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Osi Umenyiora's Departure Puts Focus on New York Giants' Defensive Line

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Free agent defensive end Osi Umenyiora officially joined the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday (March 27), bringing an end to his eventful career with the New York Giants.

His departure is no surprise. It was only a matter of time before Umenyiora left New York, as the Giants are up against the salary cap and simply couldn't afford to pay him what the Falcons did (a reported two-year deal worth $8.5 million). And let's be fair, Umenyiora deserved to get paid. In nine seasons with the Giants, he collected 75 sacks, two Pro Bowl selections and a pair of Super Bowl rings. It's just too bad it had to end this way.

Picked in the second round (No. 56 overall) of the 2003 NFL draft, Umenyiora helped take Big Blue's pass rush to a higher level. Crushing the quarterback became the G-Men's specialty and driving force behind a pair of championships. But New York's vaunted pass rush lost its edge in 2012. The Giants had 33 sacks this past season, a precipitous drop off from the previous campaign when they collected 48, which was tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the second-most in the National Football League.

Frankly, one of the reasons for the pass-rush power outage was Umenyiora's decline in production. As part of a defensive rotation with Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, he started only four games and finished the season with six sacks, the fewest since his injury-shortened 2006 campaign. Consequently, the entire defense was compromised and allowed a franchise-record 6,134 yards. But at the end of the day, the Giants were a better team with Umenyiora on it.

Restoring its pass rush is high on New York's list of offseason priorities. And it's going to be more difficult without Umenyiora. Pierre-Paul and Tuck, who had four sacks last season, are the only experienced pass-rushing ends currently on the team's roster. Thus, the G-Men may want to look long and hard at the defensive ends in this year's draft class (Shutdown Corner's post-combine mock draft projects Florida State's Bjoern Werner going to New York at No. 19). Otherwise, they're going to need Adrian Tracy, Justin Trattou or Adewale Ojomo, who had a strong preseason, to step in and step up.

Over the last few years, pressuring the quarterback has been Big Blue's calling card. Now without Umenyiora, the pressure is going to be on the Giants to keep opposing quarterbacks on the run.

Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer with more than 15 years of experience covering amateur and professional sports for several print and online media outlets. He tracked the New York Giants for Yahoo! Contributor Network during the team's Super Bowl run in 2011-12. Adam can be found on Twitter @Pegcitysports.



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