It also would not be an exaggeration to say that if the Giants' defensive line can stay healthy, they can be the heart of the best defense in the NFL.
Maybe those two statements are premature, but looking over the Giants' current roster, it's hard not to get excited about the unit's potential. Former Giants' general manager Ernie Accorsi believed that you can never have too many pass rushers. It is clear that current GM Jerry Reese has a similar vision.
Headlining the unit are pro bowl defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
Tuck was on his way towards a monster season in 2008, before the Giants' lack of depth caught up with him. He wore down towards the end of the season, and his performance noticeably dropped off. He also suffered from the flu towards the end of the season. Still, he recorded a healthy 12 sacks.
Umenyiora hopes to be at 100 percent after knee surgery kept him out of the entire 2008 season. Osi totalled 13 sacks in 2007, his last full season. A combination of Tuck and a healthy Umenyiora is as good as any other starting defensive ends in the league.
Mathias Kiwanuka is talented enough to start on most teams, but will be relegated to a backup role this season. Like Tuck, Kiwanuka played well towards the beginning of last season, but his performance dropped as he wore down. His eight sacks are solid, but I am confident he would have recorded more if he were given more plays off to save his stamina.
Tuck, Umenyiora, and Kiwanuka will all be on the field in obvious passing situations. This threesome should give any offensive line fits when they are together.
Other defensive ends of interest include Maurice Evans, Robert Henderson, and Dave Tollefson.
Evans, whom the Giants signed as an undrafted free agent, was a starter at Penn State until he was suspended for an off-field incident. Early reports in rookie mini-camp were encouraging.
Henderson was a sixth round pick in 2008 and spent the season on the practice squad. Tollefson played a handful of games and recorded 3.5 sacks last season, proving that he can make contributions and provide solid depth.
Excellent depth should allow new Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan to rotate linemen more. This will allow them to keep their stamina late into games, and late into the season.
If all goes well, this unit could be better than the one that sacked Tom Brady five times in Super Bowl 42.
Up Next: The Defensive Tackles
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