The New York Giants' defense wasn't stacked with talent in 2015. They had some good players at the top, but the depth was questionable at best. Unfortunately, that meant that when the defense was devastated by injuries, they were largely left bereft of talent.
In 2014, Johnathan Hankins was one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, and one of the very few to rank in the top 10 as both a pass rusher and as a run defender. That was when he was playing next to Jason Pierre-Paul on a weekly basis. When Pierre-Paul's fireworks accident put him on the shelf for the first half of the season, it had the ripple effect of allowing offenses to concentrate on blocking Hankins -- now the Giants' best defensive lineman.
Predictably, his stats fell off despite his characteristically solid play.
Things only got worse when Hankins took a bad fall -- while forcing a fumble -- in the Giants' game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That forced fumble was the last play of his season, and Hankins was quickly placed on the injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.
With the re-signing of JPP and the additions of Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon, the next logical question is how is Hankins' rehab coming along?
"I'm ahead of everything. Pretty much fully healthy. Full go. Everything's going pretty good." Hankins said when he was asked that very question. And it's good news, because 2016 is a contract year for the 2013 second round pick. Despite so much riding on his recovery, he seems remarkably nonplussed. "I'm just really focused on the season, trying to get to the ultimate goal, which is win the Super Bowl." Hankins said, adding "Take it one day at a time."
Hankins is excited, however, about the arrivals of Harrison and Vernon, a feeling he expressed when asked about them. "I was excited that we brought him in." Hankins said "He's well-known around the league as a dominant run stopper and also pushing the pocket." Hankins was also asked how he feels about the team spending so much money on the defense, perhaps with an eye to his own impending free agency. He responded by saying "I don't think it's really about the money. It's about the quality of guys they brought in. All of them will contribute. Great to have new teammates and a new look on the defense."
Finally, Hankins was asked about new head coach Ben McAdoo. "Really trying to get to know him day-by-day. He was around last year, the last two years. I'm sure as this year goes along we'll gradually get adjusted," Hankins said.
McAdoo was at least familiar to the defensive players, having been the offensive coordinator for two years, but it seems likely that he would have a stronger relationship with the offensive players than the guys on the defensive side of the ball. Given that he's a coach that believes in relationships, that should change quickly.