As Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn said, it’s hard to tell what’s real on the practice field until everyone puts their pads on, but the early signs from third-round defensive end Damontre Moore from Texas A&M have been encouraging. The timetable for him and some of the club’s other young defensive linemen has been accelerated because of Jason Pierre-Paul’s recent back surgery.
Speaking of Moore after Thursday’s OTA practice, Nunn said, “I’m very pleased with where he is right now, but I told him he’s got a long ways to go and a short time to get there. He’s got to grow up fast. If he does, he’s going to have an opportunity to be on the field on Sundays.”
Moore isn’t the only prospect for an expanded role. Head coach Tom Coughlin and Nunn both mentioned third-year man Adrian Tracy, a sixth-round pick out of William & Mary. Nunn said second-year free agent Adewale Ojomo has potential if he can gain more consistency against the run, and he said 11-year veteran free agent pickup Cullen Jenkins, who is listed as a defensive tackle, can move outside in an emergency.
Until JPP returns, Nunn said one or two of them must step up to be part of a rotation of three or four defensive ends along with starters Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. The situation is complicated by the loss of pass-rush specialist Osi Umenyiora, who signed with Atlanta as a free agent.
“Losing a guy like Osi is not a good thing,” Nunn said. “We’ve got to fill that void because, when Osi was healthy, he was as productive as anybody in the NFL for the last several years.”
Evaluating the potential of Tracy, Ojomo and Moore, Nunn said, “Adrian is most comparable to Osi. Adewale is more power. It’s too early to tell with Damontre because we’re not in pads. He certainly showed a lot of rush ability in the SEC. The guy was close to the quarterback against quality people all the time.”
The concern about Moore, as with many rookies, is a relative lack of strength compared to seasoned pros. Stand him next to the well-chiseled 6-5, 268-pound Tuck without pads on, and Moore looks like a 6-5, 250-pound weakling, if such a thing is possible.
“That’s the area I’ve talked to him the most about,” Nunn said of Moore. “He’s got to look like an NFL player. He’s got to change the way he looks in that weight room, which is getting stronger and probably adding a pound or two. If he gets stronger, that’ll take care of itself.”
The coaches appreciate Moore’s burst off the line of scrimmage, and he has the long arms necessary to fend off heavier offensive linemen while making his move. Tuck said Moore’s speed might allow him to hide his lack of strength.
Asked about Moore’s raw talent, Tuck said, “There’s a lot of it. He’s explosive, and that’s exciting. Coach Nunn likes guys like that – JPP was one of them. They like to take raw talent like that because he doesn’t really have any bad habits. In college, he was taught to go get the football. Now, he’s working on technique.”
As for Moore, he’s learned the No. 1 rule for all rookies: “I’m coming in with closed mouth and open ears and just trying to embrace the whole experience and do it to the best of my abilities.”
Describing his relationship with the vets, Moore added, “They’re constantly critiquing me and telling me how to improve my game and how to just get better each day. It’s just positive feedback the whole time.”