Well, its pretty simple. The Giants took a chance on him in the second round of the 2011 draft following after a year out of football (due to a NCAA suspension handed down to some stupidity regarding an agent and social media). After missing all of his rookie offseaons thanks to the lockout. When he finally got to camp, Austin suffered a season-ending torn pectoral in a preseason game against the Bears (along with Terrell Thomas and Brian Witherspoon (ACL's)).
Prior to the 2012 season, Austin was one of several Giants to suffer back injuries (blamed on bad mattresses), and battled through a torn meniscus (the cartilage cushion in your knee) during the season. The result, his best season to date, but disappointing none the less.
This past offseason saw Austin get surgery to correct the torn meniscus while the Giants stockpiled DT's like its going out of fashion. Defensive coaches targeted Austin as a player who needs to step up and prove his worth as a 2nd round pick and secure his roster spot in the face of some experienced and stiff competition.
When the Giants played the Pittsburgh Stealers in the first preseason game, Austin saw more snaps than any other defensive player, fully half the defensive snaps. And while he didn't show up on the final stat sheet, word out of Giants camp is that the coaches liked what they saw. At DT its entirely possible to have a good game and have a positive impact without showing up in the box score. That being said, did he really play that well?
Lets go to the tape:
(First off, thanks to JMPasq aka RedeyeJedi for his outstanding work cutting the Giants O and D vs Pitt, in addition to his continual hard work cutting draft film. Second, rather than embed the full vid, I'll link to each of Austin's plays. He had 30, I can't promise that I'll find all of them. Its sometimes tough to pick out interior linemen on TV tape)
6:53-7:06) Austin is lined up at the 1-tech (between the C and G). He gets upright pretty quickly out of his stance. Rather than push the double team, he stunts over to the left side of the OL (right side of the DL). However, the LG picks him up and prevents the pressure.
7:07- 7:29) Austin lines up at the 3-tech (between the G and T). Gets out of his stance okay (not great). Interestingly, Austin is double teamed while Hankins gets the single. The two DT's clump the 3 interior linemen together and provide a 1-on-1 for DaMontre Moore, who takes advantage of it for a pressure. The ball comes out just before Moore gets there, but the DT's did their job. After the pass is released, Austin hustles to try to help out on the tackle.
7:30-7:37) Austin lines up at 3-tech again this snap. Its a zone running play to the opposite side and Austin goes mostly unblocked, He hustles down behind the LOS to attempt (and probably should have gotten at least partial credit for) the tackle. Very nice show of awareness and athleticism to get to the runner and make the flying tackle.
7:38 -8:03) Lined up at the 3-tech between the LG and LT again. Running play to Austin's side this time. He pops up out of his stance this play and gets pushed back a bit, but he does a very nice job of maintaining his gap and preventing his OL from getting to the 2nd level. Running lanes clogged, and the other defenders make the TFL.
8:04-8:10 ) Interesting alignment here. Near as I can tell, both DT's are lined up at the 4-tech (outside shoulder on the inside shoulder of the OT) while the DE's are at the normal 7-tech (between the T and TE, or where the TE would be) There's a blitz and a stunt post-snap, but we're less interested in that (although this is a nifty play call. It very well could have gotten the sack with the 1st team). Austin fires off the snap well, and rather than try to beat his man, pushes him back into the pocket. He does a good job controlling his man despite the failure of the blitz/stunt combo.
8:12-8:18) Austin is lined up at the 0-tech (Nose Tackle) in a 5 man line. It gets a bit muddled, but it Austin fires out of his stance well, and controls the C, collapsing anything resembling a crease as the RB gets tackled from behind. The whole front 7 do a very nice job keeping the OL from opening any running lanes and stuffing the run.
