It has been the New York Giants M.O. to replace one drafted defensive tackle with another.
Barry Cofield and Jay Alford were drafted to supplant Fred Robbins, After Alford's career with the Giants was ended by a torn Achilles tendon, Linval Joseph was drafted to replace the soon-to-be free agent Cofield. Three years later, Johnathan Hankins was drafted, in part, because of Joseph's own impending free agency.
Despite how well Joseph and Hankins played together at the end of the 2013 season, the Giants couldn't afford to match the five-year, $31.25M contract the Vikings signed him to. His $6M cap hit that first year would have been roughly half of the Giants' cap room for the 2014 free agency period. Instead they used that money to help sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Geoff Schwartz.
It initially looked like a smart move. Hankins was phenomenal in 2014, being one of the very few defensive tackles to rate in the top-10 as both a pass rusher and run defender, while Joseph was simply "good" after being wounded in a shooting incident (in which he wasn't involved) at a night club.
But this year the tables have turned. Before being lost for the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle on the bottom of a pile, Hankins was having a good year, but his production was down with George Selvie Kerry Wynn -- for the most part -- playing in place of Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers. In Minnesota, however, Pro Football Focus has rated Joseph as the second best defensive lineman in all of football, behind only JJ Watt, and he is on ESPN's list of "Most Improved Players".
So what has changed? Obviously having two healthy legs is a big part of it. We've seen how tricky and limiting calf injuries can be. But another part of it is coaching.
Linval Joseph to me: "Coach Zimmer is more of a teacher as def. coach. Coach Coughlin was an offensive coach. That’s the biggest difference"— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) November 16, 2015
Vikings source tells me Linval Joseph’s stance b4 MIN was too narrow & he was coming forward too hard. Widened feet & worked on his hands.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) November 16, 2015
More than a few have interpreted Joseph's words as a swipe at Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin, It is really more of a commentary on the teaching abilities of former defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and his positional coaches.
After the 2014 season, shortly before Fewell was fired, the Giants' brass (John Mara, Jerry Reese, and Tom Coughlin) all mentioned the importance of coaches as teachers in their post-season press conferences. Coughlin in particular saying:
"If you're going to look at the bad... and I see it, too. How about the first four plays the other day? We spent a week working on stopping that stuff and they ran the bootleg like we've never seen it before. I saw that, too."
(with regards to the season closing loss to the Eagles)
It's something that was more or less confirmed by Nat Berhe after Steve Spagnuolo was hired.
"Coach Spags, I can talk to him," Berhe said. "I don't know if I could say that about the last coordinator. He was good, but Coach Spags is someone I can have a conversation with."
It seems that while the Giants players like Fewell, he wasn't very good at relaying his concepts or teaching his players.