This sleeping giant will emerge for the Giants in 2015
The New York Giants have done an excellent job of restocking their roster with younger talent in recent seasons. In the trenches, at linebacker, at safety and at wide receiver, the team is loaded with young talent. Some of these players have already found the New York spotlight, while others are may be on the verge of a breakout season.
In every great Giants season, a player has emerged out of nowhere and evolved into a key contributor. In the Giants’ first Super Bowl run, in 2007, outside linebacker Kawika Mitchell went from a throwaway free agent addition to a key cog in Steve Spagnuolo’s elite defense. When the Giants took their second Super Bowl in the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era, an unknown and undrafted free agent by the name of Victor Cruz emerged out of nowhere to rack up 1,536 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.
Will the Giants have another sleeping giant awaken in 2015? If a player does emerge in a similar fashion, here is the player I would place my bet on:
To be fair, Moore would probably be my runner-up to Devon Kennard, but Pro Football Focus already named Kennard their ‘secret superstar’. If the Giants are to make a serious run in 2015, they will need to have more than one player emerge as sleeping giant anyway, and Moore can do it.
Moore is entering his third season in the NFL, and he is entering a brand new defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. This is excellent news for Moore–he recently told Pat Traina of Inside Football that this system better utilizes his skill set and that he is familiar with it because, "The system is similar to the system I played my first two years in college."
Moore has done all of the right things to prove to the Giants that he is ready to take over Mathias Kiwanuka’s old role at left defensive end. The Giants asked him to put on weight so he would no longer get overpowered in the run game, and he showed up at spring practices weighing 255/256 pounds after playing the 2014 season at 245-249 pounds. Last season, Moore finished with a negative run defense grade, per Pro Football Focus, but the Giants believe that a bigger frame should help Moore hold up better against the run.
As a pass rusher, Moore is on the verge of evolving into one of the NFL’s premier rushers. On a per snap basis in 2014, Moore was already dominant. Through just 231 defensive snaps, he racked up six sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 13 quarterback hurries and two batted passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Prorating these numbers over a full compliment of snaps is a dangerous exercise, so the next step for Moore would be to prove his pass rushing skills over a much larger sample size.
The Giants used Moore in defensive sub packages to rush the passer from both the right and left side in 2014. Moore was particularly strong when rushing the passer from the left side. In 2014, Moore had a 12.8 PRP (pass rushing productivity rating) when rushing the passer from the left side— which measures pressure on a per snap basis—per Pro Football Focus.
Only four other 4-3 defensive ends were more productive on a per snap basis from the left side. Moore racked up four of his six sacks, 11 of his 12 quarterback hits and nine of his 13 quarterback hurries as the Giants’ left defensive end.
Before July 4th, Moore’s quickest path to playing time was at left defensive end. Now that right defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will be sidelined for an officially undetermined period of time, Moore has an opportunity to compete for snaps at right defensive end as well. More practice reps are key for Moore as he looks to prove to a brand new coaching staff that he is the most talented defensive end on the roster not named Pierre-Paul.
Have faith that Spagnuolo will look to get his most talented pass rushers on the field. Although that idea seems so simple, it can sometimes slip past many coaches. Despite the fact that he had generated little to no pressure at all during this time frame, Kiwanuka had logged 1,450 defensive snaps over the last two seasons.
Spagnuolo has proven not only to get his best pass rushers going at all times, but also to move them around and put them in the best spots to succeed. I would not be surprised if we see Moore used in some defensive packages as a linebacker. Moore has experience dropping in coverage during his collegiate days, and this would give Spagnuolo another chess piece to deploy at the quarterback from different angles and spots on the field.
The pieces are in place for Moore to take a big step forward in 2015 and emerge from situational pass rusher to one of the Giants’ best defensive players overall.
Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports
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