Dalvin Tomlinson: New Giants Defense Has a Familiar Feel

Patricia Traina

Giants defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson wasn’t sure what to expect this past off-season between having a new defensive coordinator and having to learn the system virtually. 

As it turned out, he needn’t have worried about either.

Tomlinson, the only member of the Giants defensive line who was around when defensive coordinator Patrick Graham was first with the Giants—that in 2017 as the defensive line coach under Ben McAdoo—said that the system Graham has been implementing has a very familiar feel.

“The techniques pretty much remind me of my Alabama days,” Tomlinson told SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Late Hits hosts Bill Lekas and Bill Polian Wednesday evening.

That should come as no surprise given the coaching connections of head coach Joe Judge, who worked on Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s staff as a special teams assistant during the 2009-11 seasons, and the connections Graham has with the New England Patriots.

Tomlinson, who has been at his New Jersey townhouse since April where he built a little gym in his garage to keep up with his strength and conditioning during the statewide stay-at-home order that had been in place from mid-March until last month, said the learning process has been going well, but added that there’s only so much one can pick up in virtual meetings.

“I feel like I picked up pretty well with its playbook and everything over the virtual meetings,” Tomlinson said.

The fourth-year defensive tackle also said that the team camaraderie has been coming along nicely despite having to build it virtually, and mentioned that Judge has been in every Zoom meeting held.

“Everybody was in there, and it was great,” he said. “All we can do is pretty much talk on Zoom calls and joke around and get to know each other as people outside of football a little bit. So, you know, have conversations throughout the zone and calls and things like that.”

Tomlinson, like the rest of the NFL, is waiting on guidelines regarding the start of training camp, which is currently scheduled for July 28.

The NFL and NFLPA have been working diligently to develop health and safety protocols to protect the players, coaches, and staff directly involved with working with the players as safe as possible during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

While Tomlinson has made the best out the circumstances, as he prepares to enter his contract season, he knows that there is no substitution for the valuable practice reps eliminated from the off-season program due to COVID-19 forcing the league to shut down.

“Most definitely is, uh, the experience and just being on the football field and going through drills and things like that can't really be replaced just going to get another person on the field every day makes you a whole better player.”

Especially, he said, for a defensive lineman, where due to the proximity to the ball, it’s of the utmost importance for a defensive lineman to rep out his techniques so the defense can function in sync.

“Yeah, pretty much. The closer you are to the ball, the quicker your reaction has to be, with the technique being precise simply because if you take one wrong step, that could be a bad play or a bad down for you and the whole defense. So working on and critiquing your technique day in and day out is pretty crucial for a defensive lineman.”

Besides getting to work on his technique—and by extension on making a case for a new contract—Tomlinson added that he’s looking forward to meeting the new teammates the team added to the defense in the off-season.

“We brought in some great guys, and I love those guys,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve all been playing Call of Duty and doing some stuff together every now and then. 

"So I'm super excited to play with everybody we brought in, and I'm just hoping everything clears up that we can get back to training camp, get the pads on, and get used to working together.”

He’s also looking forward to seeing Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence, who were on the Giants defensive line with him last season.

“I love Leonard. He's a great guy on and off the field. I love the energy he brings,” Tomlinson said. “And Dexter too--he's just a big funny guy. I'm super excited to get back in the building with them and keep building on what we had last year and keep improving as a whole.”