Jason Pierre-Paul continually proclaims himself fully healthy for the first time in nearly two years and says he's ready to do incredible things at defensive end for the New York Giants this year. Their hope and belief is that he's right, and as long as he is they'll stick him at right defensive end and assign him the task of whipping left tackles and making life miserable for quarterbacks.
But what about the other defensive end spot? The one Justin Tuck used to play? Tuck is an Oakland Raider now, and the competition for the starting spot opposite Pierre-Paul is wide open. The candidates are veteran Mathias Kiwanuka, free-agent signee Robert Ayers and 2013 third-round pick Damontre Moore.
If the goal is to find the most dynamic pass-rusher possible on that side, Moore is the guy they'd like to see step forward and claim it. To this point, it does not sound as though they're assuming he will.
"I think preseason games will be the measuring stick," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week. "We think he's made a lot of progress from where he was a year ago. He's grown a lot, and if he takes that next step in the next month on his own, progressing even more, then when he comes back in the fall we'll have another measuring stick of where we need to go with him.'
Translation: Moore is still a developmental guy, and if he develops quickly enough to help out the pass rush this year, great. If he doesn't, the Giants have other options while he wreaks havoc on special teams and learns the defensive playbook. Last year, the Giants didn't trust Moore to stay onsides or know the plays, because he was a rookie who was set back by a training camp injury. This year, they'll look for more education and development, and play him more as he shows he can handle it.
Meantime, Kiwanuka and Ayers are both decent run-stopping defensive ends who aren't going to strike fear in the hearts of quarterbacks but can fill the role if deployed strategically. Ayers was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2009 and has never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season. The good news is that season was last season, and it's possible he's a pass-rusher on the rise. They know what they have in Kiwanuka, who's been in their program for eight years and will do anything they need. High floor, low ceiling -- not a guy who's going to hurt you, but not a guy who's going to do what a healthy and driven Pierre-Paul can do as a pass-rusher.
So that's a training camp battle to watch -- that run-stopping defensive end position. The Giants hope they have enough talent there that something great will emerge from the group.