Every time the New York Giants play, if you look at the interior defensive line, you'll see something special. Well on the side shaded towards Jason Pierre-Paul, anyway. That is, of course, Johnathan Hankins and he is a tank.
He gets absolutely zero recognition from the media. Zero recognition from really, well, anybody outside of the Giants and the fan base here. It's a damn shame, too, because he's playing at close to an All-Pro level. Currently, he is ranked fifth among all defensive tackles by Pro Football Focus, accumulating a grade of +23.2, accomplishing an equal level of success as a pass rusher (+11.2) and as a run defender (+11.0). He's got 7.5 sacks, five QB hits, and another 20 QB hurries on the season, and his pass rush productivity of 9.5 ranks second in the entire league among all defensive tackles. That's astonishing for a guy who is just supposed to be a "run stuffer."
Let's take a look at a few plays where Hankins makes a big impact. That's also the thing, he might not show up on the stat sheet, but what he does as a 2-gapping plugger is crucial to this team's success.
Underrated Athleticism and Balance
Take a look at this play. It's not one that a normal defensive tackle makes, let alone a 330-pound nose tackle. Hankins showsthe superior balance and athleticism that made him a sought-after pick in 2013. He's initially stuffed and double-teamed. He gets a bit of an assist from a monstrous inside move by Jason Pierre-Paul that frees him from number 77. He manages to keep his balance while crashing back from the outside and closes in on Robert Griffin III.
Hankins gets another assist from Pierre-Paul here (hint: maybe that dude also knows a thing or two about football). We wanted to show you this to not show you that Hankins gets stoned at the point of attack. He does, by the way, and that's really rare if single teamed like he is on this play.
No, we wanted to show this to you because of his motor. A lot defensive tackles would've quit on the play or half heartedly tried to chase a quick player like RG3 down. Not Hankins. After he gets chased out of the pocket by JPP, Hankins goes full extension.
Brute Strength Against Single Teams
These two plays are made by other individuals, like Devon Kennard in the first play and Cullen Jenkins on the second play. However, as you see on the second GIF, just like Pierre-Paul, Hankins shoves and knocks over the center that was trying to get to the second level to spring the running back. It's this kind of team defense and athleticism that makes for good run defense. Hankins prevents any cut back lane by putting his 330-pound frame right into that crease.
In the first GIF, you first off see awesome jobs by Devon Kennard and Mark Herzlich stacking and shedding on this run blitz. They are the ones that ultimately make the play. Watch Hankins as he's single covered again. The center is just a mere play thing for him and he drives him back at least three yards en route to the ball carrier. Impressive strength.
Hankins Laughs At Double Teams, Too
This play just made me chuckle. I know the highlight is on Devon Kennard (and it should be, he did everything right on this play), but just watch the defensive tackle lined up right in front of the Jaguars OL numbers 68 and 70. They double-team Hankins and he still plugs up the lane and doesn't get blown off the ball.
That's amazing. Nobody will give that any real thought and not many watch the play in real time appreciating what that does. Kennard doesn't come close to making the tackle for loss if it isn't for Hankins (and JPP there as well) collapsing any lane for the speedy Denard Robinson to squirt through.
Hankins might not be known outside of the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area (as well as among Giants fans fans everywhere else!) but he should be. He very rarely can be blocked by a single offensive lineman and he's capable of beating double teams as well.
He can be a two-gap tackle, but he's also fast enough to get through in single gap responsibilities. It's a combination of his size/athleticism and his motor that makes him really good. The biggest knock on him pre-draft was that he ran out of steam. With a healthy rotation, that shouldn't be a problem. A big issue for the team is the player often next to Hankins hasn't been able to take advantage of single teams. Jenkins can, and has, but he's rarely played at 100 percent this season. Markus Kuhn cannot do so, and Jay Bromley is still finding his way.
That kind of washes away the reputation of the Giants defensive front, but from these plays (among countless others that weren't highlighted) show the type of stud that the Giants have anchoring that interior.