Last year’s New York Giants defense received a facelift with an injection of talent that was supposed to improve.
Few however thought that a defense ranked among the worst in the league the few seasons before would play at such a dominant level in 2016.
Now the Giants think that the unit can get only better as they head into the second game of the preseason on Monday night when they visit the Cleveland Browns.
It was the defense that carried the Giants into the playoffs last year, the unit playing some inspired ball and showing major gains from the year before.
What was the worst defense in the league for a couple seasons turned it on and became a feared group, finishing second in the league in points allowed behind only the New England Patriots.
The big-time free agent signings from the last offseason played a major role in the unit’s turnaround.
With the vast bulk of that defense returning and some promising young talent emerging on the two-deep, the Giants seem confident that they are building something special on that side of the ball.
“We’re still building. We definitely picked up where we left off, but we’re still building. Taking it week by week, practice by practice and getting better,” safety Landon Collins said before talking about the similarities between last year’s defense and this year’s version.
“It looks similar. The only difference is our line, the only thing we’ve got to fill in is for Hank (DT Jonathan Hankins). We’ve got some key guys doing that, they’re working really hard at it,” Collins said. “The only thing defensive back-wise is be key and be sound back there, linebackers, too. So, the difference is a little bit in the D-line.”
Given that the Giants major pieces return, in particular, the edge rush tandem of Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon as well as cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Collins at safety, there is an awful lot of talent on this defense.
The hope is that they can build on a very successful second half of last season to become a top defense in the league.
For head coach Ben McAdoo, the hope is that the Giants will use this second preseason game on Monday night to continue building on both sides of the ball.
“We want to stack some success with the way the game management went last week. We had 11 guys on the field each play, and that is easier said than done in the first preseason game. And just keep continuing to build,” McAdoo said. “Go good to great on defense. Offense, be more productive. We are going to have everybody in the mix there and special teams, continue to improve.”