’s plan to rest and rehab has him on the right track.
Still, one can’t help but wonder if that strategy was merely a temporary bandage and if Pierre-Paul might be susceptible to additional injury once he starts playing again.
Speaking of Pierre-Paul, did I mention that he's eyeing a big year in his contract season?
Let’s not forget about Mathias Kiwanuka, who is signed through 2015 and currently has a $7.05 million cap figure that includes a $4.375 million base salary.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Kiwanuka graded out with a -28.1 overall mark, ranking him 34th out of 36th among 4-3 defensive ends who took 50 percent of their team’s snaps on defense in 2013.
During Reese’s tenure, the Giants have spent three draft picks on defensive ends: Pierre-Paul and Adrian Tracy in 2010, and Moore last year.
With this unit facing so many question marks, it’s probably a good time to start developing some more young depth to complement Moore and, for the time being, Pierre-Paul.
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney is currently the top-ranked defensive end, according to NFL Draft Scout. My guess is he comes off the board long before the Giants go on the clock.
If Clowney isn’t there, I like Missouri’s Kony Ealy (6’5”, 275 pounds) if he’s there at No. 12. B/R’s Matt Miller notes in his video review (above) that Ealy has more upside than former Mizzou outside linebacker Aldon Smith, now with the 49ers.
Ealy possesses a long, muscular frame, has natural power and uses his hands well to disengage.
What might really appeal though to the Giants is—you guessed it—his versatility.
Per Miller’s assessment, Ealy is scheme-versatile in that he could play as either a defensive end or as an outside linebacker.
So if the Giants manage to re-sign Tuck, if Moore turns out to be OK, and if Pierre-Paul has his big year and ends up re-upping with the Giants, wouldn’t it be nice if New York had the flexibility to move either Moore, who like Ealy can play standing up, or Ealy, if they get him, around according to the scheme’s needs?