Friday, January 14, 2011

Year in Review: Defensive Line

When you think of the Giants, the first thing that comes to mind is defensive linemen that can and will run through a brick wall in order to get to the quarterback. This season was no exception as all of their defensive line contributed for big plays as they ranked 2nd in the NFC with 46 sacks, which was just one behind the Green Bay Packers.

Even though Michael Strahan, who changed the way the offensive coordinators change their pass protection, retired, the Giants still have arguably the best defensive line in the NFL. We'll start with his protègé, Osi Umenyiora. After missing 2008 due to injury, he wasn't the same in 2009, thus many teams didn't take him seriously, which led to teams double-teaming Justin Tuck. While Tuck needs that kind of attention for an offense to be successful, it's not wise to ignore a former All-Pro defensive end no matter how poor he did the previous year. This led to an NFL-record 10 forced fumbles, including 7 in October to go along with 12 sacks, which was his highest total since 2007. Despite having a better year than both John Abraham and Julius Peppers, who were Pro Bowl selections, Umenyiora was left out. However, Osi can still make it if the Bears or Falcons make it to the Super Bowl. Given his great season, the offense still cannot afford to double team him, because the guy on the other end is just as dangerous.

A resurgent Umenyiora is the best thing that could've happened to Justin Tuck, since now teams cannot afford to double-team him. After only 6 sacks in 2009 due to a constant double-team, Tuck emerged for 11.5 sacks with 5 forced fumbles of his own, which allowed him to receive a 2nd Pro Bowl selection in the past 3 seasons. Much like Strahan mentored Umenyiora and how Umenyiora mentored Tuck, Justin Tuck has taken 2010 1st round pick Jason Pierre-Paul under his wing and he has made some big plays forcing two fumbles, deflecting 6 passes and recording 4.5 sacks. It's not just the defensive ends that did all the works. The tackles Chris Canty and Barry Cofield did a lot of the work in order for Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul to have good sack totals.

Big Blue seems to have a revolving door at defensive end. It's not like there's a big turnover, but there's always quality there no matter who retires. The Giants haven't had to worry about that position for more than 20 years, and it looks like they won't have to for at least another 15. The defensive line, simply put, is the heart and soul of the New York Football Giants.

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