The New York Giants are a diverse pressure-heavy defense that strives to dictate terms to the opposing offense. Wink Martindale often refers to his defense as positionless. He uses a 290-pound player as an edge rusher, had safeties sugaring the A-Gap, and often employed quarter personnel packages with seven or more defensive backs.
Martindale doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the variety of personnel packages he employs, and his overall creativity of maximizing every defensive player at his disposal. USC edge/IDL Tuli Tuipulotu is a 6-foot-3, 266-pound player who offers upside as a situational pass rusher on the inside.
He’s not long, nor is he overly athletic, but his motor, crafty hands, and fantastic understanding of when to strike helped him record 13.5 sacks and 56 pressures in 2022. Tulipulotu terrorized PAC-12 quarterbacks all season, which is the primary reason he was a Unanimous All-American. He’s still only 20 years old, and could be in contention for the Giants on day two.
Prospect: Tuli Tuipulotu (49)
Games Watched: Cotton Bowl vs. Tulane (2022), CC vs. Utah (2022), vs. Notre Dame (20220, at Arizona (2022)
Red Flags: Did not test at combine or pro day with right hamstring injury. However, he did do positional drills at his pro day. The lack of testing is also concerning considering his overall athletic ability is in question.
Tackles for a loss: 30
Forced fumbles: 4
Passes defensed: 5
Tackles for a loss: 22
Forced fumbles: 2
Passes defensed: 3
Best: Crafty hands, pass rush plan, understanding of timing, hustle, alignment versatility, productive, only 20 years old
Worst: Not explosive, speed up arc, lacks closing burst/movement as read defender, change of direction, gets lost as a run defender, inconsistent stack and shed as run defender, lacks length
Projection: A situational pass-rusher in an even front. Could be used in a speed package inside for the Giants’ defense
Solid height with marginal length and big hands for an edge rusher; light for an interior defensive lineman, good weight for an even front edge. He has a very dense lower-body where he generates good overall power into contact.
Tuipulotu has an adequate get off with solid quickness, but he’s not explosive. Still, he finds ways to get to the half-man because he understands how/when to employ certain movements with both his feet and hands.
Tuipulotu’s hands and feet work in unison to win one-on-one blocks. When rushing the passer, he sets tackles up with hard steps as he closes width to keep OTs guessing. He has solid quickness and a low get-off to effectively work to the half-man where his excellent use of hands and ability to string moves together are used to his advantage.
He has a deep bag of tricks and quick violent hands. The plant fake with his feet set up the double swipe, club, inside spin, or push-pull; Tuipulotu did well when he employed his bull-rush to rip move (Tulane, Q4, 3:13, 1first-and-10 - sack; Arizona Q3, 9:05, third-and-8 - holding). Did a great job working to offensive lineman’s half-man and employing a rip move - does well to explode violently upward to create separation.
The crafty nature of his hands are abetted by his elite competitive nature. Tuipulotu is the USC energizer bunny - he doesn’t stop. When his combination of moves allows him gain a step up the pass-rushing arc, Tuipulotu does a solid overall job cornering. He can get low and stay low, but he’s not a flatten at the ankle joint type of rusher. Still, he bends through contact well and uses his hands to maximize his ability to crash into the pocket.
Tuipulotu also does a great job slanting inside; while going into interior gaps, he has that whole Jack Nicholson in The Shining ability to get skinny through narrow gaps and pierce into the pocket. He’s turned his shoulders completely horizontal and does a good job reorienting his path while his momentum is forward.
I appreciate Tuipulotu’s ability to be a balanced rusher who creates pressure despite a lack of high-end athletic traits. He leveraged his quickness to slip around blocks or penetrate as a run defender. I sensed some indecisiveness and a lack of burst as a read defender which was exploited against Tulane and Notre Dame.
He doesn’t have the quickest feet in space, and his closing-speed is modest at best, but he is relentless in pursuit. He still needs to do a better job disengaging from blocks as a run defender when he is tasked to read and react. His lack of length hurts him in this area, and he has to keep his pad level low. His weight also went through several changes throughout his time at USC.
He could improve as a run defender, but the baseline energy he plays with is encouraging to his profile. Overall, Tuipulotu aligned everywhere in USC’s defensive front. He dropped into coverage 46 times in 2022, and presumably can handle that responsibility to the boundary. His crafty hands and prompt nature, along with his instincts as a pass rusher, will be valuable to any team. However, he’s not a plug and play starter for every system.
Overall Grade: 7.1
He’s not plug and play for every system, but a system that allows him to pin his ears back from a variety of locations would benefit Tuipulotu early in his career. He could work his way to starting in an even front as an end, who can align in a wide-9 in obvious passing situations. Tuipulotu could also kick inside and use his penetration ability and hands as an interior pass rusher.
Tuipulotu has a high floor because of his pass-rushing moves and his approach to the game. His ceiling may be capped due to a lack of high-end athletic ability. At the very least, he would be a special team leader.