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The New York Giants are undoubtedly looking to build on last year’s return to the playoffs, a team clearly built for now. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to challenge for the NFC East and make a return to the postseason.

 

But are they any better than that?

 

The return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 saw the Giants, 10-6 a season ago, ride a strong defense that was revamped and rejuvenated via free agency. But they’ll need the unit to be borderline elite if they hope to do more than last year’s Wild Card exit.

 

 

 

Three Questions for the Giants Defense Heading Into Training Camp:

1.  Can the defense carry the offense?

Last year the defense, after $200 million in spending, surprised even the most optimistic Giants fan and turned in a string of solid performances to close out the season. But come the playoffs, they were very ordinary in a road loss to the Green Bay Packers. 

The Giants will need their defense, ranked 10th a season ago, to take that next step. What’s encouraging is that the Giants allowed just 17.8 points per game, the second stingiest tally in the league.

They have pieces in an elite pass rush and the secondary has the potential to be very special. Now they need to put it all together.

 

Related: Giants 3 biggest questions heading into the 2017 season

 

2. Will JPP make plays every game?

In 12 games last year, Jason Pierre-Paul had a solid 53 tackles and seven sacks, enough to earn a fat contract extension a year ago. But 5.5 of those sacks came in consecutive games in November.

That means in eight games he was held without a sack. Yikes.

And five times in a game in 2016, he had three tackles or less. Those are numbers that must improve.

There is promise to Pierre-Paul’s return from that horrific injury two years ago. But he must show better.

 

3. Can Eli Apple build on last year? 

The selection of Eli Apple in the first round of the draft a couple years ago led to some collective head-scratching among fans and pundits alike. It isn’t that Apple doesn’t have talent, he has a tremendous upside and had a great college career at Ohio State. But the cornerback didn’t fill a position of need for the Giants.

No matter.

Apple had a very solid rookie year and his emergence gives the Giants incredible depth in the secondary. If he can take that next step and lock down a starting spot, his length and footwork will give the Giants a young cornerback to build the secondary around now and moving forward.