We began position-by-position breakdowns of the New York Giants on Tuesday with a look at the defensive tackles. Today, let's focus on the defensive ends.
The 2013 season was a mostly disappointing one for Giants' defensive ends, with the exception of the resurgent Justin Tuck. None of the troika of Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore had the impact that was hoped for when the season began. Consequently, the Giants finished the season with only 34 quarterbacks sacks, 25th in the league.
Justin Tuck -- The defensive captain had a resurgent year after a pair of down seasons, proving that he is still a top-flight defensive end. Tuck finished with 11 sacks, two more than he had the last two seasons combined. He finished with a +15.7 score from Pro Football Focus, second on the Giants' defense behind Will Hill, who scored a +15.7. Tuck can still play, but the question is whether or not he will do so for the Giants next season. He will be 31 in March, and his big 2013 season may have set him up for a bigger contract on the open market than the Giants would be comfortable with. Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Mathias Kiwanuka -- The Giants hoped that returning Kiwanuka to defensive end full time in 2013 would revive Kiwanuka, and bring back his play-making form. Kiwanuka registered six sacks, but the move did not really pay dividends. Kiwanuka became the David Diehl of the offense, consistently being the unit's lowest-graded player, according to PFF. Kiwanuka's grade for the season was a -28.1, by far the worst on the defense. Jon Beason (-13.1) was second-lowest. What to do about Kiwanuka is one of the decisions facing the Giants this offseason. Contract Status: Signed thru 2014. Cap hit of $7.05 million in 2014 and $7.45 million in 2015. If the Giants cut Kiwanuka they would be on the hook for $5.25 million in dead money in 2014, and $2.625 million in 2015. If Tuck returns and the Giants want to give Damontre Moore a larger role on defense, as they should, they may have to part with Kiwanuka.
Jason Pierre-Paul -- The 2013 season was really a lost year for Pierre-Paul, whose 16.5-sack All-Pro season of 2011 seems like a lifetime ago. Pierre-Paul delayed back surgery while trying to manage his back pain, and then wound up having the surgery so late that it cost him the entire offseason. He was only a shell of himself as he tried to work his way back, registering only two sacks before a shoulder injury cost him the final five games of the season. Pierre-Paul has vowed that if surgery on the shoulder is needed he will have it early in the offseason this time. Expect a big year in 2014 from JPP as he will be playing for a contract. Contract Status: Entering final year of five-year, $16.08-million deal. Contract extends through 2015, but the final year is voidable.
Damontre Moore -- Moore did not play as much in 2013 as he, the Giants, of the fan base had hoped. Early-season injuries slowed his transition to the NFL. After two seasons as a stand-up pass rusher at Texas A&M and only one playing a traditional 4-3 defensive end Moore admitted after the season he still was not entirely comfortable playing with his hand on the ground. The third-round pick is a dynamic athlete, however, and could provide a great boost to their pass rush if he develops the way the Giants hope he will. Moore played 136 snaps on defense without a sack. Pro Football Focus credited him with nine pressures. Contract Status: Entering second year of four-year, $2.8 million contract.
NFL Draft/Free Agency
The free agency question really revolves around Tuck. He told reporters after the final game of the season that he "would love to retire as a Giant," but did not know if that would happen. What happens with Tuck will likely impact how the Giants approach the rest of free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft in terms of their need at the position. Never put it past the Giants to use an early draft choice on a pass-rushing defensive end, or to pursue a pass-rushing free agent like Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks, who has 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons.