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New York Giants Positional Breakdown: Defensive Line

Throughout the next several weeks, I’ll be breaking down the Giants’ roster, position by position. We’ll take a look at what each player brings to the table, their chances of making the roster and, if applicable, their roles on the 2015 team. Next, we’ll take a look at the defensive line.

Jason Pierre-Paul

Roster odds: 100%*

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room.

By now, we’ve all been engulfed in the truly bizarre saga of JPP and his missing finger. Pierre-Paul still hasn’t reported to Giants training camp, and reportedly won’t until he can pass a physical.

To be clear, Pierre-Paul technically isn’t required to attend training camp, as he has not yet signed his one-year, $14.1 million tender. Therefore, he isn’t on the roster. Still, his absence leaves the Giants completely in the dark, and there’s really no way of knowing precisely when he’ll be able to play, and how effective he will be upon his return.

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

We know that it’s possible Pierre-Paul won’t be ready for the start of the season, though recent reports have been more optimistic, and he could return in time to see some preseason action. But it’s all speculation until JPP reports and he and the Giants figure out where to go from there.

Bottom line: Pierre-Paul will be on the team. When? We don’t know. But he’ll be there. The Giants still have the option to rescind his tender and make him an unrestricted free agent, but that seems like a highly unlikely result. Pierre-Paul could start the season on the Reserve/NFI list, or the Giants could keep him on the 53-man until he’s ready to go. But for the purpose of this breakdown, he is in no danger of being cut.


Cullen Jenkins

Roster odds: 100%

Jenkins’ role on the 2015 Giants is pretty undefined right now, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

He primarily played defensive tackle last year, starting 11 games. But he has also seen time at defensive end during OTAs and training camp. Given the uncertainty surrounding Pierre-Paul coupled with the departure of Mathias Kiwanuka, Jenkins could definitely see some time on the outside during the regular season.

Jenkins has several years of experience as a pass rusher from his days with the Packers, and has amassed 44.5 sacks through his 11-year career. However, he is also 34 years old and coming off a pretty unproductive season (eight tackles, one sack in 11 games), so his best fit is probably inside.

He may not be the player he once was, but his experience and versatility should make him a valuable contributor to this year’s Giants team.


Robert Ayers

Roster odds: 100%

To me, Ayers is one of the more intriguing pieces of the defensive line puzzle.

He showed really well last year as a rotational pass rusher, collecting five sacks in 12 games (one start) before a pectoral injury ended his season.

This year, he could see more starts, even when Pierre-Paul returns. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves using multiple pass rushers, and Ayers seems like the type of player that can thrive under him. He has seen first-team reps in training camp, suggesting the coaching staff is ready to trust him with more snaps.

If the season started today, Ayers would probably be in a bit of a rotation along with George Selvie and Damontre Moore, but I like Ayers’ chances of breaking away from the others.


Johnathan Hankins

Roster odds: 100%

Hankins is probably the most sure thing the Giants have on the defensive line right now, and I think he could be on the verge of a big breakout year.

After a quiet rookie season where he saw action in 11 games (no starts), Hankins started all 16 games last year. He managed 30 tackles and seven sacks.

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The 2013 second-round pick impressed in his first year as a starter, and still has room to grow. He is still just 23 and will now be featured in a defense that will rush the quarterback often.

Even defensive tackles get in on the action during Spagnuolo’s first stint with the Giants. Fred Robbins had 11 sacks in Spagnuolo’s first two years as Giants defensive coordinator. And Robbins was entering his 30s at the time, so it’s fun to imagine what 23-year old Hankins is capable of.


Damontre Moore

Roster odds: 100%

Moore has been a popular name among Giants fans since he was drafted out of Texas A&M in 2013, and now they may finally get to see his training wheels come off.

Like Hankins, Moore had a quiet rookie year. Unlike Hankins, Moore did not start a single game during his second year in the league. Still, Moore managed 5.5 sacks as a backup in 2014.

With Pierre-Paul sidelined, Moore fits the bill as a potentially prolific pass rusher, who we could really see come into his own with more playing time. Moore currently seems to be behind Ayers on the depth chart but a solid training camp and preseason could put him in line for more snaps.

Moore’s biggest issue has been his struggles in the running game, but if he can show improvement there, he should receive enough playing time to push for double digit sacks this season.


George Selvie

Roster odds: 100%

Selvie was added on a one-year deal back in March. He brings five years of experience and 13 career sacks with him to the Giants.

