Revamped, or perhaps more aptly overhauled last offseason, the New York Giants defense made impressive strides in 2016 and there is every reason to believe that they can take another step forward in 2017.
The Giants cast their net wide last year, bringing in a number of playmakers on defense to lift a unit that had been among the worst in the league for the past few seasons.
The result of this $200 million free-agent spending spree was a defense that gelled midway through the season, carrying the Giants to their first postseason berth since 2011.
In fact, in several games, the defense carried an offense that was sputtering.
Now with the vast majority of the group back this year including nearly all their stars, the Giants think this defense can make the jump from the middle of the pack to be even better this season.
Ideally, this cohesion from last year means that the defense as a whole can be exotic in their looks and more aggressive in their schemes.
“It gets more detailed. We already know so much about the defense so now we can get into the little details and nuances that maybe a year or two ago we weren’t able to hit the same way because there were so many guys trying to learn the defense,” linebacker Devon Kennard said on Monday. “Having such a strong nucleus of guys who have a good understanding of this defense, we are able to tweak some things that we did last year, we are able to add some different wrinkles to what we were doing and I think it is going to pay off.”
After being near the bottom of the pack in total defense for several seasons, the Giants made a jump and were No. 10 overall last year.
Most importantly, they were second best in the NFL with 17.8 points allowed per game, trailing only the New England Patriots in that category.
The defense also gets a pretty good test every day, something that should help them get better heading into the regular season.
The Giants have an offense that boasts a two-time Super Bowl MVP at quarterback in Eli Manning as well as three standout playmakers at wide receiver. It makes practice competitive, especially for a defense that is loaded up top but has some promising depth on their two-deep.
“You put people here and there, you get to see everybody. You get to see the big, physical guys, the guys with everything, you get to see the guy that’s in the slot that’s good in and out of his breaks. So, you get to see every aspect,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Then switch it up and go against some guys, then you’ve got a quarterback who can deliver it and put it wherever it needs to be. It makes for competition on both sides.”