Camp preview: Defensive line

Justin Tuck did everything to stay strong this offseason but walk on hot coals. Wait, never mind ... Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

We're counting down to training camp with a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Defensive line

Jason Pierre-Paul

Jason Pierre-Paul

#90 DE
New York Giants

2012 STATS

  • Tot66
  • Solo43
  • Ast23
  • FF1
  • Sack6.5
  • Int1

Projected starters: DE Jason Pierre-Paul (injured), DE Justin Tuck, DT Linval Joseph, DT Cullen Jenkins

Projected reserves: DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DT Mike Patterson, DE Adrian Tracy, DE Damontre Moore, DT Shaun Rogers, DT Johnathan Hankins, DE Justin Trattou, DE Adewale Ojomo, DT Marvin Austin, DT Markus Kuhn, DE Matt Broha, DT Frank Okam

New faces: Jenkins, Patterson, Moore, Hankins, Okam

Going, going, gone: DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard

Player to watch: Pierre-Paul. The team and fans will have to hold their breath until JPP returns healthy from offseason back surgery. His projected timetable for recovery takes him right up to the season opener. Kiwanuka is starting at defensive end until JPP is healthy and could potentially be the starter against Dallas in the opener. If Pierre-Paul doesn’t return to full strength later this season, the defense will be dealt a mighty blow. The Giants likely will take every precaution with the foundation of the defense. In order to contend, the Giants need their best defensive player to be healthy and dominant again.

Potential strength: The run defense was a weakness last season as the Giants finished 25th against the run and 31st in total defense. But GM Jerry Reese beefed up his front line by adding Jenkins and Patterson, re-signing Rogers and drafting Hankins. With Austin and Kuhn, as well, the Giants will have some serious competition at DT in camp. If Jenkins pans out the way they envision and the Giants can slow down opposing running backs, that will be a major start for a defense looking to rebound from a disappointing season.

Potential weakness: It’s hard to believe it, but in a worst-case scenario, the Giants’ pass rush could be a weakness. What if JPP doesn’t return to form after back surgery? What if Tuck doesn’t regain his old dominant level of play in a contract year? What if the Giants miss Osi more than they think they will and a young player (such as like Tracy, Moore or Ojomo) doesn’t emerge as an extra rusher? The Giants must get back to harassing quarterbacks and establishing an intimidating pass rush. If not, it could be another long season for Perry Fewell’s defense.

Wild card: Tuck. This is a big year for the defensive captain. If Tuck has a monster year in a contract year, the Giants' defense will simply be better. Tuck has certainly worked hard this offseason and is in tremendous shape. He even tried improving his mental game by seeing motivational speaker and coach Tony Robbins and walking over hot coals. With JPP’s back on the mend, Tuck can give the Giants a major boost by getting back to his double-digit sacks level.

Tell us what you think of the Giants' defensive line entering the season.