8:19-8:29) Austin is lined up at the 3-Tech while Hankins is the 1-Tech. Austin fires out of his stance and pushes the RG back on his heels and into the pocket while the LDE stunts inward. Quick pass for a short gain,
8:30-8:40) Austin is either lined up at the 1 or 0 tech here. Things get a bit hectic after the snap, but JWill (#57) starts to blitz then drops in coverage while the LDE stunts inside, removing contain from the left side of the D, and allowing the RG and RT to take Austin and the QB to escape the blitz and scamper. Not a bad play despite the result. A less athletic QB probably would have gone for the pass right to JWill (or not been able to escape the blitz), or a more athletic LB (ie: Curry or Rivers) would have had the sack.
8:42-9:00 ) Lined up at the 1-tech here. Austin does a decent job of getting out of his stance and collapsing the running lane to the left. Too bad its an end-around to the right. Decent gain, but its not the DT's fault; Moore bit on the play fake and lost contain.
9:01-9:09) Austin lines up at the 3-Tech here. Austin looks late off the snap, however he does a great job of recognizing the screen pass and being there when the RB catches the pass. Austin gets tripped up and can't make the tackle, but he forces the back to hesitate long enough to get tackled. Very nice play. Some other defensive linemen I could mention would have charged at the QB HARD when they came unblocked.
9:11-9:19) The video is a bit fuzzy (might just be me) but after a few rewatches, it looks like Austin is at the 3-tech. He gets off the snap okay, but is doubled and gets pushed backwards. The front 7 as a whole does great job of stuffing the run. There was nothing there for the back.
10:08-10:28) After a nice break Austin is back in at the 1-Tech (it looks like there's 2 1-techs in this set). He does his job and occupies his blockers. Tracy gets pressure on the QB, but the WR bails him out with a phenomenal catch.
10:37-10: ) Austin is lined up at the 0-Tech in the 5 man line again here. Austin fires out of his stance and winds up taking on the RG. He pushes him backwards, then down and tackles the guy tackling the RB (Curry?) for the stop. Nice play by Austin
11:34-11:56) Austin coming back in after another break. He lines up at the 3-tech and gets doubled again. He holds up well and does his part in preventing the OL from opening a running lane for the back (who gets tackled from behind while making a cut). Nice job by the whole front 7.
11:57-12:03) Lined up at the 3-tech here. Austin gets out of his stance quite well here and gets triple teamed by the C, LG, and RB. I couldn't make out the numbers, but the right side of the line couldn't beat their 1-on-1's.
12:04-12:09) 0-Tech on the 5 man line again. Austin takes on the C and just manhandles him back into the RB's face, while Paysinger comes up to make the tackle. Great play here.
12:10-12:19) I'd like to see the coaches' tape here. It LOOKS like Austin is lined up in the 2-Tech (ie heads up on the G), but that could just be a trick of the camera angle and he's playing 3-tech. Anyway, Austin does a pretty good job of splitting the B-gap and gets into the pocket. The G keeps a hand on him, and Austin can't quite get through fast enough to get the sack.
12:31-12:38) Lined up at 3-tech again. Austin can't split the double team and tries to go around them, but the pass is already off. The blitz is picked up well there. Nice play by the RB. Despite not getting any pressure of his own, Austin does his part by occupying the double team while the other 4 rushers get 1-on-1's. One of them has to beat their man, and I'd like to think that JPP, Tuck, Anvil/Jenkins or Rolle (the blitzing S) would have.
12:39-12:49) Austin lines up at the 3-tech again. Austin gets a 1-on-1 and just shoves his man back and helps to collapse the pocket (and keep the RB from squirting out into the flat). Ojomo gets the credit for the pressure, but the DT's made sure there wasn't a pocket for the QB to step up into.
12:50-12:58) Austin lines up at 1-tech this time. Once again, he does the dirty work of commanding and occupying the double team while the rest of the rushers get 1-on-1's. This time they do a better job of beating their men and the QB throws the ball as the other DT (Okam) comes charging through the middle.
