All things considered, the New York Giants defense was pretty good in 2021.
Think about that for a moment. This was a unit that had a relatively inexperienced coordinator in Patrick Graham, who was coming off his first season as an NFL defensive coordinator (with Miami) the year prior, who still managed to finish 12th in average yards surrendered per game.
This was also a unit that hasn’t had a stud pass rusher since trading away Jason Pierre-Paul but still managed to tie for 12th (with the Patriots) for most sacks recorded (40) in the season.
And yes, this was even a defense that, despite having a revolving door at one of its cornerback spots opposite James Bradberry, still managed to have its passing defense finish 16th.
Seriously, raise your hand if you thought the Giants defense, which by the way, was the league’s second-best performer in the red zone (50.8% conversion rate), was going to be that good last year.
Now raise your hand if you can’t wait to see what Graham and company will do in 2021 after receiving reinforcements at cornerback (Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams) and their pass rush (Ifeadi Odenigbo, Elerson Smith, Azeez Ojulari).
Time will, of course, tell, but ask Graham or any of the players returning from last year, and they’ll tell you they not only want to finish the 2021 season ranked even higher than where they finished in 2020 and that they probably want to work on improving in the following statistical areas.
Giants: 1.92% | NFL: 2.19%
The Giants recorded 11 interceptions last season, their second-lowest total in the previous five seasons and just one better than the ten they recorded in 2019.
That came out to an average of 1.92% interception rate, well below the league average of 2.19% and perhaps the most glaring stat posted by the Giants defense because the lack of turnovers didn’t exactly help the offense by giving the struggling Giants unit a shorter field and hence a better chance to score.
However, given the upgrades made to the defensive secondary and the pass rush, there’s no reason to think that the Giants can’t potentially push that total closer to the 17-18 mark that the league’s top defenses have been able to hit over the last few seasons.
Third Down Conversion
Giants: 44.61% | NFL: 41.64%
The Giants defense allowed opponents an average of allowed an average of 22.1 first downs per game.
While that's not a horrible average if you consider that the Chiefs, one of the two Super Bowl participants, allowed an average of 22.3 first downs per game, ranking them one spot below the Giants, the latter coming in at No. 17.
A big reason for that was the Giants' inability to get off the field. New York’s defense allowed a 44.61% third-down conversion rate to opponents, which is 2.97% over the league average of 41.64%.
The more extended drives a defense allows, the more likely the opponent is going to score.
It's no wonder that between not being able to get off the field on third down and the Giants' offense's scoring struggles, New York finished 24th with an average -4.8 point differential and 27th in average yards allowed to opponents (49.7).