Justin Tuck noticed the difference the few times last year when the Giants were able to get all three of their pass-rushing defensive ends -- himself, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul -- on the field at the same time.
"It was pretty obvious," Tuck said. "And awesome, for that matter."
The Giants were able to use that combination only late in the year. Not so coincidentally, it was during their run to the Super Bowl title. The first time they had all three back on the field at full health, in fact, was in the regular-season finale against Dallas. They sacked Tony Romo six times in that game, tying a season high for the team.
"I think those last games you saw us was us playing at the height of what it could have been the entire year," Tuck said. "Hopefully, we get there for 16-plus games this year and not have to have guys in and out."
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said that when he watches practice video of his defensive linemen, he's amazed as how one is faster and quicker than the next.
"It's a nice feeling," Fewell said. "When those four trot out there, I kind of smile . . . It gives me a lot of flexibility. We're going to try to be creative with those guys, have some fun with those guys, and I think it just makes our defensive team a lot better."
Opposing quarterbacks aren't the only ones who feel pressure from that particular defensive lineup. The linemen themselves feel some, too. Fewell said that because the defense is designed around matchups up front, those linemen need to win their battles.
"I think our defense is set up for us to succeed," Tuck said. "It's set up for us to have a big impact on football games . . . When we've played well, the defense has played well. When we've gotten blocked and not gotten pressure on quarterbacks, we haven't played well. I think a lot of that pressure is coming from ourselves. We put a lot of emphasis on trying to be the best D-line in the country."
As defensive coordinator, Fewell may be grinning when he can unleash that pass-rush package. He can only imagine what is going through the mind of an opposing offensive coordinator when he sees them lined up across the front.
" 'Don't put those guys on the field,' " Fewell chuckled. "I'm pretty sure that's what they'll say."