Friday, April 23, 2010

A Human Post

That's what Jerry Reese called his second-round pick, DT Linval Joseph of East Carolina because of his strength as a nose tackle. But he can also play over the guard, too, giving the Giants flexibility in the middle.

It's kind of an odd pick, given the need at middle linebacker. Two picks, two defensive linemen. And now the Giants have 10 linemen that must compete for four starting spots and a couple of rotation spots. But that could be nine if they decide to launch last year's underachieving Rocky Bernard. Meanwhile, the odds-on favorite for this pick, Penn State's Sean Lee, was taken by division opponent Dallas.

You can look at the Joseph pick two ways. They have certainly added depth to a suspect middle front. But they may also be playing makeup for last year's free agent mistakes that involved pumping millions into defensive players like Chris Canty, Bernard, and Michael Boley. Canty and Boley struggled with injuries much of the season, and Bernard was never productive, so picking Jason Pierre-Paul and Joseph could be a way to address that.

Indeed, Tom Coughlin as much as said that things needed to change on the defensive front, especially in the middle.

"What we were able to do was get that push and keep people from pushing us back to the linebacker depth," Coughlin said of the defense of two and three years ago, when nobody ran on the Giants. "That has to be re-established. Keep some people clean so they can go to the ballcarrier."

They'll be counting on Joseph to step in for that. Reese said the team was particularly impressed with his quickness in his workouts. He, like Pierre-Paul, has limited experience, as he came out as a small-conference junior. But a 4.97 40, a 21 1/2-inch vertical leap, 39 reps at 225 pounds, and a sub 4.7 shuttle run at his Pro Day workout impressed the Giants and had them drawing comparisons to the departed Fred Robbins.

He's not the pass rusher that Robbins was, but both Coughlin and Reese said he's mobile enough to push a guard back into the pocket and create disruption for a quarterback. For straight pass rush, they'll rely on Canty and the rehabbing Jay Alford, who Reese said should play at close to 100 percent following 2009 knee surgery.

They expect Joseph to occupy blockers.

"He's a gigantic man," Reese said. "He's a big anchor, now. He gets low and it's hard to push a big man like him back. One of our guys described him as a human post. He'll give those linebackers a chance to run the ball."

Joseph will compete with Barry Cofield for the nose spot. But he wouldn't go so far as to say his first two picks served as any message to the underperforming defensive line.

"It says we've added some depth to our defensive line," Reese said. "You can't ever have enough big people inside. We have some depth right now, but depth goes quickly in a 16-game season. But right now it looks pretty good."

Joseph was a run-stopper at East Carolina, where he dropped 13 runners for loss while taking down five more for no-gain. Five of those tackles killed scoring drives, all on goal line stands.

Still, it was a curious pick for a team with what looks like a glaring need at another defensive position.


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