New York Giants Defensive Line Preview: A Strength? – Sports Illustrated

The New York Giants have focused the offseason on beefing up the defensive line. Knowing the trouble they had up the middle against the run, and in the pass rush, they focused on adding talent via free agency and in the draft. 
The projected starters will be Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawerence, and Justin Ellis. But how will the depth shape out behind the starters, and in what manner will defensive coordinator Wink Martindale deploy them?
 This unit will be the catalyst for the success or failure of the entire defense. It is a big weight to place on their shoulders, but the mix of veteran leadership, dynamic playmakers, run stuffers, and pass rushers, it's a weight they will be forced to carry.
Ryder Anderson (Rookie): Anderson was given a shot to compete for a roster spot after he was signed off rookie minicamp. He looks the part; he has size and good power. A lack of explosiveness might hurt his chances of making the team.
D.J. Davidson (Rookie): Davidson was selected in the draft's fifth round. He is projected to be a run-stopping defensive tackle. He is strong and wide with more explosiveness than you would initially believe. He should be looked at as depth behind the veteran Ellis and possibly a replacement for Ellis in the future.
Jabari Ellis (Rookie): Ellis was signed as an undrafted free agent. While he might be a little undersized as an interior run stuffer in the NFL, he could bring some pass-rushing prowess from the inside. He ran a 4.75 forty-yard dash at 4he combine and could provide depth or be a valuable member of the practice squad.
Justin Ellis (9 years): Ellis comes to New York looking to be the type of space eater in the middle of a defense that demands double teams and displaces the line of scrimmage. He will likely be a two-down tackle in obvious run stuffing packages. Since the defense was soft up the middle last season, Ellis hopes to change that dynamic.
Christopher Hinton (Rookie): Hinton is another big, run-stuffing defensive lineman who will battle it out for a roster spot as depth behind the veteran Ellis. He was signed as an undrafted free agent after his time at the University of Michigan. The son of former NFL offensive lineman Chris Hinton, the younger Hinton's modest college production is intriguing.
Dexter Lawrence (4 years): Lawrence will be an important part of the defense's success. Look for him to receive more snaps inside over the guards and center this year, as his power and explosiveness can create mismatches against the interior offensive linemen. Even with the team picking up his fifth-year option, this will be a big year for Lawrence to show he needs to be in this team's long-term plans.
New York also terminated the contract of a reserve offensive lineman that was on last year's roster.
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The Giants' offensive line needs to go from being a long-time weakness into a strength if this Giants offense is to have any hope of flourishing.
David Moa (1 year): Moa came into the league as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings and spent little time with the Falcons. He has been on the Giants practice squad since 2020 and earned a start in Week 17 of the 2021 season. Even with his experience, it will be tough to crack this roster with all the additions.
Leonard Williams (8 years): Williams is a bedrock of the defense and probably the most versatile defensive lineman on the team. He is also the most expensive, which is why his sack production (or lack thereof) continually comes up in conversations about his worth. He gets to the quarterback a fair amount and does everything else you would want a defensive lineman to do exceptionally well. Look for him to continue being moved around the defensive line.
Best Case Scenario: This unit uses the added edge firepower to create pressure up the middle. Williams hovers around double-digit sacks, and Lawrence becomes a legitimate interior pass rush threat. All of the added beef up front should result in more stout run support and turn second-and-medium and third-and-short into passing situations which will unleash that improved pass rush. Ultimately, this unit will be a catalyst if the Giants' defense ascends to a top 12 defense by the season's end.
Worst Case Scenario: The Giants' defensive interior does not consistently win one-on-one pass rush situations. Failing to do so would allow offenses to dedicate more bodies to help with the edge rushers. Another worst-case scenario would see the additions to the defensive line not generating improvements against the run. If this unit doesn't step up, the defense will rank at or near the bottom of the league.
Sleeper: Rookie D.J. Davidson has an opportunity to impress. He is a massive man with strong hands and a nasty streak. He will have a chance to get significant snaps early in camp and throughout the preseason, and he could impress enough to push Ellis for time at nose guard. Davidson might not have trouble making the team, but it will be a surprise if he can get into the regular rotation early.
On the Bubble: David Moa has had the opportunity to put good live reps on film last season when he earned his only start in Week 17. Not only did he not make a splash, but he was also barely noticeable on the field. A new coaching staff and front office that have brought in their own pieces will favor them over a practice squad guy that has not made any splash plays when given an opportunity in the past. Even with his special teams contributions, it might not be enough to get him over on some of the other new faces at the position.
The Giants defensive line is not an incredibly dynamic unit, but it has the chance to be more explosive this season. They have a group headlined by quality football players. Still, the nature of the defense may create more opportunities for the edge rushers and second-level defenders to be more impactful than last season.
Gene “Coach” Clemons has been involved with the game of football for 30 years as a player, coach, evaluator, and journalist. 

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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
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