There are very few players on the New York Giants you might consider 'star caliber' players. Or, at least players who could be on the verge of becoming stars. Let's look at one of them today as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
Who are we taking about? Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
2014 Season in Review
The Giants cleared a starting spot for Hankins, a 2013 second-round pick, by letting Linval Joseph leave via free agency. Hankins justified that decision by having a breakout year, doing far more most likely than even the Giants expected. Sure, they expected the 6-foot-2, 320-pound Hankins to stuff the run. He did that, with a team-best +12.1 Pro Football Focus run defense score and 30 stops, third on the team behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Jameel McClain. What no one could have expected was the pass rush Hankins showed, getting seven sacks and 27 hits or hurries. Hankins was PFF's seventh-ranked defensive tackle with an overall score of +20.2. He was 14th among NFL defensive tackles with a run stop percentage of 7.6, and sixth among tackles with a pass rush productivity score of 8.3.
2015 Season Outlook
The arrow should be pointing up for the 23-year-old Hankins. As we said above, Hankins exceeded expectations a year ago. In 2015, he should clearly be the anchor in the middle of the Giants' defense. Late last season, Hankins credited improved technique and lots of film study with helping him become a better pass rusher.
Even with Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul, two premier run-defending defensive linemen, the Giants were porous against the run in 2014. If the Giants can put some better players around Hankins, and he continues to improve, there is no reason to think the Pro Bowl is out of reach for him soon. Not to mention a big pay day.