For a long time, the New York Giants have been defined by the defensive line. The most successful eras coincided with the most successful pass rushers in team history. A lot has changed on the line this offseason and it might be something that continues through the NFL Draft. Here’s the next position preview on the defensive line. This will include players slated to play outside linebacker who will serve as edge rushers more than off-ball linebackers.
Players lost: Jason Pierre-Paul, Jay Bromley (still unsigned), Ishaq Williams (still unsigned)
Players added: Josh Mauro, Kareem Martin
Current roster: Josh Banks, Damon Harrison, Kareem Martin, Josh Mauro, Avery Moss, Romeo Okwara, Robert Thomas, Dalvin Tomlinson, Olivier Vernon, Jordan Williams, Kerry Wynn
Defensive line might have been the most shaken up part of the Giants’ roster this offseason. That was to be somewhat expected with a shift to a 3-4 base, or at least a shift that will see pass rushers standing up more often on the edge.
Jason-Pierre Paul is now gone and Olivier Vernon will take over as the top pass rusher, often as a stand-up outside linebacker. Behind Vernon are a lot of unknowns. Avery Moss flashed at points during his rookie season, but wasn’t often given a chance to do more. He’ll likely see a bigger role at least as the team’s No. 3 rusher. Romeo Okwara and Kerry Wynn provide depth, but it’s not fair to expect much out of that group.
The interior defensive line is far more stable than the edge. Damon Harrison will be set up in the middle and even as an elite run defender, he brought the pass rush last season — third on the team with 15.5 pressures per Sports Info Solutions charting from Football Outsiders. Last year’s second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson will likely see an increased role in a tackle spot next to Harrison after playing 53 percent of the snaps last season. Josh Mauro was suspended for the first four games of the season, but will likely slide in as the team’s 3-4 end, a position he played under James Bettcher in Arizona, when he returns.
Edge is a bigger need and a more likely pick over the weekend than interior defensive line. There’s been a lot of talk about Bradley Chubb as a potential target with the second overall pick. That would certainly help the defense, but the Giants don’t necessarily need a second dominant pass rusher. With some studies I’ve been doing on rushing the passer, either an elite No. 1 rusher or depth for a productive No. 3 rusher matter more to overall team pressure rate than the No. 2 pass rusher in the rotation.
Day 2 targets on the edge could include Florida State’s Josh Sweat, who had Football Outsiders’ highest SACKSEER rating, and Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, 2017’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
If the Giants do look at the interior, it would likely be a smaller player who could play as a 3-4 end, such as California’s James Looney, Sam Houston State’s P.J. Hill, or Temple’s Julian Taylor as a later-round flier. All three were better than the 90th percentile in SPARQ.