Entering the 2020 season with Covid-19 a legitimate concern, the New York Giants had no idea how their defense would perform with so many variables working against them. With no preseason and minimal in-person training to work with, coordinator Patrick Graham managed to scrape together a revised scheme that somehow lead the Giants to have a top 10 defense in points allowed per game.
Without consistent outside linebackers, after Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines fell to the injury bug, the Giants still managed 40 sacks on the season, ranking 12th in the NFL. However, they made it a priority to add more pass rushers and bolster the secondary to help Graham take his defense to another level.
Let’s take a look at the different talents the Giants added to bolster the unit, potentially making them one of the best groups in the league.
New York Giants defensive additions:
Some might argue that the Giants overpaid for Adoree’ Jackson, who they signed to a three-year, $39 million deal. However, Jackson fits a specific mold, which is opposite James Bradberry. He is a smaller, more physical corner who can cover quicker receivers like Tyreek Hill more efficiently.
Bradberry is best against elite route runners and bigger, more physical receivers, giving the Giants a strong one-two punch on both sides of the field at cornerback. This was a major signing to replace Isaac Yiadom as the starter, and it should pay dividends.
The Giants didn’t stop there when it came to bolstering the secondary, drafting UCF corner Aaron Robinson in the third round. Robinson will compete with Darnay Holmes in the slot, representing an aggressive interior corner who thrives in man coverage. As a strong tackler against the run, he will undoubtedly give Holmes a run for his money.
Ojulari ranked first of the SEC with Georgia last year in forced fumbles (4.0) and sacks (9.5), representing one of the best pass rushers in the entire draft class. Some even connected the Giants to Ojulari with the 11th overall pick but managed to secure him at 50, trading back and adding more draft capital for the 2022 offseason.
The Georgia product has sufficient bend-around-the-edge and great athleticism, spending the past few weeks training with Evan Engram and his good friend, Andrew Thomas. If he can increase strength and adapt a few pass rush moves early in his NFL career, he could end up starting within the first few weeks, if not right out of the gate.
Smith was one of the more underrated pass rushers of the draft class, ranking as one of the highest-graded athletes, according to our RAS (relative athletic score). He had the best broad jumps of any pass rusher in the class, earning 14.0 sacks with Northern Iowa back in 2019. He is a physical specimen and will likely act as a rotational piece against heavy-footed offensive tackles to start his career, utilizing his speed and quickness off the line of scrimmage.
One of the more underrated sightings the Giants made this off-season was former Viking Ifeadi Odengibo, who can play 4i, 5-tech, and outside linebacker. He is a strong sub-package pass rusher who can be used situationally and also supplement injuries on the outside if need be. On a one-year, $2.5 million deal, his value could far outweigh his price tag.
If adding three pass rushers wasn’t enough, the Giants went out and signed Ryan Anderson, formally of the Washington Football Team, as a depth piece. Anderson is a traditional outside linebacker at 6’2″, 255 pounds. With 6.0 sacks to his name, he only featured in 14% of defensive snaps last year after Washington drafted Chase Young as their primary defensive end and shifted to a 4-3 scheme. Nonetheless, you can never have too many quality players at a given position, and Anderson offers competition and depth.
After losing Dalvin Tomlinson to Minnesota, the Giants needed to replace their big nose tackle, which is why they looked to Danny Shelton to fill the void. Shelton isn’t much of a pass rusher, but he fills plenty of space as a 6’2″, 345 pound mammoth of a human. At 27 years old, he played in 12 games last year, recording 37 tackles and four QB hits. His job is to soak up double teams, opening up the trenches for Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and the outside linebackers to take advantage.
Instead of retaining reserve linebacker David Mayo on a pricey contract, the Giants elected to cut him and sign Reggie Ragland to a veteran minimum deal. This is a smart financial move, saving millions of dollars on a depth piece who can fill the same role. In fact, Ragland could push for starting reps alongside Blake Martinez at the second middle linebacker spot.
The Giants’ defense undoubtedly got better but by how much?
Simply looking at the additions made, the Giants’ defense improved this off-season, at least on paper. If all goes to plan and their primary players remain healthy, this defense could easily be a top-5 unit, if not better.