The Giants loaded up on defensive tackles this offseason in trying to improve on their poor run defense last year.
In addition to bringing in veterans Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, they used a second round pick on Ohio State All-American Johnathan Hankins.
So far this offseason, Hankins is justifying the Giants pick, as defensive line coach Robert Nunn made it a point to show well he believe Hankins is doing in his first NFL offseason. “He’s looked good. If he continues to get right with his body and work, he is another young player that I think can contribute to this team,” he said.
Throughout training camp Hankins has been put in a position to succeed, working alongside veteran Shaun Rogers with the second team defense.
Joining him on the same side of the line is another rookie, third round pick Damontre Moore. Having a fellow rookie right next to him on the field has made Hankins more comfortable, and he believes that is has made Moore comfortable on the field as well. “It’s a good thing,” Hankins said about the alignment. “Whenever I don’t know something or he doesn’t know something we can work together. It’s good to have somebody that come in with you playing with you.”
Though he has practiced exclusively with the second team, a new defensive line formation could potentially lead to an increased role for Hankins.
Jenkins has lined up at defensive end a few times during each practice. The formation seems like the opposite of Perry Fewell’s patented NASCAR pass rush line. In it, there are three defensive tackles — Linval Joseph, Jenkins, and Rogers — along with a defensive end. With no backup tackle positions won outright so far in camp it is very possible that Hankins can swoop in and stake his claim to that third defensive tackle spot in the rotation.
This new formation makes the backup defensive tackle battle even more interesting than it already was. Obviously the Giants put a huge emphasis on defensive line depth and versatility, but both Rogers and Patterson are coming off injuries in 2012, while Hankins has yet to play an NFL snap. It will be interesting to see if Hankins can continue his swift rise through the depth chart or if the veterans can regain the form they were healthy.