Over the last two days, I have highlighted the Giants’ offensive and special teams. Today, we’ll highlight the straw that stirs the drink–the defense.

Defensive Line: Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Trattou, Craig Marshall, Marvin Austin, Shaun Rogers, Markus Kuhn, and Dwayne Hendricks

From top to bottom, this defensive line is scary good. Tuck, JPP, and Osi were three of the main reasons why the Giants enjoyed a Super Bowl run last season. In just his second season, JPP established himself as the best defensive end in the game. JPP registered 17 sacks and is only beginning to learn the position. Tuck dealt with a neck condition last season, but vows he is healthy for 2012. When healthy, Tuck is one of the five best defensive ends in the game. When it comes to contract demands, our good friend Osi Umenyiora is never at a loss for words. I already wrote why the Giants can’t part with him, so he’ll either hold out or suck it up and get it done. Either way, his pass rushing ability is a great luxury with two All-Pros ahead of him.

Lival Joseph and Chris Canty are two of the best interior linemen in the game. Joseph is regarded by many to be one of the premier run stuffers while Canty is freakishly athletic for a DT. 2011 second round pick, Marvin Austin missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle. The Giants showed their lack of faith by inking Shaun Rogers.

Linebacker: Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn, Mathias Kiwanuka, Keith Rivers, Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich, Clint Sintim

Going into the season, Boley will start at the weak side, Blackburn will start in the middle, and Kiwanuka will start on the strong side. Boley, who received a ton of criticism entering 2011, played exceptionally well last year. Boley was one of the team leaders with 93 tackles. The Giants inked Kiwanuka to a new deal in the off-season. Kiwanuka is an excellent strong-side linebacker, covering the opposition’s tight end and rushing the passer on third downs. The Giants stumbled into Chase Blackburn last season. Blackburn played in the Giants’ final five games and was a key cog during the playoffs. He had a critical interception during the Super Bowl and figures to start the season at the middle linebacker position. Blackburn will receive competition from Jones, Herzlich, and the uber-talent, Keith Rivers. Keep an eye on Rivers as training camp kicks off. He was a Top 10 pick in 2009, but never lived up to expectation. That all could change this season.

Secondary: Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Prince Amukamara, Jayron Hosley, Tyler Sash, Stevie Brown

The Giants over came injuries early on last season, losing both Thomas for the season and Amukamara for the first half. Amukamara returned and appeared in 11 games. The Giants expect him to take the next step in 2012 and compete for a starting job. While re-signing Aaron Ross was not a priority, the Giants showed confidence in Amukamara by shying away from corner until the second day of the NFL Draft.

Given the injuries to the secondary, Rolle was forced into playing corner. While he did a decent job, the return of Thomas, coupled with Webster and Amukamara, will allow Rolle to reclaim his job as the starting free safety. Kenny Phillips will man the middle as the strong safety while Tyler Sash will back up before safety positions.

Overall, the Giants’ defense is one of the league’s very best. The Giants have four All-Pro caliber defensive linemen and multiple ball-hawking members of their secondary. The linebacking core will need to step up to match the intensity of the other two units. Expect the Giants to be among the league leaders in sacks as they ride their defense in big spots.