Adrian Tracy is the best candidate for the third defensive end position while Jason Pierre-Paul is out.
MICHAEL EISEN: Fact -Tracy has been productive in limited opportunities and deserves to get the first shot at being No. 3. But rookie third-round draft choice Damontre Moore might have something to say about that before the season begins.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Tracy is more of a situational pass rushing defensive lineman, since he is a smaller converted linebacker. I think he is certainly in the mix, but so is Adeale Ojomo, Damontre Moore and Justin Trattou. Moore has to put more weight on and add some muscle in the weight room to be more than just a situation pass rusher. Trattou has the all-around game but needs to show he can be a playmaker. Ojomo needs more consistency, must improve versus the run, and be a contributor on special teams. Due to his all-around game, I'm going to go with a darkhorse sleeper since he is probably the most dependable: Justin Trattou.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -If there is such a thing as an incumbent for a backup role, Tracy is it. After having to be patient with injuries, Tracy is hungry and looking explosive so far. His big game against San Francisco last season also gave him some confidence. So I'm saying Tracy until a guy like Damontre Moore puts the pads on and we can get a better look. Don't forget about Justin Trattou, either. He was setting up to take over that Dave Tollefson role until an injury sidelined him last season.
Improving the run defense is more important than having a better pass rush this season.
MICHAEL EISEN: Fact -Just ask Tom Coughlin, who has said perhaps a million times that good defense begins with stopping the run. The Giants must do a better job shutting down opposing backs than they did in 2012.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -But only because improving the run defense will give the pass rushers more opportunities to get to the quarterback if teams are in more second and third and longs. The team's inability to stop the run last year set up the Giants secondary for failure and sabotaged the entire defense. The team has to stop the run this year, especially with two games apiece against DeMarco Murray, Alfred Morris, LeSean McCoy and other games versus Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, and Marshawn Lynch.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The goal of every defense is to make the opposing offense one-dimensional. Stopping the run is the way to do that as opposed to working in reverse. I don't think too many coaches or players would disagree that most problems last season stemmed from the run defense, which ranked 28th in giving up 4.6 yards per rush.
The Giants' offensive line is in better shape than it was heading into last season.
MICHAEL EISEN: Fiction -Perhaps it is long-term, but that statement doesn't hold up now. Two starters – guard Chris Snee and center David Baas – are rehabilitating offseason surgeries and won't participate in spring drills. Until they return, the line is not in better shape. The good news is they will perhaps return early in training camp. With Snee and Baas in the lineup, the improvement of some young veterans and the arrival of draft choices Justin Pugh and Eric Herman, the line should be better down the road.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact -With the addition of first round pick Justin Pugh and hopefully further improvement from James Brewer, the team has a lot of flexibility and depth, If David Diehl, David Baas and Chris Snee can stay healthy the line's overall play should improve as well.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -The unit has two things heading into the new season – stability and backup options. Yes, Chris Snee and David Baas are rehabbing, but they're two tough vets who won't miss a beat when they return. In the meantime, the organization locked down the left tackle spot with Will Beatty's new contract this offseason, and the three interior linemen are all returning after starting all 16 games together in 2012. That leaves the right tackle position, where there's competition between veteran David Diehl and young players like Justin Pugh and James Brewer.
A game with zero sacks allowed is better than a game with multiple sacks for your defense.
MICHAEL EISEN: Fiction -Depends on the game. What if you allow zero sacks, but turn over the ball four times? I'd prefer to take a sack. The Giants allowed an NFL-low 20 sacks last season, but didn't make the playoffs.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction -Sacks is the wrong metric to use in either case. QB pressures and hits can be just as valuable as sacks. If a quarterback is rushed and that forces an interception, it's even better than a sack.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact -This is a tough one. Both the numbers and my gut feeling are split. As a starter, Eli Manning is 23-9 when not sacked during a game. On the other hand, in that same span, the Giants are just 23-30 when they fail to record at least two sacks on defense. Both numbers are telling, but I'm going to take zero sacks just because protecting the most important position on the field is paramount.
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