The New York Giants are heading into the 2021 season with a bolstered defense and an overhauled offense. With their first OTA session on Monday, most of the rookies and fringe players were in attendance, but the majority of the defensive backs were down in Florida working with veteran leader Logan Ryan.
The coaching staff trusts Ryan to get the job done, helping these youngsters refine their talents and prepare for the season ahead. The Giants have lofty expectations for their defense but also anticipate a developmental jump from quarterback Daniel Jones. If the secondary can hold up, the pass rush should benefit, and they could find themselves in the top five of defenses. The success of the defense rolls over into the offense’s production and time of possession.
With the way that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham utilizes his unit, a reliance on safeties has become apparent. The Giants drafted Xavier McKinney in the second round in 2020, adding another safety to the mix to spearhead the disguising of their 3-4 base scheme. Graham loves to get creative with his blitz packages and aggressive scheme, and that won’t stop in 2021 as they add another layer.
Three-headed monster in the New York Giants’ secondary:
1.) Logan Ryan
One of the most important parts of the Giants’ defense is veteran safety Logan Ryan, who not only took on a leadership role but is still very capable of being a quality player on the field. Being drafted back in 2013, Ryan has essential experience at cornerback and is now making the transition to safety full-time. He signed a fresh three-year contract with the Giants this past off-season and finished the 2020 season with 94 tackles, four quarterback hits, nine passes defended, and three forced fumbles.
Ryan was directly linked to four turnovers for the Giants, playing in all 16 games and helping Graham establish his scheme without an extensive training camp or preseason. At 30 years old, Ryan still has a few years of solid football left in him, and he has become an integral part of this defense, especially when it comes to helping younger players adapt to the NFL and make an impact early on. His ability to cover deep zones but also step up and stop the run at the second level must be appreciated.
One of the more exciting things that Logan offers Graham on defense is his versatility. With the ability to confuse quarterbacks and help disguise the coverages, his leadership in the backfield is essential. I don’t expect that to change in 2021.
2.) Xavier McKinney
When the Giants drafted Xavier McKinney out of Alabama, they anticipated he would be an immediate starter on defense. Unfortunately, he fractured his foot during training camp and missed more than half the season. He only played in six games but totaled 25 tackles, one interception, and a tackle for a loss. Against the Dallas Cowboys in the final game of the 2020 campaign, McKinney posted eight tackles, an interception, and a TFL.
It is clear that McKinney is capable of offering versatility and quality play on a weekly basis, and he’s another player the Giants featured at different positions. According to PFF, McKinney played 26 snaps in the box, 82 in the slot, and 76 at free safety. I imagine he will be rotating with Logan Ryan around the secondary, further confusing quarterbacks and their coordinators.
3.) Jabrill Peppers
Peppers is in the final year of his rookie contract; the Giants picked up his fifth-year option last season. The Giants’ strong safety has developed into one of their more dependable defenders, offering fantastic support in the run game while also developing his coverage skills against tight ends and running backs. At 25 years old, Peppers is the energizer bunny of the defense, helping elevate the atmosphere around his teammates and motivate them with stellar play and character.
Peppers undoubtedly deserves an extension after setting career highs in tackles (91), TFLs (8), sacks (2.5), and passes defended (11) last season. His influence as an enforcer is exactly what the Giants need at strong safety, but he’s also versatile with his style of play.
Last season, he found himself moving all around the defense, playing 383 snaps in the box, 264 at slot corner, and 143 at free safety. A trio of safeties like this will consistently confuse opposing offenses, as you never know which one will be dropping back into deep coverage, blitzing off the edge, or playing man-coverage.
They are the heart and soul of this Giants defense, and they could turn into something truly special if firing on all cylinders next season.