After re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul to a $62 million deal back in March, it’s safe to say the New York Giants boast one of the better defensive end combos in the league. Opposite Pierre-Paul is one of the Giants big free agents signings of 2016, Olivier Vernon, who was second in the league in quarterback pressures a season ago. Along with their ability to get after the quarterback, they both showed good durability, finishing among the tops in snaps played. Vernon finished the season with 1,040 defensive snaps which was the most in the entire league. JPP finished with 792 defensive snaps, but would have also finished over 1,000 if he hadn’t missed the last four games of the season with a groin injury. As good as the two were, the wear and tear from playing so many snaps may begin to take a toll if the Giants are unable to find some consistent pass rush depth somewhere on the roster.
New York Giants Pass Rush May Lack Depth in 2017
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Giants spent a third round pick on UCLA defensive end Owa Odighizuwa. After only playing four games as a rookie due to injury, he has only registered six career tackles and not a single sack. His passion for the game has also come under question as of late, after tweeting out back in April that “he thought it was in his best interest to take some time away from the game.” Odighizuwa has reported to camp, but questions will continue to linger until he is finally able to make an impact on the field. He may be running out of chances to prove he belongs on the roster, and could even become a surprise cut later this off-season.
Romeo Okwara filled in nicely for JPP after he was injured, starting the last four games of the season at right defensive end. An undrafted free agent in 2015, Okwara has shown the ability to get pressure off the edge, and like former Giant and fellow Notre Dame alumni Justin Tuck, can also slide inside and get a push up the middle. Okwara will need to show some more discipline when playing the run, but should get some meaningful playing time this upcoming season, especially on third down pass rush situations due to his versatility to play both inside and out.
Avery Moss was selected in the fifth round of this years draft. The Youngstown State product has good length and athleticism but is considered a bit of a project. After being dismissed from Nebraska, Moss transferred to Youngstown State where in his last 15 games, tallied 17.5 tackles for a loss, to go along with 10.5 sacks. Scouts question his hand skills at the point of attack, but if the defensive coaching staff can get him up to speed, he could find himself in the rotation sooner rather than later.
The only other defensive ends on the roster with experience are Kerry Wynn and Stansly Maponga. Wynn has played in 34 games for the Giants, including seven starts in 2015, but has shown to be more of a run stopper than a pass rusher. Maponga was signed by the Giants in 2015, after being cut by the Falcons. After being brought up from the practice squad, he has only played two games for the Giants in a very limited role.
Barring any late signings before the season kicks off, the Giants will roll into 2017 with a lack of experienced pass rushers behind their two Pro Bowl defensive ends. The defense is of Super Bowl caliber, but the coaching staff will need to get the most out of the second and third string rushers in order to keep everyone fresh for a deep playoff push.