Hello Giants fans! Today I've decided to begin somewhat of a series on players that are crucial to winning games for our New York Giants, but never seem to get the media attention that is bestowed upon other players. Guys like Eli, Nicks, Cruz, and JPP all get credit (deservedly of course) for the victories that the Giants earn, but it takes a whole team to win games, not just the big named guys that we see on the highlight films. Now being that BBV has such an educated fan base, you guys will obviously already know about these players, but it still never hurts to give these guys some credit every once in a while. Even devoted fans such as ourselves can sometimes only see the stars.
This week we'll start with one of the biggest (pun slightly intended) contributors to the Giants defense this season and last, Linval Joseph. This 6'4, 320 monster has been a absolutely dominant yet quiet force for the interior of our Defensive Line. In my opinion he is currently the second best Defensive Lineman on our roster, and while both Tuck and Osi are having a down season so far that is still an impressive accolade when you play for the New York Giants.
Pondering his next victim maybe? Scary thought.
See those Buccaneer players laying on the ground? They probably know who #97 is now.
So as anyone can plainly see, this guy has the size of a true defensive enforcer. But anyone can be large, that's no real accomplishment. What's really impressive about Joseph is the combination of size and speed that he brings to the table, ultimately making him one of the better 4-3 Defensive Tackles in the NFL.
Defensive Tackles, by nature, are not guys who are statistical dreams. They don't have to be, their assignment is usually to plug up the middle, take away running lanes, and keep their Linebackers clean. Joseph certainty doesn't have a problem doing this, but lets take a look at how Linval is preforming on the stat sheet anyway.
So far this year the big man has 16 tackles, 11 of them solo, and two sacks. For a Defensive Tackle that's pretty good, especially since he's the only established interior Lineman on our roster right now, meaning even when opposing teams run up the gut they do it on the side of the Center that Linval is not occupying. What I like is the fact that Joseph has registered two sacks so far this year, telling me that he's very capable of not only maintaining and controlling his gap, but pushing his man backwards and collapsing the pocket by himself. A man as large as Joseph usually gets by on being a run stuffer, but the addition of being able to rush the passer makes him that much more valuable as a player.
Now one stat some naysayers may point to is the fact that the Giants allow 4.6 yards per rush, which ranks them below the league average at 24th overall. Some would say that it is the responsibility of the interior line to stop the running game and limit the amount of damage a Running Back can do. Well that's both true and false. A lot of the Giants problems against the run game stems from not being able to hold the edge and keep smaller, shiftier backs from gaining the advantage on the outside. Barring DeMarco Murray, the Giants have been able to keep true North-South runners such as Gore (36 yards) and Trent Richardson (81 yards) under wraps. And when Canty comes back and is able to solidify the play at the other Defensive Tackle spot, I am almost positive that the allowed yardage will be much less.
Technique and Versatility
One of the reasons I love Joseph and his style of play is because he presents a number of options when it comes to how he is used in the defensive game plan. Observe the diagram below and use it for reference if needed.
Most men Joseph's size are usually only "1tech" or "1st gap" players when they are on a 4-3 team. This would mean that they are only able to play the position labeled "NT" on the diagram. The responsibility of the 1tech is to clog the A gap and take on what is usually a double team from the Center and Guard.
While Linval can and does preform this task very well, it is not rare for Linval to line up as a "3tech" player, which on the diagram is the triangle labeled "DT" and is positioned between the Guard and Tackle. The 3tech has more freedom to use their speed and athleticism, playing what is usually only half of their man because they attack the Guard's outside shoulder and control the B gap, allowing the MIKE to play clean as an A gap player. A 3tech Defensive Tackle is usually a bit leaner than a guy like Joseph, but Linval is somehow able to still be extremely quick for a guy carrying 320 pounds. The significance of this is that it allows a larger man to play one-on-one against a guard, but with the advantage of unexpected speed and agility off the line. This allows Linval to bully his man backwards and efficiently collapses the pocket. Having a Defensive Tackle who can be a stalwart against the run but still offer you a pass rush threat is an amazing luxury, and the reason I believe that Joseph is the second most valuable player on our Defensive Line, right behind the havoc-inducing, chaos spreading Jason Pierre Paul. A quick example of Linval lining up in the 3tech is this picture below, I wanted a video but I can't seem to find anyone good ones.
See how #97 appears to be playing slightly off the outside shoulder of the Patriot's Right Guard? Even if the RG ignores Linval and continues on what looks like to be a down block towards one of the Linebackers, the 320 pound frame will allow Linval to easily fight off the down block that would almost inevitably come from the Right Tackle. Having this versatility is what every Defensive Line coach wants from his interior players.
Another example would be from last week. While I don't have any film of it, Linval is credited with a sack against Alex Boone, who plays Right Guard. This tells me that Linval was probably lined up in a 3tech and allowed to play one-on-one with Alex Boone. In that match-up, no matter how good Boone is, I prefer Linval because of the size/speed combo.
Room For Improvement?
Linval has been a force for the interior of our line, but is there a chance that he can up his game and bring it to the next level? I'd say that no, there really isn't anything else we could realistically ask him to do. What Giants fans can ask for though is to see less of Joseph on the field. That's right, LESS. With both Canty and Rocky Bernard out with injury, the Giants have been playing with a DT rotation of Joseph, Marvin Austin, and Marcus Kuhn. Even before Bernard got hurt, Linval was playing an obscene amount of snaps. In the opener against the Cowboys, Linval played a total of 55 out of 68 snaps. No matter how good his conditioning is, it's going to be hard for a man over 300 pounds to keep up an effective playing style in the second half of the game if he isn't part of a solid rotation. Canty and hopefully Bernard coming back off of injury will allow Joseph to get off the field more often and stay fresher for when we need him.
There is no doubt in my mind that Linval Joseph is an absolute force in the NFL today. The Giants are very fortunate to have this man mountain playing for the interior of our defense. When the Giants let Barry Cofield walk, many (myself included) believed that we were truly going to miss his presence on our defense. This has turned out to not be true at all. While Cofield is still a hell of a player, Joseph has already replaced the production that we used to reap from Barry. If we are going by my opinion (which is biased due to the fact I played DT last year), I'd say Joseph is the second most important player on our defense and quite possibly a top five impact player for the Giants currently. But eating up blocks isn't always a glamorous job, so I feel like I have to say that Linval is definitely one of the cogs in our machine that is pivotal to us winning ball games. Feel free to leave any comments or what not below.