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Giants Position Preview: Defensive Line

Posted May 26, 2016

Giants.com take a closer look at the depth on the Defensive Line:

The New York Giants reported to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center this week for the start of organized team activities.

These 10 practices mark the third and final phase of the nine-week offseason workout program, a stretch where no live contact is permitted but coaches can get a full look at the offense vs. defense. This is just the beginning, but competitions are starting to play out on the field and not just on paper.

>> WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM PRACTICE

In the coming weeks, Giants.com will look at each position with the 2016 edition of the "Inside the Huddle" series. We start with the defensive line, where the Giants made waves in free agency with the additions of defensive end Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Damon Harrison.

“It looks good,” said center Weston Richburg, who lines up across from the defensive line every day at practice. “I have played against Olivier and Snacks and they are great players. I think it is going to help a lot and I am excited to not only get practice against those guys but when it comes Sunday, to see those guys perform because they are both great players. Every addition that we have made, I think, has been a positive addition.”

Last season, the Giants carried 10 defensive linemen, a group that no longer includes Cullen Jenkins, Robert Ayers, Markus Kuhn, Kenrick Ellis, Damontre Moore and George Selvie. With that in mind, here is a look at the current unit that is now under the guidance of defensive line coach Patrick Graham and assistant Jeff Zgonina:

DEFENSIVE ENDS

JASON PIERRE-PAUL

2015: 8 G, 8 GS, 26 tackles (4 TFL), 1.0 sack, 7 QBH, 2 FR, 6 PD
Career: 83 G, 57 GS, 312 tackles (69 TFL), 43.0 sacks, 80 QBH, 2 INT, 34 PD, 8 FF, 6 FR

On the first day of free agency, the Giants brought back Pierre-Paul, who signed a one-year contract for what will be his seventh season with the team.

The Super Bowl XLVI champion said he has “unfinished business” and needs one season to prove himself after a life-changing year in which he sustained serious hand injuries during a Fourth of July fireworks accident. He returned for the second half of last year and recorded 26 tackles, seven quarterback hits, six passes defensed, two fumble recoveries, and a sack that came against the then-undefeated Panthers. He underwent additional surgery shortly after the season ended and plans to play with a glove in 2016 as opposed to a bulky club.


OLIVIER VERNON

2015 (with Miami): 16 GS, 61 tackles (18 TFL), 7.5 sacks, 36 QBH
Career: 64 G, 46 GS, 196 tackles (43 TFL), 29.0 sacks, 74 QBH, 3 FF

Vernon, a 6-foot-2, 275-pound edge rusher who has never missed a game in his NFL career, recorded 36 quarterback hits last season with 7.5 sacks. Since becoming a starter in 2013, he has 25.5 sacks and 65 quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus rated him as the No. 3 edge rusher in 2015 behind only Oakland’s Khalil Mack, an All-Pro player at two positions, and Denver’s Von Miller, the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

KERRY WYNN

2015: 15 G, 7 GS, 53 tackles (5 TFL), 2 QBH, 2 PD, 1 FR
Career: 20 G, 7 GS, 70 tackles (7 TFL), 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PD, 2 FR

Making the roster from the undrafted ranks in 2014, the Richmond product finished his rookie season strong with 1.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in the final five weeks. That performance coupled with Pierre-Paul’s hand injury earned him seven starts in 15 games in his sophomore season.

STANSLY MAPONGA

2015: 2 G
Career: 26 G, 8 tackles (1 TFL), 1.0 sack, 2 QBH, 2 FR

After waiving third-year defensive end Damontre Moore late in the 2015 season, the Giants brought in Maponga, originally a fifth-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2013. He played in 24 games with the Falcons -- 12 each in 2013 and 2014 -- before being waived by the Falcons prior to the start of the 2015 season. Maponga went on to appear in two games with the Giants.

OWA ODIGHIZUWA

2015: 4 G, 3 tackles
Career: 4 G, 3 tackles

Foot injuries led to what was essentially a redshirt year in 2015 for Odighizuwa, the Giants’ third-draft choice out of UCLA. With that behind him, Odighizuwa has been vocal about his goal to become the third man in the rotation behind Pierre-Paul and Vernon.

BRAD BARS

2015: 2 G
Career: 2 G

Bars spent most of last season on the Giants’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster for the final two weeks. He played in all four of the Giants’ preseason games and recorded four tackles.

*The Giants also signed undrafted free agents Romeo Okwara, Mike Rose and Ishaq Williams to join the competition at defensive end. Okwara was a 25-game starter who led Notre Dame in sacks in 2014 and 2015. Rose was a consensus second-team All-ACC selection in 2015 and led North Carolina State with 15 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Williams, a Brooklyn native, last played on a team with Notre Dame in 2013 before he and four other players were suspended for alleged academic fraud. In his three seasons at Notre Dame, Williams played in 35 games and totaled 45 tackles, six tackles for losses, one sack and one forced fumble.


DEFENSIVE TACKLES

DAMON HARRISON

2015 (with NY Jets): 16 GS, 72 tackles (5 TFL), 0.5 sacks, 4 QBH, 1 FF
Career: 53 G, 48 GS, 193 tackles (12 TFL), 1.5 sacks, 7 QBH, 2 PD, 1 FF

Harrison, a 6-foot-4, 350-pounder nicknamed “Snacks” by his former team, started every game for the Jets from 2013-15, a span in which the defense finished third, fifth and second against the run.

Only the Seahawks (4,234) allowed fewer rushing yards than the Jets (4,236) over the last three seasons, a difference of two yards.

JOHNATHAN HANKINS

2015: 9 G, 9 GS, 30 tackles (1 TFL), 2 QBH, 1 PD, 1 FF
Career: 36 G, 25 GS, 97 tackles (11 TFL), 7.0 sacks, 16 QBH, 4 PD, 2 FF

With Hankins and Snacks, the Giants have 670 pounds to fortify the interior of the defensive line. After a breakout 2014 campaign in which he started all 16 games and recorded seven sacks, Hankins missed the final seven games last season due to a torn pectoral muscle that he suffered while forcing a fumble in a game at Tampa Bay.

JAY BROMLEY

2015: 16 G, 4 GS, 36 tackles, 5 QBH
Career: 24 G, 4 GS, 41 tackles, 5 QBH

Like Hankins, Bromley spent most of his rookie learning behind a group of veterans. But in 2015, Bromley played in all 16 games and made four starts for the Giants. He’ll look to take another lead forward in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense.

MONTORI HUGHES

2015: 7 G, 6 tackles (2 TFL)
Career: 23 G, 1 GS, 23 tackles (3 TFL), 1 FR

After spending the first half of the year on the Giants’ practice squad, Hughes, another 350-pounder, was elevated to the active roster in November. Hughes was originally a fifth-round draft choice by the Colts in 2013.

LOUIS NIX

2015: 4 G
Career: 4 G

Originally a third-round draft pick by the Texans in 2014, Nix was released prior to the start of the last season. He was picked up by the Giants and spent time on and off the roster while appearing in four games.  

*The Giants also signed undrafted free agents Melvin Lewis of Kentucky and Greg Milhouse of Campbell. Meanwhile, fullback Nikita Whitlock, who doubled as a specialist on the defensive line in certain game situations, returns to the roster. Coach Ben McAdoo was asked if those days are behind Whitlock due to the offseason additions. “I’m not going to answer any questions that are related to personnel and scheme right now,” he said. “That doesn’t help anybody here.”