They call him “Hank.” What the New York Giants should be calling Johanthan Hankins is “hope.'”
The Giants, who once again struggled on defense last season, have not fared much better this offseason. Jason Pierre-Paul’s headline-making fireworks injury have left more questions than answers for Big Blue and the return of Steve Spagnulo as defensive coordinator has some wondering if the team can get back to Super Bowl-caliber hits.
But while New York wants, maybe even needs, a return to the defensive dominance of old, there’s one guy in particular that the Giants will depend on; Hankins. The third-year tackle had a breakout season last year and now the sky is the limit for the projected starter, who very well could fill the leadership hole that Big Blue has on its defensive line. Here’s what you need to know about the big man up front:
1. Hankins Has Been Called on to Fill in For Jason Pierre-Paul
Johnathan Hankins was good last season. He had the stats (more on that later) and the size to become a formidable presence on a Giants defensive line that desperately needed a, healthy, sparkplug. Hankins was always going to get time on the line this season. Then, Jason Pierre-Paul’s Fourth of July injury happened and the Giants were faced with a fireworks-sized hole on their defensive line.
Quite suddenly Hankins went from being an important part of New York’s defensive plan to an integral part, stepping into that hole that Pierre-Paul has left indefinitely. Hankins was quick to remind that JPP will be missed on the line but even he couldn’t ignore the opportunity in front him, telling ESPN:
Whenever he is on the field, offenses and teams are alert of him and they try to do their best to scheme around him. I feel like with the guys we have now … I think we can get the job done as a unit and not always have [to rely heavily on] that one superstar guy which JPP was. It just calls for opportunities for guys to step up.
Now, Hankins is hoping to get even more snaps on the line and maybe even see some time at defensive end, a spot where the Giants feel he can bring some serious pass-rushing pressure.
2. He Played College Football at Ohio State & Was Drafted in 2013
Hankins played with the Buckeyes from 2010 to 2012 and his presence on the defense was felt almost immediately. As a true freshman made 16 tackles and recorded one sack but was hindered by his weight, coming into college at about 350 pounds.
He worked to get his weight down during the offseason and returned as a starter for his sophomore season. That year Hankins recorded 67 tackles and three sacks. It only got better from there. He found his rhythm on the line, maintaining his size and using it to his advantage instead of letting it force him to the sidelines. As a junior he was a first-time All-Big Ten selection and was a first-team All-American.
Hankins declared for the 2013 NFL Draft following his junior season at Ohio State and was selected in the second round, 49th overall, by the New York Giants.
3. Hankins Recorded a Breakout Season Last Year
Hankins needed a good performance on the defensive line last year and he had a good performance on the defensive line last year. More to the point, he had a fantastic performance last year. He finished with a team-best +12.1 Pro Football Focus run defense and established himself as a pass rusher with seven sacks as well as 27 hits or hurries.
Of course, this is exactly what the Giants expected of the former Buckeye. Defensive line coach Robert Nunn told NJ.com:
I think people underestimate him as a pass rusher. He wasn’t a great pass rusher coming out but he’s really worked on a few things that has made him effective. When they left him 1-on-1, he took advantage of it. When those guards have to block him 1-on-1, he’s powerful and deceivingly quick. He’s got better speed and quickness than what people think he does. He has to continue.
By the end of the season Hankins was PFF’s seventh-ranked DT and 14th among his position with a run stop percentage of 7.6. Those are good numbers. They’re also the kind of numbers that bolster expectations for this season.
4. He Signed a Four-Year Contract With the Giants in 2013
The New York Giants expected big things out of Hankins as soon as they drafted him in 2013 and they proved it with a sizable contract for the then-rookie. According to Over the Cap, Hankins was signed for four-years and just over $4 million with $1.89 million guaranteed.
The 6-foot-2, 320-pound defensive force is slated to make just over $1 million against the cap this year. So far, he seems to be worth it.
5. Hankins Grew Up in Dearborn Heights, Michigan
The Michigan native started playing football at a young age and by the time he joined the high school team his size and talent were already obvious. Hankins played as an offensive guard during his freshman season, weighing in at 255-pounds, before transferring to Southeastern High School where he started on the defensive line.
Hankins was joined at Southeastern with William Gholston, a five-star prospect at the time, and the two established the “best defense in Detroit.” A multi-year starter, Hankins was named an all-Detroit, all-metro and a Michigan Blue Chip player with 12 sacks among his 85 tackles as a senior.
Although he had hoped to join Gholston at Michigan State, Hankins opted to take his talents to Ohio State. He had also been recruited by Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.