Giants may go younger on defensive line

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
3:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's not necessarily by choice, but if you look at the New York Giants' defensive line rotation in Sunday's game against the Eagles, you might see a couple of new -- and younger -- faces. Rookies Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore could be significant parts of the defensive game plan in Week 5.

Starting defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins missed practice Wednesday due to injuries. Backup Shaun Rogers also sat out with an injury. That led Giants coach Tom Coughlin to mention Hankins, the second-round draft pick who has been on the inactive list for each of the first four games, as a guy who could make his debut Sunday.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Hankins
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesRookie Johnathan Hankins may finally get a chance to contribute.
"I liked Hankins' work a week ago," Coughlin said. "I thought he was a really difficult guy for us to block in practice from an offensive standpoint, and I really felt like John was ready to contribute, and I feel the same way right now. I'm looking forward to watching him play."

Hankins has been healthy, but has been inactive every game due to the veteran depth the Giants have at defensive tackle. With injuries eating away at that depth, and having had an extra month to develop his NFL game in practice, it may be time for Hankins to show what he can do. Which is ...

"Stopping the run," Hankins said. "That's what they brought me here for. It's not going to be easy against Philadelphia. They have a great running back and a great quarterback who can run. But I am ready for the challenge."

Hankins has impressed his teammates in practice as well.

"Hank has done a good job out there in practice, and our confidence level in him is huge," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He was a second-round draft pick for a reason, and I think he can get the job done."

Moore has played on special teams and played well, but to this point the coaches have been hesitant to put him into a game on defense. The Giants drafted him in the third round this year in part because he had high sack numbers last year in college and they felt he was someone who could help the pass rush right away. He missed a month in preseason with a shoulder injury, which set him back. But the Giants have a league-low four sacks so far this season, and the pass rush could use some help. So how about ...

"The eager puppy that's ready to get in there and go play," Moore said. "I feel real confident in my skills and in the schemes my coaches are giving me. They don't come up with anything ridiculous. They put in you situations you can handle. So far everything they have told me has come true, so I'm not about to start doubting them now."

Coughlin said Moore "will get an opportunity to contribute as well. He's done a nice job on special teams. He has good energy, and hopefully we can build on that."

The Giants have had some strong performances, in spots, from players at the second and third levels of their defense this year. Cornerback Prince Amukamara has played well, and linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich made some plays Sunday. But the line is the defense's bread and butter, and it hasn't been disruptive enough. Perhaps an infusion of youth will help.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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