No Strahan or Umenyiora – how will Giants’ defensive line cope?

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the New York Giants expect to cope without having Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan on their defensive line.

Michael StrahanWhen the New York Giants selected defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka with the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, many eyebrows were raised at the pick. Why would the Giants take another defensive end when they already had Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck on the roster?

After Strahan retired following the Giants’ Super Bowl victory in January and Umenyiora was lost for the 2008 season because of a knee injury, nobody is questioning New York’s decision to draft Kiwanuka now.

Kiwanuka not only has the daunting task of having to transition from outside linebacker back to defensive end, but he also will attempt to fill the shoes of Umenyiora, a highly productive player who registered 52 tackles and five sacks last season.

Playing opposite of Kiwanuka on the line will be Tuck, a promising fourth-year player who compiled 10 sacks last year as part of a rotation. While he’s shown plenty of upside, this will be the first time in Tuck’s career that he’ll be counted on as a full-time starter.

Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins will man the interior of New York’s defensive line. Neither stands out as impact players, although Cofield did show promise in his rookie season when he compiled 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

There’s no denying that losing both Strahan and Umenyiora was devastating. The Giants demonstrated what a heavy pass-rush could do for an entire defense in the Super Bowl when they completely flustered Tom Brady and his offensive line. While young corner Aaron Ross is developing into a nice player, the rest of the secondary is average at best – especially after safety Gibril Wilson signed with Oakland this offseason – and will need the front seven to put pressure on opposing teams’ quarterbacks so they’re not vulnerable in coverage.

New York GiantsNew York is going to need Kiwanuka and Tuck to provide the type of rush that Strahan and Umenyiora got last year in order for the defense to not be exposed in certain areas. Both ends have a ton of talent, but how will they do as full-time starters? Can they be as effective as every-down players as they were in a rotation last year? Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was outstanding in devising game plans last year to frustrate opposing teams, but a lot of what he does depends on his ends getting pressure.

Time will tell if the Giants will sink or swim without the two ends that helped them when a Super Bowl last season.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>