2. Defensive Line
The 2020 NY Giants defensive line will not be confused with the NASCAR defensive lines of old that featured four pass-rushing defensive ends in Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Instead, the new-look Giants defensive line is modeled after the current rage in defensive line alignments that are more frequently a 3-4 alignment with big-bodied, athletic linemen who get after the quarterback up the middle. Aaron Donald deserves a great deal of credit for the shift in thought process when it comes to the development of today’s defensive lines.
The fearsome foursome of Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill, will make up the rotation on the defensive line. Williams (6’5″, 305-pounds), Lawrence (6’4″, 345-pounds), Tomlinson (6’3″, 320-pounds), and Hill (6’3″, 315-pounds) are all massive men who are extremely athletic for their gargantuan size.
As a result, they represent a defensive line who can plug the middle in the run game and who will move the offensive line back in pursuit of the quarterback. There is good reason to believe that all four are poised to improve upon solid seasons from last year.
Leonard Williams is playing in hopes of a massive payday. Williams was franchised by the Giants this past offseason after stating that he wanted to be amongst the highest-paid defensive linemen in the NFL.
Last season, he led all NFL interior defensive linemen in quarterback hits with 19. There is no question the defense was better after he arrived via a trade with the Jets and that he can get pressure on the quarterback. However, he will likely need to improve upon his .5 sack total from last season if he hopes to be paid amongst the elite defensive linemen.
Tomlinson is also looking at a potential pay increase as he is in the final year of his rookie contract. He’s a top-20 run defender along the line and made massive improvements in his pass-rushing abilities between 2018 and 2019, increasing his sack totals from zero in 2018 to 3.5 in 2019 and his quarterback hits from zero in 2018 to 9 in 2019. If Tomlinson continues to improve in a linear fashion, he could find himself with a large extension next offseason or potentially as a franchise tag designated player.
Dexter Lawrence finished last season ranked not only as one of the best rookie defensive players in the NFL but as a top-25 overall defensive lineman in all of football. There is typically an acclimation period for rookies as they transition to the faster pace and more athletic play of the NFL from the collegiate level. However, Lawrence immediately made an impact for the Giants recording 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits, while being one of the best run defenders in the league. It remains highly likely that he continues to improve in his sophomore season.
B.J. Hill had what many would consider a down year in 2019, primarily due to the fact that he saw his playing time diminished with the acquisition of Williams. After registering 5.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits in his rookie campaign in 2018, Hill saw his numbers dip to just one sack and two quarterback hits in 2019. However, he has exhibited that he has the skillset to be effective in the NFL. The Giants will likely want to include him in the rotation more frequently this season as they try to decide the contractual fates of Williams and Tomlinson moving forward.
Given the youth of Williams (25-years-old), Tomlinson (26-years-old), Lawrence (22-years-old), and Hill (25-years-old), there is reason to believe that they all have significant potential that they have yet to reach as they just begin to enter their primes. If each of them is able to continue to improve, and are afforded additional time to get to the quarterback with the improvement of the secondary’s coverage skills, the NY Giants could see a significant uptick in sack totals from the talented young quartet.