By William McInerney
The Giants have had a rather busy offseason so far. They resigned defensive starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Keenan Robinson, offensive starter John Jerry and brought in some new players to fill roles of need, including DJ Fluker, Brandon Marshall and Rhett Ellison. However, one player who remains unsigned is Johnathan Hankins. There are some questions about how much he was helped playing with a great defensive line the Giants had in place last season.
While that's fair, the Giants should still resign him.
A lot of fans view Hankins as a lesser version of Damon Harrison, an interior lineman who can stuff the run but can’t get to the quarterback. While it’s an understandable conclusion, he does have one year with seven sacks, and he was able to get to the QB at a number that is around average for a DT. While he doesn’t rack up sacks, his ability to line up on the inside and get adequate pressure on the QB did allow JPP and Olivier Vernon to get to the QB more frequently.
Although the sack numbers were not high, he did collapse the pocket up the middle at a decent rate and sent the QB into the arms of one of the Giants talented defensive ends.
There is no doubt his run defense was helped by Harrison, but it is also important to note his presence and talent did make Harrison’s job easier as well.
Hankins is a guy who is very capable of beating blockers one on one in the run game, so it made it difficult for teams to double team Harrison. While there is no way to definitively quantify Hankins’ impact on Harrison, it is important to note Harrison had his best year in the NFL, and that was after leaving a line with Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. It is possible this was a breakout for Harrison that would have happened with Hankins there or not. But it’s also possible Hankins' ability in the run game helped Harrison get less double teams on run plays. And for a team looking to make a return to the playoffs, and a deep run, why take the risk it’s the former when you can bank on two options as opposed to one?
Another reason the Giants should keep Hankins is they have no better option to replace him. The Giants 4-3 scheme means a second DT will line up next to Harrison. Right now on the roster the defensive tackles besides Harrison are Jay Bromley, Robert Thomas and Jordan Williams. There is nobody in that group you can make a convincing argument can start next to Harrison and be a positive player.
The free agent market for interior defensive linemen is also pretty barren. The only remaining interior lineman except Hankins who can start on the Giants is Sen’Derrick Marks. Marks is five years older than Hankins, isn’t the run stuffer that Hankins is, and has pretty much the same pass rushing career stats Hankins does (Marks’ averages .18 a game, Hankins averages .19). There is no significant pass rush upgrade to Hankins, and he is clearly the best run stuffer remaining in free agency.
The interior pass rusher group in this draft class is very week too. Jonathan Allen will no doubt be off the board when the Giants' 23rd overall pick comes up. Malik McDonald is the only other interior lineman I’ve heard anybody consider a day one starter, and he has been steadily climbing draft boards in the past couple of months. Although it’s possible he will be there when the Giants pick, it is more likely he gets selected before they pick leaving the Giants with no real option to start besides Harrison.
Hankins by no means is a perfect player, and in an ideal world you would have a better pass rusher lined up next to Harrison, but there is no doubt in my mind Hankins is the best option the Giants have remaining. They should get a deal done with him and keep their dominant defensive line together.