As the Draft continues to draw closer, let’s take a look at another need on defense for Big Blue: depth at defensive tackle.

GM Jerry Reese has always been a big advocate of drafting positional value, and he loves strengthening the trenches. Defensive tackle is a big need – Fred Robbins is gone; Rocky Bernard was a bust in his first season with the Giants; Chris Canty barely played in 2009. With Robbins gone and questions surrounding Canty and Bernard, there is a big weakness in the front four. This year’s Draft features a great deal of talent at defensive tackle, one of the most important positions needed in effectively stopping the run. With this year’s Draft being talent-laden at defensive tackle, the Giants can wait until day two, or early on day three to grab an interior defensive lineman.

The “Planet Theory” – originated by the late, great Giants executive George Young and popularized by Bill Parcells – states that there is a finite number of athletic, 300-pound men on Earth; when a team has the chance to draft one, it should. Since there is a thin line between an athletic, 320-pound run-stuffer and an ineffective fat guy pushing 400 pounds, defensive tackles are one of the riskiest picks to make. But this makes the “Planet Theory” even more important. When a team has a shot at a good, or a great, 300-plus pound defensive playmaker, that team must pull the trigger.

There are only four defensive tackles remaining on the Giants depth chart after Fred Robbins signed with St. Louis (note: Jay Alford is not listed on this depth chart after being placed on IR during the 2009 preseason. He’s still in the mix.). There’s more in the organization, but they’re not on the 53-man roster. With two starters and only two substitutes, the Giants have virtually no depth on the inside. An interior lineman that would provide immediate depth and impact is Lamarr Houston, senior DT out of the University of Texas.

Houston measures at 6’2”, 303, which would make him the smallest of the Giants’ defensive tackles. But, in comparison, Alford is 6’3”, 304; Bernard is 6’3”, 308; and Cofield is 6’4”, 306. Just like Cofield coming out of college, Houston is an extremely versatile defensive lineman, able to play both tackle and end on a consistent basis. At the defensive tackle spot, where he would play in a base 4-3, Houston is one of the top athletes in the Draft. He combines quickness, agility, and explosiveness off the ball to get penetration. He has good speed for an interior lineman, a very strong upper body, and a nice ability to change direction. Houston has shown good balance and the ability to keep his feet. He is consistent in pursuit, and doesn’t give up or take a play off. Houston is sudden on contact as a pass rusher and does a good job using his hands, keeping his pad level down and accelerating toward the ball. He has the first-step explosion to threaten gaps inside and drive his way into the backfield. Houston really impressed at the Senior Bowl practices, where he showed off his sound quickness, as well as in the Rose Bowl against Alabama: 10 tackles, two for a loss, and one sack.

The one glaring weakness in Houston’s game is he struggles to shed blocks against really big offensive linemen. If he gets caught in a block, he rarely makes a play, but his strength and speed off the ball will make up for that. Houston has the athletic tools to develop into a starting defensive tackle a couple years down the road. The Giants should have him near the top of their big board in the second round.

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