As training camp approaches, we’re starting a countdown to camp by taking a look at the defending champions position-by-position.
Position: Defensive line.
Projected starters: DE Justin Tuck, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DT Chris Canty and DT Linval Joseph.
Projected reserves: DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Rocky Bernard, DT Marvin Austin, DT Shaun Rogers, DE Justin Trattou and DE Adrian Tracy.
New faces: Rogers, Markus Kuhn.
Going, going, gone: DE Dave Tollefson, DT Jimmy Kennedy.
Player to watch: Pierre-Paul. He broke out last season with 16.5 sacks, joining Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan as the only Giants players to have at least 16 sacks in a season. All eyes will be on Pierre-Paul to see if he can top his first Pro Bowl season. It will be hard to equal it since he did so much, including blocking a potential overtime-forcing field goal against the Cowboys. But he is only scratching the surface of what he can do and his confidence continues to surge. It will be interesting to see how opposing offenses deal with JPP and how much better he can get.
Potential strength: The Giants’ pass rush is arguably the best in the NFL and there’s no reason to believe it won’t remain that way with Umenyiora temporarily settling his contract gripe and remaining for at least one more season after agreeing to a restructuring of his deal. Tuck played hurt for most of last season but repaired his shoulder in the offseason and is motivated to return to his high level of play. JPP has emerged into a star. Throw in Mathias Kiwanuka rushing the quarterback and the Giants’ pass rush remains the team’s best weapon next to Eli Manning.
Potential weakness: Stopping the run. The Giants struggled most of the season to stop the run, allowing opponents to rush for 100 yards or more in 11 of the 16 regular-season games last year. Canty and Joseph are solid and the Giants should be better inside with Bernard back and the addition of Austin, who missed his rookie season due to injury. Rogers is a veteran space eater but he was injured for much of the offseason activities. The possibility of playing three linebackers more this season also could help improve the run defense.
Wild card: Austin. He has missed two consecutive seasons of football due to injury and NCAA suspension. The Giants are eager to see what he can do. They drafted him in the second round in 2011 believing he has first-round talent. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell says Austin adds a new dimension to the team with quickness that could provide offensive linemen with problems from the defensive tackle position.
Tell us what you think of the Giants' defensive line entering training camp below.