New York Giants: All Time Giants Defensive Front 7/Part 3
By Michael Stewart @golderbad
Historically, when you think of the New York Giants, defense is the first thing you think of and with good reason. Since 1925, the Giants have had more defensive players named to Pro Bowls and inducted into the Hall of Fame.
While researching my candidates, once again the selections were many and to decide with limited spots available. There will be a lot more of a debate on the defensive side on who belongs on the Giants all-time 1st defensive team.
Keeping consistent with my guidelines, my criteria remain the same as my 1st team all-team Offensive team. Due to the talent at the linebacker position in Giants history, I went with 4 linebackers and only 3 Defensive linemen, although the Giants played mostly a 4-3 base front 7 throughout their history. Let’s take a look at my selections and you decide if I got it right.
DE-Michael Strahan (1993-2007): Strahan’s storybook career with the Giants was truly remarkable as a 2nd round selection out of Texas Southern. His 141.5 career sacks are a Giants record, but Strahan was more than a pass rusher as he excelled against the run as well. Strahan was not only one of the best DE of his generation and one of the best in Giants history with 7 Pro Bowl appearances, 4 time 1st team All Pro and his 22.5 sacks in 2001 still stands today as the most in a season.
DT-Justin Tuck (2005-2015): Tuck played all along the DL during his career and was a nightmare to opposing OL to block. Tuck was arguably the most versatile DL in Giants history with his ability to play inside or outside with equal success. His career 60.5 sacks indicated just how disruptive he was despite constant double teams from opposing teams.
DE-Leonard Marshall (1983-1992): Could have gone in a different direction here as I had a ton of great DE’s to select. However; I decided on Marshall due to his ability to be a complete DE who was equally effective against the run as he was as a pass rusher with 79.5 career sacks as a Giant (ranked 3rd all time in Giants history behind LT and Strahan). Marshall played in the shadows and LT and rightly so, but make no mistake just how good Marshall was for those great Giant defenses.
OLB: Lawrence Taylor (1981-1993): The Best Giants player of all-time without question who revolutionized the OLB position. Lawrence Taylor absolutely dominated his opponents on the playing field and at times it looked like a man playing against boys.
Not only was Taylor a supreme athlete, but he also played with such a mean streak and endless motor that made him arguably the greatest defensive player to ever play in the NFL. Taylor finished with 132.5 career sacks, despite his rookie totals of 9.5 in 1981 not recognized as sacks were not recorded until 1982.
OLB: Brad Van Pelt (1973-1983): This selection will raise some eye brows as many would put Jesse Armstead here instead; which is fine. The debate between the two was very difficult as their careers mirrored each other as both were 5x Pro Bowlers.
Armstead was a better pass rusher (40 to 24.5) than Van Pelt, while Van Pelt was a better defender against the pass (20 INTS to 12 INTS) than Armstead. What made my decision a little easier was that Brad Van Pelt played with a less than talented supporting cast; where Armstead played on some playoff teams during his career.
Van Pelt moved from SS at Michigan State to OLB with Giants and immediately began the Giants best defensive player. Only near the end of his career did Van Pelt have a better supported cast of talent.
ILB: Harry Carson (1976-1988): In my opinion, Harry Carson was the 2nd best New York Giants of all-time with only LT ahead him. Carson was drafted in the 4th round of the 1976 draft as a DE out of South Carolina. Former Giants DC coach at the time was Marty Schottenheimer who brilliantly envisioned Carson as a MLB and the rest is history.
Carson made 9 Pro Bowl appearances, was a 2 time 1st team and a 4 time 2nd team All-Pro for the Giants. Carson was not a pass rusher, but was a tackling machine, especially against the run where he once recorded 25 tackles in a game. Carson played his entire career in a Giants uniform, is a member of the Hall of Fame and should have his number retired.
ILB-Sam Huff (1956-1963): Huff was a standout DL at the University of West Virginia, but that all changed when DC Tom Landry came up with the new 4-3 defensive scheme and moved Huff to MLB behind the current starter Ray Beck. In a game against the Chicago Cardinals, Beck was injured and Huff replaced him and never looked back.
A 5 time Pro Bowler, 4 time 1st and 2 time 2nd All Pro Team, Huff was without a doubt the leader of those great Giant defenses in the mid 50’s to early 60’s. Huff is also a member of the all-decade team of the 1950’s and a member of the Hall of Fame.
Final Thoughts: These selections were by far the toughest to select as the Giants had some great players on the defensive front 7. Leaving out such players as: Osi Umenyiora, Rosie Grier, Mel Heim, Jesse Armstead and Andy Robustelli were all tough decisions. Again, this is very debatable and the exclusion of the five mentioned above and other great players would have justification. Next article “All Time Giants Secondary”.