EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 16: B.J. Hill #95 of the New York Giants celebrates a play against the Tennessee Titansduring their game at MetLife Stadium on December 16, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York Giants defensive lineman B.J. Hill will have a whole lot to prove during his third season in the pros.

Undergoing a successful rookie campaign is evidently a fantastic feat to accomplish in the NFL. Nonetheless, it’s the will and ability to build off that early performance and consistently bring a level of talent to the field that will separate you from the rest.

That constant success is what B.J. Hill must focus on right now. As a rookie in 2018, the New York Giants defensive lineman experienced a campaign that raised the eyebrows of many. The former third-round selection seemed like he was en route to becoming a staple on this Giants defense for years to come.

But throughout his sophomore campaign with Big Blue, things didn’t seem right with Hill. He simply wasn’t making the plays he made during his inaugural NFL season, leading to his long-term demotion from the starting lineup after Week 6.

The upbeat rookie season was present, but the consistency thereafter has been missing. This leads to the 2020 campaign becoming one that will be very crucial for the 25-year-old.

In front of a mostly new coaching staff — including a new defensive coordinator and defensive line coach — Hill must return to his 2018 form. In the midst of that campaign, he portrayed a significant level of on-field versatility. B.J. ultimately racked up 48 combined tackles (second-most among Giants defensive linemen) with six tackles for loss, eight quarterback hits, and 5.5 sacks (second-most on the team).

He possessed that knack to not only stop the run but additionally make his way into the backfield at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds in order to wrap up the quarterback. He was a bright spot among a struggling pass rush, as the Giants tied for 30th that year with just 30 total sacks.

Not to mention, he co-led all Giants defensive linemen with a pair of pass breakups, showing athleticism to get off the ground in order to make contact with the football.

It’s clear he carries the ability to succeed at this level. Therefore, it’s weird to think of how inconsistent he was during his 2019 season.

After starting 12 games in 2018, Hill notched just five starts last season. Through the 16 total games he played in during 2019, he only recorded 36 combined tackles (12 fewer than the year prior), two tackles for loss (four fewer), two quarterback hits (six fewer), one sack (4.5 fewer), and zero pass breakups (two fewer).

Sure, he earned 155 fewer defensive snaps and spent more time on special teams in his second season. But to regress in each of the major statistical categories still isn’t a fantastic sight to see.

He was nearly a non-factor against teams like Arizona, Dallas (the second of the two matchups), and Philly (also the second of the two matchups). In those games, he respectively racked up one, one, and two combined tackles through 19, 17, and 13 defensive snaps.

Hill started five of the team’s first six games, but after failing to display the on-field abilities he showed in 2018, he found a spot on the bench. After that, he was (on average) on the field for just 33.2% of the team’s snaps per game. Not to mention, the trade for Leonard Williams didn’t exactly help his cause in earning more playing time.

But Hill has a fresh start ahead of him with this new Joe Judge-led staff. He holds a new opportunity to portray the pass-rushing and pass-defending abilities he possessed during his rookie campaign that made him one of the top guys on this Giants defense.

It’s still unclear what exact defensive scheme Patrick Graham will run as the team’s newly hired coordinator, but if it’s a 3-4, expect Hill to snag some playing time in situations where Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, or Williams may need a break. The aforementioned trio of individuals would, in my opinion, start on the line in that type of defensive front.

Thus, the earned playing time for Hill will be crucial, as he’ll certainly need any opportunity he can get his hands on in order to impress this staff.

The rookie year was impressive, while the sophomore campaign was underwhelming, leading to a third season that will be significantly pivotal. Hill will not only need to discover that versatility once again but also demonstrate that he’s capable of bouncing back after a rough outing. If he can accomplish those tasks, look for him to substantially contribute for this team’s promising unit of defensive linemen.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.