Star-Studded Giants Defense Relies On Strong Supporting Cast To Survive

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Star-Studded Giants Defense Relies On Strong Supporting Cast To Survive
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Stars like Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are just a few of the many important parts that make up the vaunted Giants defense.

"If (Justin) Tuck was the defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars, I couldn't do this (market) for him, because he's not a national enough figure. He's got three national campaigns: Nike, Electronic Arts and Subway. I couldn't do that in any other place but New York."

Tom George, senior vice president of athlete marketing for Virginia-based Octagon, which markets Tuck.

 

New York is known for its ability to make people into superstars, and in football no one does it better than the Giants defense. 

If the Tuck example didn't sell you, just look to TV where Michael Strahan has successfully rounded out the FOX fivesome and Antonio Pierce recently joined the ESPN crew. 

Even Osi Umenyiora joined in on the act with Justin Tuck in their duet of the "5-dollar footlong" song for Subway. 

Super Bowl rings on each of their fingers surely helps their cause, but the backbone of any great defensive player was the guys that played around him. 

In New York's three Super Bowl-winning seasons, it was the Fred Robbins', the Jim Burt's, and the Gary Reasons' that helped ease the load on the Lawrence Taylor's and Michael Strahan's of the world. 

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This 2010 team has the look of a prototypical Giants contender: inconsistent, yet explosive in the passing game with a powerful and deep running attack, led by an attacking defense that relies on sacks and turnovers to steal momentum and suck the life out of the opposition. 

While Tuck, Osi, and even high-priced acquisition Antrel Rolle absorb most of the spotlight (in most cases rightfully so), the Giants defense has more than a few integral pieces that mark their success. 

If we are starting with desperately underrated players, then Barry Cofield heads our list. 

A starter since his rookie season, Cofield has missed only one game in five season since the G-Men drafted him in the 4th-round out of Northwestern in '06. 

Though he lacks the explosiveness to ever become a top-flight pass rusher from his interior line spot, Cofield uses a combines his 6-4 frame with quick hands to make plays in the running game whether used in a one- or two-gap technique. 

His job is plain and simple: occupy blockers and control of line of scrimmage.  

Every defensive line needs a glue guy, someone who does all the little things, and that's what the Giants have in Barry. 

Cofield's work along the defensive line helps free up another under-the-radar Giants in middle linbacker Jonathan Goff. 

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Jonathan Goff has played like a veteran in the middle for a Giants defense that needed him to row up fast heading into '10.

The heir apparent to Antonio Pierce's job after his four-year reign, Goff was a major question mark in the middle heading into this season. 

Using his athleticism and nose for the ball, the third year man out of Vanderbilt has grown into a stabilizing force for the NFL's second ranked defense and has eased the any concerns New York had before the year began. 

Although he may lack the usual bulk of a starting middle linebacker, Goff is able to make plays because of his prowess in tracking down ball-carriers and skill in pursuit. 

With any doubts about his abilities now erased with this season's performance, the Giants may be witnessing the development of a future Pro Bowler for their defense. 

As a fan I could go on for days highlighting the unheralded play of special-teamers like Zak DeOssie and Chase Blackburn or brag about the depth along our defensive line with Dave Tollefson (16 TKs, three FFs) and Jason Pierre-Paul (11 TKs, four sacks, and two FFs in his last two games), but I already did. 

Good defense, power running, and veteran leadership are all strengths of this Giants team heading down the stretch run, and once they get healthy at wide receiver, they may even have the look of a Super Bowl contender once the playoffs begin. 

These next four games will define this year for Big Blue, let's hope they still have some magic left over from 2007. 

 

Jesse Paguaga is a Featured Columnist for the New York Giants on Bleacher Report. He is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest in the BD Baseball Fantasy Department. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops, Gotham Gridiron, and The Jerry Magwire Blog (http://thejerrymagwire.wordpress.com/).  He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu or can be found on Facebook and on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@jpags77. 

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