Are the Giants Smart to Put All of Their Eggs in Damontre Moore's Basket?

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 15, 2014

Dec 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Giants defensive end Damontre Moore (98) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

In the last two years, the New York Giants have lost Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, both of whom currently rank in the top six on the franchise's all-time sack list. And yet Big Blue hasn't spent a single first- or second-round pick on an edge-rusher during that time. 

In fact, since taking Jason Pierre-Paul 15th overall in 2010, only one of the 29 total picks the Giants have made the last four drafts has been used on a defensive end. 

The team knows how crucial a quality pass rush is to success in this day and age. After all, if it wasn't for Umenyiora and Tuck, the Giants probably wouldn't have won either of their recent two Super Bowls. New York ranked third in the league with 48 sacks in 2011 and first with 53 in 2007. 

All of those factors indicate that the front office and the coaching staff believe that 2013 third-round pick Damontre Moore is the man. Frankly, since they have basically ignored that position in free agency and the draft of late, there's nobody else. 

That's a lot to put on a guy who has yet to record an NFL sack and had just nine pressures and nine tackles on 136 snaps as a rookie in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

We went back and watched all of Moore's snaps from the final five weeks of his rookie season. It wasn't easy to get a gauge on his progress, mainly because he spent most of his time on the field during garbage minutes of meaningless late-season games. 

Plus, nearly half of his snaps from that final month came against a very good left tackle in Trent Williams, usually one-on-one. In his first game with significant playing time in Week 13, Williams manhandled Moore from start to finish:

Credit: NFL Game Pass

Credit: NFL Game Pass

Moore did show some signs of improvement over the next three weeks and looked better prepared for Williams when he had his most active game of the year in Week 17. He got his hands on the quarterback three times on a season-high 34 snaps that day, but there were still some concerns to note. 

First of all, he often didn't look strong enough to go toe-to-toe with Williams. 

Credit: NFL Game Pass

That's just one example, but it's amazing how often the kid was completely pushed off his feet during that stretch. 

Secondly, he was too slow out of the gate. Here's an example where Justin Tuck is just light years ahead of him at the snap:

Credit: NFL Game Pass

I do wonder whether Moore has the the speed to consistently bring pressure from the edge. He's good with stunts and can slant inside, but that's not a sustainable repertoire for a starting defensive end in a 4-3 defense. And he also needs to add strength and bulk, which might only further hinder his explosiveness. 

We didn't break down any of his snaps in run defense, mainly because there weren't any. Slight exaggeration there, but the Giants clearly didn't trust Moore to be on the field on obvious running downs since he only defended runs 34 total times in 2013. 

That's not a good sign, especially since he'll now be charged with replacing Tuck, who was one of the best 4-3 ends in the league in terms of run defense. 

Moore showed great promise last spring and summer, both on the practice field and in preseason games. He might have been the best defensive player on the field in New York's preseason opener against the Steelers

That wasn't surprising because the guy should have never slipped to the third round. He had 21 sacks, five forced fumbles and 39 tackles for loss during his final 24 games with the Aggies, and he possesses the ability to become a topnotch end. 

The fact that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin rarely lets his rookies play significant roles has to be factored in here. The sample size we're discussing is small, and there's plenty of room for Moore to improve in his second season.

The Giants are undoubtedly banking on that. 

Because when you look at that depth chart, it's fair to ask whether there's anyone else to consistently rely on. Mathias Kiwanuka is 31 and hasn't had more than six sacks since 2008. Robert Ayers will turn 29 this year and has never even had six (5.5 is his career high). Neither will do much to help JPP. 

The Giants could have had Kony Ealy in the second round of the draft. Ealy is an athletic, explosive edge-rusher perfectly suited for the Giants defense. Drafting a player like him wouldn't have meant they were giving up on Moore because the Giants have always had more than two quality rushers. Besides, competition never hurts. 

Pierre-Paul is at his best with support from multiple guys anyway. That was the case when they won the Super Bowl two years ago, with Umenyiora and Tuck serving as sidekicks. 

Now, both of those studs are gone, and the Giants appear to be hoping that a 21-year-old third-round pick with zero career starts, shaky tape and a questionable skill set can carry that load.

That might be a mistake.