In his first three seasons in the NFL, Barry Cofield has played in all 35 of the Giants’ regular season and playoff games and has been a starter in 34.Drafted by the Giants in the fourth round in 2006 after a stellar collegiate career at Northwestern–including earning All-Big 10 second-team honors–Cofield is a mainstay in the middle of one of the league’s best defensive units. Yet relatively few fans, excluding die-hard Giants followers, are more than vaguely familiar with the 6-4, 306-pound defensive tackle who has evolved into a potential Pro Bowl interior lineman.
On Sunday, Cofield and his fellow inside man Fred Robbins combined for six tackles and three of the Giants’ six sacks of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in the defending Super Bowl champions’ 26-23 victory. The Giants remain undefeated at 3-0 heading into their bye-week. With so much attention being lavished on his teammates who operate from the glamour position of defensive end, stars such as Justin Tuck, the injured Osi Umenyiora and heretofore retired Michael Strahan, the tackles are often overshadowed. “I’m not going to lie to you–Yeah, I’m jealous,” the 24-year-old from Cleveland jokingly replied in the Giants’ locker room after totaling three tackles, one assist and a sack versus the Bengals. “We need to get some love too. Seriously, we don’t mind the attention those other guys get. It’s a competition and it just makes us elevate our level of play.” While the ends accumulate most of the sacks coming off of the edges, it is the tackles that provide a push up the middle that collapses the pocket and makes it easier for Tuck and company to do their business. Perhaps more essential to the defense, they stifle the opposition’s ground game. “We know how important we are to the team,” said Cofield of himself and his brethren in the trenches. “But team is the key word. We’re such an unselfish group and after experiencing the success we did last season, we understand that it’s about the collective group and not one individual.” The former communications studies/sociology major may have uttered a frequently used cliche, but the results firmly support his claim.