Moving right along, we now take a closer look at the Giants’ defensive ends.
2015 in Review: Yuck.
Yes, that’s right, yuck.
It all began with the July 4 fireworks accident that permanently damaged the right hand of the Giants’ top pass rushing defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul, an injury that triggered one of the strangest soap operas the team had seen since 2008, when receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in a New York night club.
With Pierre-Paul dealing with multiple surgeries and then having to learn to live and work with a hand that was now missing the index finger and part of the thumb, the Giants’ franchise player, who remained upbeat and optimistic throughout the whole ordeal, soon got a cold dose of reality that yes, he does need the use of his hand, which was wrapped up and protected by a huge club, to drag down quarterbacks.
What about the production? Well, the Giants hoped that youngster Owa Odighizuwa, chosen in the third round, might inject a little life into the pass rush, but his rookie season was put on the shelf thanks to injuries.
In the meantime, the Giants, who parted ways with another third-round pick, Damontre Moore, after his repeated bouts of immaturity became more trouble that he was worth, recorded 23.0 sacks, ranking them 30th in the league.
Suffice it to say, the defensive end position has to be addressed—actually the entire line has to be addressed, but we’ll start with the ends first.
The biggest question mark regarding Pierre-Paul is whether he’ll ever get that permanently damaged right hand back to fully functioning again.
Pierre-Paul, as previously noted, was optimistic of that happening. He told reporters that he was due to have additional surgeries that would presumably help him regain more range of motion in that hand and eliminate the need for the club that prevented him from grabbing onto jerseys.
Already, Pierre-Paul has had one such surgery, that being last month. Whether he will need additional surgeries moving forward remains to be seen, but there are two ways to view this situation.
First, that Pierre-Paul is having the surgeries early can be viewed as a positive in that he’s allowing himself optimal time to recover and go through rehab to regain the full functionality of his hand.
However, the downside is whether or not he’ll ever reach that level, at least before teams have to make a decision on if he’s worth big money in free agency.
We for one don’t think he is worth the big money, and not so much because of the situation with his hand, but with his larger body of work. Other than the 2011 season in which he had a breakout year, Pierre-Paul’s production has been nothing to get excited about.
We’ll discount the 2012 and 2013 seasons as he was recovering from back surgery. Let’s instead look at 2014.
Per Pro Football Focus, 9.0 of Pierre-Paul’s 13 sacks came in the final five weeks of the season—games played against lesser offensive lines that, per Football Outsiders, saw the offensive lines of four of those five opponents—Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis—ranked 23rd or lower in the final league standings against the pass.
If the Giants are going to give Pierre-Paul a rich free agent contract, the production needs to be there against the better offensives lines and not just the weaker ones.
While Pierre-Paul is still relatively young—he’s 27 years old—it would be a significant gamble to drop a huge contract on him that is sure to have guaranteed money spread over the first two to three years of the deal.
Robert Ayers, Jr. turned out to be a nice surprise in terms of picking up the slack for the pass rush.
Playing that old Justin Tuck role in which he moved inside on pass rushing downs, Ayers recorded a career-high 9.5 sacks in his contract year, despite missing four games earlier in the season.
Again, therein lies the dilemma with Ayers, who by the way turns 31 in September.
If the Giants are going to get back on track, they can ill-afford to heap big contracts on guys who are over 30 and who have an injury history (Ayers, remember, ended the 2014 season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle).
It would be surprising if the Giants don’t pursue at least one pass rusher via free agency—Miami’s Olivier Vernon should, in our opinion, be the first guy the Giants reach out to as so as the legal tampering period commences.
Vernon has never missed a game since entering the league as a third-round draft pick in 2012. He has also hit double-digit sacks twice in his career, in 2013 and 2015.
Pair Vernon up with Odighizuwa and another young pass rusher, and the Giants could very well be set at this spot for years to come.
Speaking of Odighizuwa, before a string of injuries washed out his rookie season, we liked what we saw of him as far as his first, quick step, a step that reminded up of a young Osi Umenyiora.
What we were concerned with though was Odighizuwa’s wiry like frame.
Although his injuries were not to his upper body, we would hope that he’s planning on spending this offseason in the weight room to add some bulk (though not a lot as we’d hate to see him lose that quick first step.
We’re still not sure about Odighizuwa as a run defender—this is something we need to see more of this spring and summer—but we otherwise remain hopeful that Odighizuwa can develop into a carbon copy of Umenyiora.
We’re still scratching our head over the team’s decision last winter to sign George Selvie to a free agent contract.
Although the Giants didn’t invest much in Selvie, we always thought that Selvie, who was a healthy scratch for three of the Giants final four games.
Selvie came to the Giants having recorded 11.0 sacks in his final two seasons with the Cowboys; with the Giants, he only recorded one sack.
The more Kerry Wynn played, the more apparent it is that he is nothing more than a run-stopping defensive end with very limited pass rushing ability.
Per Pro Football Focus, Wynn managed just 14 total quarterback pressures, none of which were sacks, in 592 defensive snaps.
Wynn still has value as a run-stopper, and might very well develop into a solid pass rusher with more work—perhaps the change in coaching will help him in this regard.
For the time being though, he’s a specific role player on a defensive line that needs more well-rounded players that can handle both the run and the pass.