Selvie seemed to be emerging into a stud in 2013 when he totaled seven sacks for the Cowboys. However, he regressed last season, managing just three sacks for Dallas.

The Giants will hope he can flash the pass rushing prowess he put on display in 2013 once again. He has been given some time with the first team during training camp, and figures to see plenty of action until Pierre-Paul returns.


Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Roster odds: 100%

The Giants have seemingly made it a tradition to draft a project defensive lineman in the third round lately. They did so in 2013 with Moore, 2014 with Jay Bromley and this year with Odighizuwa.

(Getty Images)


Odighizuwa, a UCLA product, drew the Giants’ attention with his freakish athleticism. He is in phenomenal shape and showed fierceness and power off the line with the Bruins. But despite his six sacks in 2014, most draftniks don’t think his skills translate to the NFL quite yet.

The 23-year old will probably see most of his game action come on special teams in 2015 as he adjusts to the pro level. Once he does, he’ll have monstrous potential.


Markus Kuhn

Roster odds: 90%

The Giants’ defensive tackle situation is a bit of a question mark right now. Hankins is the only lock. Jenkins is probably best at tackle but could see time at end depending on how JPP’s situation shakes out. Beyond that, nothing is certain, but Kuhn seems to be the best of the rest.

With Jenkins getting reps at defensive end, Kuhn has seen the majority of first-team snaps next to Hankins at tackle in training camp. Kuhn, who was drafted out of NC State in 2012, has three years of experience with the Giants, and at 6-4, 299 pounds, opposing offensive linemen won’t easily throw him around.

Still, Kuhn’s three years haven’t been terribly productive. In three seasons, Kuhn has played in just 29 games, starting two. His only career sack came last year, and he has just 15 tackles to his name.

He’s best suited coming off the bench, but the Giants seem to be comfortable with him making starts if need be.


Kerry Wynn

Roster odds: 90%

Many were surprised to see Wynn make the team out of camp last year, but he looked great in limited action, and has continued to impress through OTAs and training camp.

The former undrafted rookie out of Richmond played just five games last year, but notched 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and even an interception. As long as he continues to impress like has thus far, he’ll at the very least be in the defensive end rotation with Ayers, Moore and Selvie.

The only way he doesn’t make the team is if he struggles in preseason games, and the Giants get the impression last year was just a flash in the pan. But I highly doubt that.


Jay Bromley

Roster odds: 85%

Bromley, a third-round pick out of Syracuse last season, saw very limited snaps as a rookie, so we don’t have a whole lot of pro experience to judge him by, so his sophomore campaign remains a bit of a mystery.

At 6-3, 306 pounds, he has the size to be a competent NFL run-stuffer. But many were surprised to see the Giants draft Bromley in the third round last year, as he was expected to be more of a mid-to-late round pick.

As a rookie, Bromley saw action in just eight games, managing just two tackles. The Giants will hope Bromley takes a step forward this season, but he seems to be far behind Hankins, Jenkins and Kuhn on the depth chart.


Kenrick Ellis

Roster odds: 70%

Ellis spent the first four seasons of his career with the Jets before moving to the other side of MetLife Stadium and joining the Giants in March on a one-year deal.

Serving as the Jets’ nose tackle last year, he managed just four tackles and one sack over 158 snaps. At 6-5, 346 pounds he certainly profiled as a nose tackle, but he shed some pounds this offseason and checked in at 335 with the Giants.

Ellis will likely serve as a short yardage run stuffer and not much else. I can’t see the Giants giving him significant snaps over Bromley.


Jordan Stanton

Roster odds: 30%

There’s a steep drop-off after the Giants’ top 11 defensive linemen (10 if you don’t count Pierre-Paul).

Stanton had a decent preseason last year, and the Giants liked him enough to keep him on the practice squad throughout most of the season. The Giants have plenty of other options at defensive end, though, so Stanton might be bound for the practice squad yet again.


Dominique Hamilton

Roster odds: 20%

Hamilton spent most of last season on the Giants’ practice squad, getting a call-up with two weeks left, but did not get into a game. He could head back to the practice squad this year, given the Giants’ many more attractive options in the interior. Hamilton has also been in two fights so far this summer (one with Eric Herman in June, one with Michael Bamiro on Wednesday), which won’t help his case.


Carlif Taylor

Roster odds: 5%

Taylor is an undrafted free agent out of Southern Connecticut State. He recorded 73 total tackles (11 for a loss) and 0.5 sacks for the Owls in 2014. It will take several injuries for Taylor to be considered for a roster spot.

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