The New York Giants’ defense surprised everybody in 2020, ranking ninth in points allowed per game with 22.3. In rushing yards allowed, they were a top 10 unit but struggled in defending the pass until the second half of the year, ending up average, allowing 237.9 yards.
The injection of essential free agents completely overhauled the unit, along with Leonard Williams, who produced 11.5 sacks. Cornerback James Bradberry, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, had his best season to date, allowing 50+ yards just twice over the course of the entire season. He allowed three touchdowns, two of which came in week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
However, it was some of the rookies and youngsters that played a significant part, and some fresh faces are primed to take a significant jump in 2021.
Three New York Giants players primed to take big jumps in 2021:
1.) Dexter Lawrence
Lawrence is going into his third season in the NFL, and he took a big jump last year with the Giants. Alongside Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, who both had career seasons, Lawrence nearly doubled his sack totals from 2.5 to 4.0. He also totaled 10 QB hits and six tackles for loss. His combined tackles number went up from 38 to 53 over just 60% of defensive snaps, a decrease of 3%.
Lawrence was double-teamed more than either of his counterparts and ranked near the top of the league in the category as well. He recorded 33 stops, 19 hurries, and just two missed tackles all season long.
With his growth, I expect him to take a nice jump in 2021, especially if the Giants retain both of their interior lineman who are hitting free agency. If all goes well, Dexter is in line to become a staple in the trenches.
2.) Xavier McKinney
Xavier McKinney missed a majority of his rookie season with a fractured foot which occurred during training camp. However, he returned in the second half of the year to post some quality numbers to finish the season.
In week 17 against Dallas, he recorded eight combined tackles, one tackle for a loss, one pass defended, and one interception. He was all over the field making plays, at one point bursting through a TE to take down CeeDee Lamb in the backfield. With that impressive performance, the Giants must feel confident he can take a step forward in 2021.
Based on the fact that McKinney came from a pro-style defense with Alabama, his transition to the NFL was never expected to take long. It seemed as if he finally settled down against Dallas to finish the campaign, so I expect that to translate over to next year.
3.) Darnay Holmes
While rookie slot corner Darnay Holmes suffered through m injuries as well, he didn’t allow a touchdown the entire season, the only starting rookie corner to do so.
In addition, he allowed 30 yards or less in six appearances but did have some struggles toward the end of the campaign. A lingering injury hurt his efficiency, posting four penalties in his last four starts. With a superior mentality and NFL genetics, Holmes has the ability to become a stellar corner in the NFL, but he must remain healthy moving forward.