While the New York Giants have made several moves this offseason, they’ve also lost two very good players in Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph. Both were starters along the defensive line — a presumed strength of the Giants — and were probably the team’s strongest starters on the unit.
Earlier this week, the Giants re-signed Mike Patterson to limit the loss at defensive tackle, and today the Giants agreed to a two-year, approximately $4 million deal with defensive end Robert Ayers.
While the Giants’ defensive line has long been known for its pass rushers, the greatest strength of the unit was actually in run defense. According to Pro Football Focus, neither Joseph or Tuck finished with high marks as pass rushers. Tuck even had five games with negative performances in this area. He did record 11 sacks, but that was mostly flukey. He had only 1.5 sacks through the first 10 games of the season, and six of his sacks came in two games against the Washington Redskins.
At the same time, the two scored very high as run defenders. PFF score Tuck 11.7 and Joseph 8.0. Overall, the Giants had a strong run defense. They were ranked 14th in total yards given up, but more importantly were tied for fourth in yards per carry, only giving up 3.8 yards per rush.
The hope for replacing Joseph is last year’s second-round pick, Jonathan Hankins. For Tuck, the best option was hoping for an increase in production from third-round pick Damontre Moore. Now, it looks like Ayers can help fill that role.
Like Tuck, Ayers is not a great pass rusher. While he was drafted 18th overall by the Denver Broncos back in 2009, the most sacks he’s registered in a season was 5.5. That came last year when he was needed to replace Von Miller. Despite that small number, PFF gave him a rating of 11.6 in the 616 snaps he took, the fourth-best run defense grade for 4-3 defensive ends. He had 17 stops and only missed three tackles all season. Even better, his best performances of the season came in the playoffs.
The biggest hit the Giants have taken this offseason is in run defense, and they just signed one of the best in the game to fill the need. He won’t be the pass rushing force the Giants are used to on their defensive line, but he adds to their rotation. Between a return to dominance from Jason Pierre-Paul and improved play from Moore, the Giants’ defensive line could turn into a solid unit for next season.