In the offseason prior to the 2013 season, the New York Giants made it their top priority to bolster the defensive line. The defense was coming off a season where it ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed and 25th in rushing yards allowed. Saying there was room for improvement would be putting it as politely as possible.
To New York’s credit, the front office went out and signed defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. The Giants also used their second-round draft pick on Johnathan Hankins, a defensive tackle out of Ohio State.
The attention spent on the defensive line resulted in a much-improved unit. New York finished the 2013 season ranked 14th in opponent’s rushing yards and bottled up some of the NFL’s best, including Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris (twice) and LeSean McCoy (twice).
However, the defensive line continued to struggle in the pass rush. In 2012, the Giants recorded just 33 sacks, which placed them 22nd in the league. Jason Pierre-Paul couldn’t seem to stay healthy and the pass rush consistently struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
The 2013 season proved to be a lame sequel that followed a similar script. New York finished with 34 sacks, which ranked 25th in the NFL. Once again, Pierre-Paul was less than 100 percent. The numbers would look even worse if it wasn’t for a resurgence from Justin Tuck, who nearly tripled his sack total of four from 2012, finishing with 11 sacks this year.
Now comes the hard part for the front office. Both Tuck and Linval Joseph, who is New York’s best defensive tackle, are free agents. The Giants may be able to get Tuck for a bargain because 2014 will mark his tenth season in the NFL. Joseph, however, will be harder to reel in without breaking the bank.
Joseph will still only be 25 years old when the beginning of next season rolls around. He’s used his short time in the NFL to develop into a bright young talent who could field some major contract offers in the offseason.
The Giants have so many problem areas that they will likely not be able to afford Joseph. There is also no guarantee that Tuck comes back.
New York may try and groom Hankins to take over Joseph’s role. Hankins played more and more as the season got older and seemed like a player that has the potential to make some noise up front. Pierre-Paul and Jenkins will both likely be key players on the defensive line next season. Their partners, though, are yet to be determined.