Keep ‘em or Dump ‘em: Defensive Tackles

Up next in our “Keep e’m or Dump ‘em” series is the defensive tackle group.

2015 in review: Remember the days when the Giants were loaded at the defensive tackle position?

So do we—and it wasn’t all that long ago either. I fact, it was 2011 to be exact, the year that the Giants were ranked in the top half of the league in run defense.

Back then the defensive interior consisted of Linval Joseph and Chris Canty as the starters. The reserves were Rocky Bernard, and Jimmy Kennedy.

No, the names weren’t sexy by any stretch of the imagination, but they helped to get the job done.

Fast forward to 2015. Other than Jonathan Hankins, who is the lone stud among the group, the defensive tackles lacked.

Part of that was a result of the team having to move Cullen Jenkins to defensive end while Jason Pierre-Paul left the Giants to twist in the wind prior to his fireworks accident. But overall, this unit just wasn’t impressive at all.

Let’s run down the poll results.

hankinsFor what it’s worth, Hankins was the only one of the Giants defensive tackles last season to earn a positive overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

That’s not bad considering there was some question regarding Hankins could hold up and play as well as he did in 2014, when he and Pierre-Paul formed one heck of a duo against the run.

Hankins is, of course, coming off the torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2015 season early. However, he’s expected to be good to go by the time the offseason conditioning program begins in early April.

We agree with the voter who wrote, “Johnathan Hankins deserves an extension for being one of the few players who has performed at a high level over the past couple seasons.”  Hankins, who entering the final year of his rookie deal, could probably be had for a reasonable deal, at least for the first season or two given that he’s coming off injury.

Typically, though, the Giants seldom extend their own players before their contracts end—the last such player to receive a contract extension before his deal expires was Eli Manning. This practice of waiting is one we’d like to see cease.

Yes, there is a degree of risk involved if the player should suffer a major injury, but that’s why you keep the first year base salary low (well that and the fact that’s when the bonus money is paid out).  Also by locking Hankins up, you’ve now ensured that you have a key piece of your team’s foundation through his prime.

jenkinsCullen Jenkins didn’t exactly have one of his best seasons in 2015, but to be fair, he did have to spend part of the season at defensive end, which is just not an ideal spot for him.

An unrestricted free agent, it’s highly unlikely the Giants will retain both Jenkins and Barry Cofield, both of whom are on the wrong side of 30.

Our guess is that Jenkins, who remember took a pay cut last year to stay with the Giants, will move on, possibly even into retirement.

cofieldSpeaking of Cofield, we found it interesting that the voting for him was almost identical to that of the numbers that came in for Jenkins.

We also found it interesting how one voter labeled Cofield a “Jay Bromley clone” (actually, that should be the other way around since Cofield came into the league first.)

Regardless, we have a feeling that of the two “gray beards, Cofield will be the one that re-signed for another year or two to serve as that veteran presence along what is fast becoming a very young defensive line.

So we agree with the voter who wrote that the “jury is out on Cofield” as far as “knowing if he has anything left in his tank.”

kuhnMarkus Kuhn, everyone’s favorite kicking post, will be an unrestricted free agent this year and probably not a high priority to re-sign. Kuhn, the Giants’ seventh-round draft pick in 2012, will be 30 years old in May.

While he is one of the hardest working players in that locker room—a trait that endeared him to former head coach Tom Coughlin, by the way—the simple fact is that Kuhn, who was rewarded for his hard work with snaps as a starter, just hasn’t delivered the goods on a consistent basis, save for a flash here and there.

We have often wondered if Kuhn might be better off playing on the offensive side of the ball given that he absorbs blocks and not dish out the punishment, but the coaches either disagreed or felt they had to have the bodies at defensive tackle given the injury situation to Pierre-Paul at defensive end (which necessitated moving Jenkins to defensive end).

We did hear from one Kuhn supporter, who admitted to being “on the fence” regarding hanging on to the German-born Giant or letting him walk.

In a locker room where complacency settled into some of the corners, Kuhn was one of those guys who kept grinding. With that said, just because a guy grinds doesn’t mean that the hard work is going to translate into production, which in this case it did not.

We suspect that Louis Nix III (whom we didn’t include in the poll since he bounced on an off the practice squad) could be a candidate to replace Kuhn. We also suspect the Giants will look to address this position again via the draft.

bromleyLastly is Jay Bromley, who got some opportunities last year, his second in the league. Slowly, but surely Bromley showed improvement from the start of the season through its conclusion, thus putting him as a front runner to start alongside of Hankins in 2016.

Bromley isn’t the most explosive athlete out there, nor is he someone who’s going to constantly disrupt things, but he’s solid and reliable and has yet to hit his ceiling.

With more reps, again perhaps as a starter, year three is going to be a huge make or break one for the former Syracuse defensive captain who last year showed more against the run than he did as a pass rusher.

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