The crown jewel of the Giants inconsistent defense was the defensive line in 2011. But defensive line coach Robert Nunn said this is a unit that’s scratching the surface of its potential.

“There’s a lot of areas we can improve on that we talked about in the whole offseason,” Nunn said. “I’ve got all the good plays on cut ups and I’ve got the bad plays too. With just some focus we can clean up some of the things that we need to improve on.”

Specifically, Nunn said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who registered a team high 16.5 sacks last year, can work on his endurance and his “understanding of the game,” and when those areas improve -- look out.

“He’s in a good frame of mind,” Nunn said. “We’re going to move him a around a little like we’ve always done, and he’s got to learn and I’ve got to remember to be patient with him as far as some of the things that I put on him.”

Seven Giants miss practice: Besides the guys on the PUP list, weakside linebacker Jacquian Williams, left tackle Will Beatty, linebacker Jake Muasau, weakside linebacker Michael Boley, defensive end Justin Trattou, offensive tackle James Brewer and defensive tackle Martin Parker were the only players to miss practice.

Williams has a sore hip, but coach Tom Coughlin said there are no serious issues. Beatty’s back was acting up again, which is more of a concern because this is an issue that he’s had going back to minicamp.

Boley and Musasau each have sore hamstrings, and Trattou continues to work his way back to the field after spraining his ankle on the first day of camp. Brewer also has a sore back.

Herzlich looking good: Coughlin continues to be impressed by linebacker Mark Herzlich, who is less of a feel-good story this season and more of a threat to battle for a starting position.

“We thought that last year might’ve been one of those years for him, and then he made our team, rather than our practice squad,” Coughlin said. “That was a real plus. We really felt that with a year under his belt, and a chance to be in the offseason program, that this would be an opportunity for him to really come in and know what he’s doing, and be the player that we all think he can be. So far he hasn’t disappointed.”

Hill back doing what he loves: Safety Will Hill was out of football in 2011, which is odd considering the West Orange, N.J. native arrived at the University of Florida as a bonafide superstar having been named the Garden State’s “Offensive Player of the Year” in 2007.

But just when he was ready to give it all up -- when he went undrafted out of Florida -- the needs of his four children and the words of a close friend motivated him to keep going.

“There’s a guy, Lance Adams, my best friend, who has been with me for the past five years and he’s always been in my ear like, ‘Look, man, you’ve been meant to play football,’” Hill said. “'It’s just that you had a little minor setback, just keep working and working.’ And I got amongst a great set of people, [NFL veterans] Ray Buchanan and Sam Madison, those two guys kept pushing me and pushing me, and I’m here now.”

And as it turns out, he’s here in a perfect situation.

Hill admitted he had the wrong attitude when he arrived at Florida, but he did pick up some pertinent information during his freshman season. The Gators put him in a hybrid safety/linebacker/nickelback role on defense and that happens to be a role that former Giants veteran Deon Grant vacated after the 2011 season.

“That’s the first position I played,” Hill said. “So me coming in here and doing that, it seems similar. I’m already acclimated with the position.”

Perhaps more important than finding a good fit, Hill has impressed the man whose opinion matters the most.

“He’s played well,” Coughlin said, adding, “We look forward to seeing him play and competing in the preseason games, on special teams and defensively.”

Remember, there’s going to be an opportunity at safety if Antrel Rolle is asked to play a lot of nickel and with Tyler Sash being suspended for the first four games of the season.

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