|The new improved secondary in action at Giants camp this week. Photo courtesy of the License Plate Guy (LPG) Facebook Fan Page|
The past few months have been emotionally mixed for fans of the New York Giants. We watched big brother Peyton get trounced on the World's biggest stage while wondering where our own team was heading.
With the loss of Justin Tuck and Hakeem Nicks to free agency, the retirement of coach Kevin Gilbride, O-Line mainstays David Diehl and Chris Snee and the legal troubles of Jayron Hosley and Will Hill, the 2014 staff and roster has been an endless question.
While the team did address the offense and the O-Line in the draft, they made several under the radar free agents signings that will bolster their defense immensely. The much beleaguered defense ranked second in total tackles last season with 1,167 to the Buffalo Bills 1,203.
The problem is they finished near the bottom of the NFL (t-25th) in sacks with just 34 total. It would be fair to say the defensive pass rush missed the presence of Osi Umenyiora after his departure the offseason before to Atlanta. Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul were supposed to step up in a less crowded defensive front. They didn't.
Since then, Tuck departed for greener pastures and JPP is left to hold together the once mighty Giants pass rush. He will have company up front with Mathais Kiwanuka, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson among others. The Linebacker corp could also pick up the slack with the return of Jon Beason and the early emergence of Devon Kennard.
The real improvement to that pass rush could be additions to a group that may rarely enter the opposing backfield: the secondary. Last season, the defense as a whole ranked 10th in passing yards allowed per game with 223.3. They combined for 17 INTs, ranking in the middle of the league (t-14). No NFL QB was afraid to pass on their secondary.
With little pass rush, plenty of time to check receivers and average coverage to throw into, opposing QBs had minimal trouble handling the Giants pass defense. That is a tune that could change very quickly come 2014.
The Giants addressed this with the additions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (career 19 INT), Walter Thurmond (key defender for reigning champion Seattle Seahawks after returning to full health last year), Zack Bowman (mainstay on the Chicago Bears defense since 2009) and Quintin Demps (4 INT for Kansas City last season).
This veteran crew will join Prince Amukamara, Trumaine McBride and Antrel Rolle. This group combine for a formidable 66 career INTs. In other words, this is a group that knows how to defend the pass and can change the momentum of a game on any play with a key interception. They are fast enough to keep up with the average (and some above average) NFL receiver and buy the front D-Line enough time to break through to pressure the opposing QB.
With the secondary improved and putting team field-stretching offenses on lock down, teams will look for a shorter game more often than not. This plays right into the hands of the Giants defense and we should see more drives cut short this season when they were extended and scoring drives last season.
With all that said, it all comes down to whether or not these players can meld together and execute as they're all more than capable of doing. Time will tell.