12:59-13:03) Austin lines up at 3-tech again. Gets the 1-on-1, and while he doesn't overpower the RG, he does a nice job of controlling him (while swiping at the RB with his left hand, forcing the back to the DE). Nice, stout play by Austin.
13:05-13:16) Another snap at 3-tech. Looks like 1-on-1's across the board, and the interior of the line does a fantastic job of collapsing the pocket. If you watch it at half speed, you can see the QB look to step up in the pocket, then realize he has to scramble... Then gets sacked. Also, nice hustle by Austin to get off his man and get in pursuit when the QB starts to scramble.
13:18-13:45) Austin is lined up at 3-tech again. Fires out of his stance and does a great job of pushing his man/men (I can't quite tell if he's got a double or single, or if he and Okam are each pushing 1.5 OL) backwards. Nice stunt all the way around the line by Ojomo (who goes through the OL mostly unblocked), which creates enough confusion on the right side for Okam to push through the interior and they meet at the QB.
14:01-14:12) Looks like Austin lines up at 1-tech here. Both DT's do a nice job of controlling their men and minding their gaps. The OL is kept out of the 2nd level completely. Unfortunately, the RDE doesn't quite set the edge and the RB is able to cut back for a big gain. JPP makes this play.
14:13-14:22) Austin lines up at 3-tech while Okam lines up at the 1. Looks like a zone running play by Pitt, and the DL does a good job preventing running lanes long enough for Trattou to get the TFL. Austin pops up out of his stance a bit and gets caught in the trash, but by the time that really happens, the play is already over.
14:23-14:32) Austin lines up at 3-tech again. Interesting stunt/twist here: Austin is supposed to go outside (C-gap, between the TE and OT), while the LB goes inside (B-gap, OT/G), and the DE goes way inside to the A-gap (G/C). There might be too much going on, because it looks like they get in each other's way. QB gets pressured, but once again, the WR bails the QB out with an awesome catch.
15:36-15:45) Back from another break, Austin lines up at the 3-tech here. Fires out of his stance and splits the double team, but it looks like he gets held by the C. He does a good job getting in pursuit, but he's a bit too far away, with too many bodies in the way to be much of a factor.
15:46-16:11) Austin is at 3-tech again, and fires off the ball, and pushes his man (which becomes a double-team) right back into the QB's face. He or Ojomo (or both) might have had the sack there if Charles James hadn't been completely unaccounted for and gotten a free run at the QB. Very nice play by the D there.
16:12-16:19) Looks like Austin lines up at the 5-tech here. He blows right by his man and just missed the sack thanks to a late shove by the OL and a quick step by the QB up into the pocket (and into Ojomo's arms). Side Note: Odd alignment here: Austin is the only DT on the line, but he's playing 5-tech while Broha plays 3-tech. I think if they used Tuck or Jenkins there wouldn't have been room for the QB to step up into. But... preseason game.
16:20-16:37) Same alignment as last play. Just a hunch, but I think we're going to see this one a fair bit as time goes on. I'm not sure exactly what Austin is doing. He runs back and forth across the line teasing the OL on his side. Maybe he's occupying as much of the OL as possible while guarding against a last ditch scramble?
Conclusion: So, after watching all those plays, did Austin really earn the coaches' praise? Or were they just being nice Austin in the vace of the ever-rabid NY media?
To my eye, Austin did indeed play well. What's more, his good play allowed others on the defense to play well. He showed an impressive versatility, playing all over the interior of the line, showcasing power, quickness, and agility. He also showed an impressive motor, never giving up on a play and always hustling in pursuit despite playing more snaps than any other defensive player (and most offensive players at that).
He still has areas that need improvement, most importantly maintaining a consistent pad level (an issue even in college). But more reps and practice should help fix those problems.
Austin might not have showed up on the stat sheet (although I think there were at least 3 plays there where he should have had an assisted tackle), he did a lot of the dirty, unglamorous work that led to other guy's stats and splash plays.