A Potential "Secret Ingredient" That Can Help the Giants Defense in 2020
It's no great secret that the Giants defense since 2016 when they finished 10th in the NFL, the Giants defense has taken one step forward and two steps back in its quest to finish in the top half of the league rankings.
With the unit having undergone almost as many significant overhauls as the offensive line, the Giants defense still found itself finishing in the bottom third of the league in just about every major category every year since 2017.
Starting this year, the hope is that the unit, which again underwent a massive overhaul specific to the back end and a new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham, will somehow find a way to finish at least the top half of the league.
Impossible? Some would say yes, considering the Giants still have a relatively young defensive secondary that now has a significant question mark regarding one of the cornerback spots thanks to the uncertainty surrounding DeAndre Baker's future.
And if that's not enough to create worry, no one would blame the skeptics if they wanted more than just a hopeful promise from the Giants that Graham's scheme will accomplish what James Bettcher's supposed aggressive scheme was supposed to do.
When it comes to the Giants' defense, its best hope for success might lie on the other side of the ball.
That's right, the Giants offense, led by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, could be the secret weapon the Giants defense needs to kickstart its journey to the top half of the league.
Let us explain.
Last season the Cowboys offense ranked in the top 15 league-wide in several offensive categories, including average points per game (sixth), third-down conversions (tied for 2nd), goal-to-go (14th), red zone (15th), first downs per game (3rd), rushing (5th) and passing (2nd).
By being able to move the ball and keep their defense on the sideline, the Cowboys offense did the defense a solid by limiting its exposure to long drives (a problem the Giants defense has had in recent years).
When we look at the Giants offense, except for the offensive line and one of the tight end spots, the unit pretty much remained intact and, if nothing else should presumably have a better sense of how each other thinks in the heat of the action, regardless of what's been drawn up.
The Giants defense, whose defensive line is the only unit that didn't change in the off-season, can't make that same claim, not after general manager Dave Gettleman added two new linebackers in free agency to go along with four drafted, and four new members of the defensive secondary, one veteran (James Bradberry) and three draft picks.
Learning a new system is challenging enough, but when a unit's personnel isn't familiar with one another to where they can anticipate how someone might react, that's something that can take a little longer to develop and put a unit behind the curve.
Let's go back to 2007 and how that defensive unit led by a first-time defensive coordinator (Steve Spagnuolo) who, despite having some veterans already on the roster, opened the season surrendered 80 points in its first two games.
In the first game, a 45-35 loss to the Cowboys, the Giants offense did its part, winning the time of possession battle and converting 50% of its third-down attempts, while running 67 plays to the Cowboys 55.
Those 55 plays for the Giants defense allowed the unit, which hadn't played much together during the preseason, to begin building a comfort level with not only each other by the schemes run by Spagnuolo.
That comfort building process continued the following week, a 35-13 walloping by the Packers.
In that lopsided margin of defeat, the defense got a healthy dose of playing time, 68 plays (versus the 55 plays the Packers defense got) and continued the process of having to smooth out the rough edges before finally bringing everything together in Week 3 against Washington.
That week, the play count on offense and defense was slightly in the Giants' favor (68 to 63), but the Giants' defense, by that point, began to click as the team strung together six wins in a row on their way to nailing down the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs that season.
Now the obvious question is, how can the Giants defense jell if they don't get on the field to take their growing pains?
This is certainly a valid question as a unit isn't going to get any better unless it gets more than just the practice reps during the week.
But when it comes to the Giants, an ideal situation would be to use the practice to build up the confidence and the communication (verbal and non-verbal) necessary to build cohesiveness.