The Giants defensive line looked rather frisky against the Cincinnati Bengals during last week’s joint practices, but rather tame in their preseason opener.
Saturday night features another chance to show their teeth when they host the young and upcoming Jacksonville Jaguars. Big Blue will get the opportunity to chase after Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who many compare to a poor man’s Ben Roethlisberger for his size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) and ability to escape the rush.
The Giants front four rotation will have a more difficult task in corralling Bortles, but to a man, they can’t wait to show what they can do as they try to improve upon last week’s lackluster performance.
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“Last week was last week, but I think we have some guys that will play relentless football. I was kind of impressed with some of the things that the guys did up front [this week in practices]. Now, there are some tweaks and some mental errors that we have to get ironed out, and I think they’ll do that,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. “And [defensive line] Coach [Robert] Nunn is working technique with them. We’ve moved some guys around [where] some of those defensive ends have played inside, too. We like to do that [and] we’ll continue to do that. We just have to get into situations that will allow us to do that.”
Of the group of young defensive linemen who have filled in during Jason Pierre-Paul’s absence, Kerry Wynn has jumped to the forefront of the pack. The young vet has been penciled in as the starter at one end and has not disappointed.
Spagnuolo said he had no idea what kind of gem he was inheriting when he took the job.
“I didn’t know a lot about Kerry coming here. All I knew of him is what I saw on film as I studied the Giants from last year. But he’s a solid football player. He knows what he’s doing,” said Spagnuolo. “Even when he makes errors, I trust that Kerry will fix it. He’s getting better as a football player. He’s improving each day as we’ve gone on in training camp.”
Wynn, along with fellow young vet Damontre Moore and rookie Owa Odighizuwa, have formed a nice trio of pass-rushers for Spagnuolo, who loves to rotate his lineman and keep them fresh for the latter stages of the game.
Odighizuwa has also been a bit of a revelation for the Giants, as he’s shown good burst in practices and holds up well against the run. The former USC Trojan likens the rotation to his time in college, when there was a plethora of guys who were able to get after the quarterback.
The rookie said he’s looking forward to improving on his preseason opener.
“I’m excited about it [another chance]. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me. I’ve been working as hard as I can all week to put myself in the best situation to succeed. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun playing at home for the first time,” said Odighizuwa, adding it doesn’t matter what position he plays, so long as he makes an impact. “Wherever they let me play and lineup is where I’ll be. Coach Nunn has been teaching me, I’ve been watching film, and then actually applying it. I feel like I’ve been making a lot of strides in my pass rush and taken a great step in the right direction. I’ve been getting great feedback from the coaches … The biggest thing Coach Nunn tells us is just play to your strengths, practice the things that I’m telling you to do, and figure out what works for you from there.”
What’s been working for Big Blue so far in practice is displaying their improved speed rushes and getting as close to franchise signal caller Eli Manning – before pulling up, of course, lest find themselves unemployed. But come Saturday night, the improving and frothing young defensive linemen will get another chance to actually hit an opposing quarterback, and continue to earn the praises of their coaching staff.
Big Blue notes:
-Wynn and the rookie have gotten their fair share of praise, but Moore has also caught they eyes of Spagnuolo: “I love Damontre. I love guys that like to have fun. He’s also aware. The other day, he pulled me aside and wanted to go over some wrinkles and changes we’ve made. I like that he did that and is passionate. He wants to do well. We’re looking for him to do good things. We’ll fit him in there where we can, and fit him in the right spots.”
-Coach Nunn said he likes that switch that goes off for his defensive linemen, as he notices the difference between uppers practice (non-contact sessions in just a helmet and shoulder pads) and full-contact practices: “Wynn’s a strong, young player and takes it up a notch [in pads]. I mean, they all do, really, but he’s a strong kid. … The whole group of ends, really, I like what I see. Owa needs some more conditioning, but he’s a strong kid that always does what you ask him to do. Damontre has done some good things. George Selvie is a professional, hard-working, every day man. He just shows up, does what you ask him to do, and that bleeds through that entire room.”