Keith Hamilton recorded 10 sacks for the Giants in 2000, and for the past 15 seasons that mark has stood as the team record for a defensive tackle. Now Johnathan Hankins has it in his sights, and he wants to blow right past it.
Hankins, the fourth-year defensive tackle, said his goal this season is to register a sack per game. Sixteen. That would not only give him the Giants’ record for most sacks by a tackle, it would be the fifth-most in a season by any member of the organization.
It would also make him a very wealthy man.
Hankins is in the final year of his Giants contract and looking to wrap up his rookie deal with a bang. Given the contracts that were doled out for defensive linemen this offseason, if he can put up numbers half as good as his goal he’ll command big bucks in the offseason. But 16 is the magic number for him.
“If I can get one a game,” he said, “it will total up pretty good.”
He may have a chance at that. With the addition of Damon Harrison next to him to help stop the run — one of those big-ticket free-agent linemen mentioned earlier — Hankins figures to have more pass-rushing opportunities than he has throughout his career. For most of his tenure with the Giants he was the one who had to plug up the middle and be stout against the running backs. Now he’s the spry, tiny guy in the middle of the line compared to Harrison and Montori Hughes.
“If you call me little at 325 pounds, I guess,” he said, “but compared to Snacks and Montori [each listed at 350], I am a little bit smaller, so that’s good.”
In 2014, Hankins had a career-high 7.0 sacks. Those stand as the only ones he’s had in his career. Last year he played only nine games before a pectoral injury ended his season. Now he’s healthy and feeling excited about his role.
“I like it, I really like it, because you get more one-on-ones and it’s a little bit more of a two-way go when you are getting ready to pass rush,” Hankins said of playing a three technique (on the outside shoulder of the guard). “Now having Snacks in there, he will keep that center and guard in place, so it will give me an opportunity to get a pass rush in.”
It’s a newer role for Hankins.
“I think I’m doing pretty good,” he said. “Practice is going well and my technique is getting better each day and I’m just trying to play as best as I can.”
He may not get 16 sacks, but the Giants’ defensive line certainly has the potential to improve on last year’s dreadful pass rush. Besides Hankins’ new angle, they also added end Olivier Vernon and believe Jason Pierre-Paul will be more productive than he was when he returned from his hand injury last season.
“Sometimes I try not to think about it too much or even talk about it because I don’t want to jinx myself,” Hankins said of the defensive line. “On paper we look really good and the past few days we have been together, we have been doing pretty good against the offense. If we continue to build on that, I feel like we can be one of the best defensive lines.”