Strahan Key to DL Success

This is quite a tough position group to size up, what with Michael Strahan's future still uncertain as we went to print.

However, TGI strongly believes that Strahan will eventually return to Albany and this story will reflect those beliefs. If the Giants were forced to play the season without Strahan, it would be quite a challenge. He's still quite possibly the game's best two-way end. You don't just remove that from a defense and expect there to be no drop-off. However, the supporting cast around Strahan seems to be much improved, including William Joseph, whom many, TGI included, had totally written off. The Giants added two new DTs to the interior mix by signing Marcus Bell and drafting Jay Alford in the third round.

Can the ends justify the means?

With Strahan on board, defensive end has to rank among the best positions on the Giants. Joining Strahan is another former Pro Bowler, Osi Umenyiora, who's back and healthy after a sub-par '06 season. Umenyiora has been unstoppable during the early stages of camp. With much more of this, new left tackle David Diehl is going to request a return to the guard position.

Umenyiora seems primed for a post-season return to Hawaii. With William Joseph showing he can play a little end, Justin Tuck rounding back into shape from a health standpoint and Adrian Awasom, who's a more than adequate fourth end, the Giants seem to be just fine on the outside of the D-line.

Will the tackles hold up?

As well as Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield played last season, it was obvious that they wore down from overuse as the year unfolded. Jerry Reese went out of his way to make sure that doesn't happen again this season. He signed massive Marcus Bell to eat up space in the middle and also drafted Jay Alford out of Penn State to help get some pass pressure up the middle. Throw in Jonas Seawright, who lost a ton of weight and looks to be having a pretty solid training camp thus far, and the Giants should be set at DT.

With the new, more aggressive scheme implemented by new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, it's even more imperative that the big guys up front do their jobs and do them well. That'll also be the main reason MLB Antonio Pierce makes a return trip to the Pro Bowl, if he is indeed fortunate enough to do so.

Will they be better in '07?

With Strahan back in the fold, there's no doubt that the defensive line should be considerably better this season. There's no reason not to expect players like Umenyiora, Cofield and Tuck to continue to improve. However, if Strahan does end up hanging it up, no matter whom the Giants get to replace him – and it's unlikely to be Simeon Rice – the D-line will feel his absence in a big way.

In the understatement of the year, the best defensive lineman in Giants history holds the key to the success of the entire unit this season.

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