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Giants DT "Big Hank" primed for big year


It's tough to miss a man nicknamed "Big Hank."

Nonetheless, offenses were surprised last season when Johnathan Hankins was in their backfield. Now it's safe to say they won't be the next time around.

The 6-foot-2, 320-pound defensive tackle out of Ohio State had a breakout campaign in 2014, racking up 51 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble in 16 starts as a second-year pro. As a rookie, he played sparingly behind veterans and suited up for just 11 games.

"He really surprised a lot of people with his pass rush," said Robert Nunn, Hankins' defensive line coach. "Everybody thought that he was a run stopper coming out but those sacks were legit. He had some legit numbers and a lot of quarterback hits and pressures, came up big in some key situations and I really like where Hank is.

"He has got to continue to improve with technique. That is where his big improvement has got to be going into training camp but I think that it is a very good situation. He has got a chance to be a solid player for a very long time in this league."

The key situations that Nunn referenced included a takedown of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on fourth down to end Atlanta's final comeback attempt in Week 5. The play sealed the Giants' third win in a row. Later on, Hankins' biggest game came against Washington in Week 15 when he recorded 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

The former Buckeye was a major reason why the Giants flourished down the stretch in getting to the quarterback, finishing fourth in the NFL as a unit with 47 sacks.

"I think that people underestimate him as a pass rusher," Nunn said. "He wasn't a great pass rusher coming out but he has really worked on a few things that have really made him effective. When they left him one-on-one, the guy took advantage of it. When those guards have to block him one-on-one, he is powerful and deceivingly quick. He has got better speed and quickness than what people think he does."

However, sacks don't mean much when the defense ranks 29th in total yards and last in allowing 4.9 yards per rush. But with a new defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo and free-agent additions up front like Kenrick Ellis and George Selvie, the Giants are trying to reverse those numbers.

The initial steps were taken this spring during organized team activities and minicamp.

"I feel like we came a long way, especially with the new defensive scheme," Hankins told "We have some new guys, big Ken and George Selvie, come in and I feel like we jammed together, learned together, and began at a good stepping-stone pace heading into camp. So overall, I think we've got the defense down. Now we've just got to learn how to work with each other."

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