Giants’ DC Patrick Graham gives key hint in how defense will change in 2021

Alexander Wilson
New York Giants, Patrick Graham

Based on the personnel decisions made this off-season by the New York Giants, it is clear the defense will be making a shift toward a more man-coverage-based scheme. In 2020, the Giants had a significant weakness at CB2, forcing them to supplement with zone coverage and additional help from the safety positions.

Big Blue quickly rotated through a variety of corners, including Corey Ballentine, Ryan Lewis, and Isaac Yiadom. The Giants traded a seventh-round pick for Denver Broncos’ former third-rounder, Yiadom, just before the start of the season, and he was asked to play a significant role despite lacking experience in the system and minimal in-person training.

However, the Giants recognized that void and found a key player to help upgrade the cornerbacks unit, signing former Tennessee Titan Adoree Jackson to a three-year, $39 million deal.

The New York Giants added a specific play in Jackson to their DB unit:

While some may believe the Giants overpaid for Jackson, he fits a specific mold that provides them the ability to expose matchups during the 2021 season. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham stated that to win in the NFL, you have to play more man-coverage defense, which opens up the ability to send additional blitzers and get more creative with your packages.

When looking at the pairing of James Bradberry and Jackson, you see two different corners who can play against specific types of receivers. For example, Bradberry thrives in off-ball man coverage, walking down quality route runners that lack high-end speed. That doesn’t mean Bradberry lacks the makeup speed to keep up with faster players, but he simply plays with more finesse and relies on his fundamentals more than his athleticism. Bradberry has impeccable vision and spatial awareness, allowing him to capitalize on his fundamentals and stay on the hip of receivers.

Jackson is a bit different with his style, playing a more aggressive press coverage role. Against faster, more agile receivers on the outside, Jackson can use his quick-twitch abilities to jam and then trail adequately. Jackson has shown great makeup speed in the past, especially in scenarios where he falls behind by a step or two. He can quickly make up ground, which is a positive capability at the NFL level with some receivers capable of pulling away at any given moment — see Tyreek Hill.

With two corners capable of playing man coverage, it will open up the defense in their 3-4 scheme, giving Graham more flexibility with his outside linebackers and safeties. He can send additional blitzers to overwhelm offensive lines and put immediate pressure on quarterbacks, which will curate turnovers and mistakes.

Personally, I love this new style of defense that Graham intends to deploy, as it will rely heavily on a quality pass rush, which is why the Giants went out and added four new options to the unit. The additions of Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Elerson Smith, and Ryan Anderson should all play a significant part in the season ahead. That is not even to mention the return of Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter.