After coming off a strong draft in April, the New York Giants are entering a pivotal year with their rebuilding process. With such a young, core group of players, the Giants’ newly remodeled franchise is beginning to take shape with a lot of bright talent and potential. Although they’ve exhibited steady progress so far, there still remains to be key developments left for the Giants to implement before they can rise and become a powerhouse team once again. On offense, it’s the wide receiving unit that certainly could use a boost. But on defense, it’s the defensive line that requires the most improvement and is certainly the greater concern out of the two that the Giants need to overcome this season.
Ever since they traded away Damon Harrison to the Lions and Olivier Vernon to the Browns last season, the Giants have struggled to reproduce a unit that can provide any sort of pass rush. If you look at their top three sack leaders from last year, the Giants had only one defensive lineman amongst this group; leading all defenders was Markus Golden with 10 sacks, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter tied in second with 4.5, and Dalvin Tomlinson, a defensive tackle mind you, finished in third with 3.5 (ESPN). If you think about all the legendary Giants teams over the years, strong defenses have played a vital role in their success, particularly defensive linemen. From Michael Strahan’s dominance to one of the meanest D-Line tandems in Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, to the fearful reign of Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have proven time and again that they’re most successful with a powerful frontline.
But since JPP’s departure, a lot has changed and not necessarily for the better. Shifting from a 4-3 setup to a 3-4 formation, the Giants currently have Leonard Williams on the right end, Tomlinson stationed in the middle, and Dexter Lawrence coming off the left. On paper, this D-Line certainly appears to be in good shape. But the reality is that you have two young, developing linemen that have yet to transform into the stars they can be, and alongside them, you have a five-year veteran who’s not been able to replicate the defensive animosity from his first two seasons in the league. And even though the Giants have transformed and shaped their new-look defense into one that’s predicated on a dominant linebacker unit, a robust defensive line is a must and this is the year they will need to prove that.
The New York Giants have the advantage of youth:
That being said, the Giants have put together a young group of D-Linemen who bring a lot of potential and promise. With Lawrence entering his sophomore year and Tomlinson beginning his fourth season, the Giants have yet another, young bright spot on their D-Line, and that’s none other than 25-year-old B.J. Hill. Coming off an impressive rookie year in 2018 where he collected a total of 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 15 games played, Hill set the bar for himself right off the bat and has displayed remarkable strength and quickness throughout his first two seasons with the Giants (ESPN). However, last year his numbers took a bit of a hit as he managed to gather a total of 38 tackles and only 1 sack, despite playing in every game (ESPN). After a concerning sophomore slump last year, the biggest question for Hill is whether he can overcome this setback and continue to grow into the dangerous threat he can be upfront. And following the rejuvenation of this Giants defense over the offseason, this could be the year everything falls into place, and here’s why.
The Giants shift to a 3-4 setup last season, took time to adjust to, and wasn’t very effective. But after signing both Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell from the Packers to bolster a young and ailing linebacker unit, the Giants D-Line will have a lot more space to work with whilst dealing with less pressure to muster everything alone upfront. When you have four good linebackers who can alternate providing extra help off the edges or up the middle, it positions defensive lineman in isolation matchups instead of being teamed up against, which happens to be when Hill brings out his finest work. Because he has such tremendous power combined with this impressive, slicing quickness, Hill frequently overwhelms his opponents, taking down any ball carrier he gets his hands-on in the process. Even against superior offensive lineman, Hill uses his patience to his advantage, waiting first for the opposing running back to run close by before he rips free and pounces on them to snuff out the run. However, what stands out the most from Hill’s style of play is his savvy creativity, pulling off smooth swim moves and sharp cuts to evade his opponents and shut down plays.
The only determining factor that could set back Hill’s success this season, is lack of playing time. Hill isn’t listed as a starter and the limited time on the field could hinder his chance to grow. With that being said, the Giants don’t have a lot of depth for the position and any injury setbacks could open the door for Hill. In addition, none of the starters have proven that they can be the lockdown players for their current positions, and Hill could outwork any one of them to gain a bigger role upfront. Furthermore, Hill has been able to stay healthy and has only missed one game in two seasons, providing consistency that can be hard to come by in the NFL. Despite the uncertainty of this unusual season, Hill has everything around him and at his disposal to have his best season yet. And after showing us what he can do in his first year in the league, more is surely yet to come, and it starts with the 2020 season.