Next Giants pass rusher could be Bjoern Werner
Bjoern Werner has only been in the country for five years, but that's been long enough to learn what the Giants are known for.
"Since I'm here in America you always hear about the Giants' D-line," the German-born defensive end from Florida State said Wednesday at an NFL Play60 event in Manhattan. "They have great depth. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul. They're good players . . . I hear a lot about it."
That legacy goes beyond just the half-decade that Werner has been paying attention. The Giants have long been built around their defense and, particularly in recent years, around pass-rushing defensive ends. They've drafted at that position even when they didn't seem to need to, such as in 2006 when they took Mathias Kiwanuka in the first round. So it would seem that facing a season in which they have already lost Umenyiora to free agency and coming off a year in which they saw decreased production in quarterback sacks, the Giants might be apt to revert to one of the most basic tenets of their success: You can never have enough pass rushers.
Werner would seem to fill that role. At Florida State he had 35 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, 18 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in just two seasons. Plus, he's familiar with the way the Giants use their pass rushers because they did the same thing at FSU with a rotation that included him, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins.
"We had three pretty good pass rushers at the end position and [the Giants] were who we compared ourselves to," Werner said. "We had three guys just feeding off each other. Everybody wants to be the best d-end but it's not competition like 'I don't like you.' All three working out. One guy gets a sack and the other guys want to get a sack too. We benefit from it, all of us."
How many times have we heard Tuck or Umenyiora or Kiwanuka say the same thing about the Giants' defensive line in the past?
Florida State was so deep at the position that the Giants may have their choice of two players to fill a pass-rushing role in the first round. Carradine, who tore his ACL late last season, had an impressive workout last week just four months after surgery. He was known to be a first-round talent. Now he may be a first-round pick, too.
Some think that BYU's Ziggy Ansah may fall to the Giants at 19 as well. He, like Werner and Pierre-Paul, is relatively new to football but has the athleticism and potential that the Giants seem to love at the position.
General manager Jerry Reese has said he is not happy with the Giants' position in the draft this year, not because of the players available but because of what it says about the 2012 campaign.
"We don't like picking 19," he said. "That is early for us. We hate picking this high."
So the challenge becomes figuring out why the Giants finished at 9-7 and out of the playoffs in 2012 and making a choice that fixes it. Given the Giants' tendencies, that will mean improving the pass rush. With Umenyiora gone and Tuck in the final year of his contract after two disappointing seasons, the defining characteristic of the defense seems due for some new faces in familiar roles.
Even a guy like Werner who wasn't in the country when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII on the strength of their defensive line play can recognize that. He might even be able to help fix it.