When Linval Joseph left and signed with the Minnesota Vikings early on in free agency, the common belief was that 2013 second-round pick, Johnathan Hankins, would immediately step in and take over at defensive tackle for the New York Giants. And although he's had an impressive Spring, it's not a sure bet to pencil him in alongside Cullen Jenkins just yet.
Despite Hankins flashing more often than not, he's been met step-for-step this Spring by a forgotten man: 2012 seventh-round pick Markus Kuhn.
Kuhn, who tore his ACL in Week 10 of his rookie season and missed much of the 2013 season recovering, arrived for offseason workouts in tremendous shape and with a warrior's mentality. And his relentless work ethic, which has been soundly praised by Tom Coughlin since the defensive tackle arrived as a rookie, has helped draw the attention of the decision-makers.
"I’ve been extremely impressed with Johnathan Hankins. Markus Kuhn came back from the injury last year and played just a little b last year. I’ve been extremely impressed with both of those guys," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "They have, technique-wise, accomplished a lot in phase one, phase two and phase three of the offseason program and then just their knowledge of the game, I think they’ve done a really, really nice job."
With the exception of one day earlier this week when he had to leave the field due to a heat-related issue, Kuhn has been a persistent presence in the middle of the defensive line — and Perry Fewell wasn't the only one to take notice.
"He had an outstanding offseason, really outstanding practices. He and Hankins, they’ll definitely get more reps in training camp than Mike P and Cullen if everything goes as planned," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations Markus was, there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t call his name out in a positive manner."
Regardless of who wins the starting job, this sort of competition and improvement in their play can only serve to help the Giants moving forward. If they're able to activate four quality defensive tackles on gameday to go along with health at defensive end, that immediately gives Big Blue a tremendous advantage.
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