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Giants hope A.J. Francis takes some of the pressure off ‘Snacks’

Veteran could be team’s backup nose tackle

NFL: Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens
A.J. Francis
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Why did the New York Giants sign veteran defensive tackle A.J. Francis, a player who is now on his NFL franchise in five years? Let’s take a closer look as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

2017 season in review

After spending 2016 on the practice squad of the Washington Redskins, Francis was cut by Washington at the end of the 2017 preseason. He was re-signed to the practice squad on October 18, and added to the Redskins’ 53-man roster the next day. He was cut a week later, then added to Washington’s active roster again in late November. He finished his roller-coaster ride of a season by making 18 tackles (5 solo) in 164 snaps. Francis had a 71.4 Pro Football Focus grade, putting him in the “average” category for interior defenders.

2018 outlook

Francis was cut by the Redskins at the end of April and quickly signed with the Giants. It took him no time at all to take to social media to celebrate his good fortune ... and to blast the Redskins.

That part of the story is noteworthy, but it really has nothing to do with what role the 6-foot-5, 337-pound 28-year-old might play for the Giants.

Giants GM Dave Gettleman has made no secret of his desire to build a deep rotation along the defensive line. Gettleman drafted B.J. Hill and R.J. McIntosh, and signed Francis and Josh Mauro as free agents.

Tomlinson, a tackle in the 4-3 defense last season, has been playing the 5-tech defensive end. Perhaps surprisingly, so has the 311-pound Hill. That leaves Francis as the logical backup for Harrison at the nose.

‘Snacks’ has, of course, been one of the best — if not the absolute best — run-defending nose tackles in the league for several seasons now. Harrison is entering his seventh season, turns 30 this year, is 350 pounds and has had some knee issues in the past. Having a veteran like Francis who can at least do an adequate job while giving Harrison some rest should be a good thing for the Giants’ defense.