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Rookie DL's are stepping up for Big Blue


The rookie defensive linemen are making a name for themselves this season:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –Dalvin Tomlinson and Avery Moss are two of the most pleasant individuals on the Giants' roster. Modest and soft-spoken, they are quick with a smile and eminently approachable – except on the football field.

"I think it's a natural thing when you step on the grass, it just automatically flips a switch," Tomlinson said. "I guess you can say you become a savage on the field."

Hey, whatever works. As rookies, both players have become important contributors on the Giants' defensive line, which should continue tomorrow when they face the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif.

Tomlinson, the team's second-round draft choice this year, has started every game at defensive tackle and has registered 22 tackles (12 solo).

Moss' ascent is not atypical for a fifth-round draft choice from Youngstown State (he did play two seasons at Nebraska). He played on special teams in the opener, was inactive for three games, and played three games as a reserve before making his first career start against the Rams. Moss was credited with six tackles (five solo).

"It feels nice to contribute, but ultimately that doesn't mean anything if we don't win," Moss said. "I just want to get W's. I want to help this team get a W and stack them up in the win column."

The Giants' biggest offseason loss on defense was tackle Johnathan Hankins, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent. While Hankins was stonewalling running backs for the Giants, Tomlinson was developing as a relative clone at Alabama, where he won a national championship two years ago and started every game last season, when the Crimson Tide lost the title game to Clemson. The Giants selected Tomlinson with the 55th overall pick, hoping he would succeed Hankins.

"It was a need," defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. "When you lose a starter, you got to find somebody. We had high hopes for Dalvin when we took him in the draft, but you never know how it's going to work out the first year. Sometimes it takes a little while, but he was trained real well at Alabama, so I think he was ahead of the game. But I do remember in training camp, even in OTA's, he was behind. I thought he would be doing a little bit better, but then all of a sudden, it was kind of like the light bulb went off and it clicked and he started to play like the guy we thought we were getting.

"The thing about Dalvin that I like the most is he seems to get better every week. Dalvin has probably been one of our more consistent football players, he really has. He's a rookie now, so there are always going to be some mistakes. But if I were to compare him to other rookies, I think he makes less mistakes than normal rookies, so I think that's a positive."

So does Tomlinson.

"It means a lot," Tomlinson said, "because one of my goals was to come in and contribute to the team and pretty much not make mistakes. I take pride in that and you have to go out there and just play and not have mental errors each and every play."

Moss was not as highly-touted when he arrived here, but he has worked hard and become a valued member of the defensive line.

"Avery's a guy who has been a real pleasant surprise," Spagnuolo said. "He has done nothing but climb and get better and better. Initially, we weren't sure what we were getting because we didn't have a lot of time with him. We didn't know what we were getting in football get-it or football knowledge. But I'll tell you what, he's sharp. He's picked things up, we've asked him to do a number of different things. If he couldn't do that, we wouldn't ask him to play a bunch of different positions. But he's done a nice job."

As often happens with rookies in the same position group, Tomlinson and Moss have become close friends who spend time together off the field, as well as on it.

"It helps me a lot simply because I know there's somebody else beside me going through the same thing I went through with the transition," Tomlinson said. "We also watch film together and break down film and stuff like that. We'll just grow together, you can say."

"That's my boy," Moss said of Tomlinson. "I really mess with Dalvin. We hang out, playing games, all of that type of stuff. Can't say nothing bad about him."

Tomlinson and Moss – just a couple of nice kids wreaking havoc on the football field.

"Both of them are really good guys," Spagnuolo said. "Dalvin definitely has the mean streak you need. Avery, we have to find out, he hasn't played enough plays. But you do need that switch to go the other way when all of a sudden you line up. I've seen it in Dalvin. Avery, we need to see a few more plays in him to see if he'll turn that switch on and become the wolverine."

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