The commencement of the 2020 season came with high expectations for the New York Giants and their offense under new coordinator Jason Garrett. The former Dallas head coach was expected to bring a blend of numerous coordinators’ ideologies into his scheme, but so far his system has been anything but creative. A few failed jet sweeps and crack plays sprinkled into his game-plan don’t constitute as inventive, and young quarterback Daniel Jones has struggled because of it.
The New York Giants have surprised defensively:
However, while the offense has been lacking, the defense has been playing above their weight class. Through four weeks, the unit, lead by Patrick Graham, ranks 13th in scoring allowed per game and 5th in yards allowed per game. Thanks to two free-agent signings, Blake Martinez and James Bradberry, the defense has been adequate.
While the run-defense was considered to be lackluster in 2019, they have bubbled to 11th in efficiency, allowing 106.8 yards per game on the ground. A strong interior defense has proved to be the catalyst behind their above-average play against the run and getting after the quarterback.
I want to take a second to focus on Martinez and Bradberry, though, who have been the standouts through four weeks.
Bradberry currently leads the NFL with 7 pass breakups and ranks 2nd in the NFL at CB in overall defense and 3rd in coverage, per PFF. He has been stellar for the Giants, forcing a number of turnovers and blanketed his designated assignments. For example, against Bears’ Allen Robinson in week 3, Bradberry held him to just three receptions for 33 yards. Since then, he has recorded 224 yards and two scores.
Martinez, on the other hand, grades out at 2nd in the NFL in run defense and 1st in the NFL with 23 stops. His 43 combined tackles, five tackles for a loss, and 2.0 sacks continue to impress. The Giants signed him to be a primary run stopper and mitigate big plays — he has done that with flying colors.
Alternatively, the Giants have Devante Downs at MLB2, which has been problematic. That leads us to some of the unit’s weaknesses. Downs has been a pure liability against the run and in coverage. Graham has already begun to phase him out in favor of “Mr. Irrelevant” Tae Crowder. Last week against the Rams, Crowder proved to hold up in coverage and nearly came away with an INT, already showing his playmaking ability. I expect the Giants to roll with Crowder next to Martinez more frequently from here on out.
The second biggest issue is at CB2, where Big Blue has utilized a rotation of Corey Ballentine and Isaac Yiadom. They have combined for a 73.45 completion rate against and two touchdowns allowed. Considering their inability to produce, the Giants have since inserted former UDFA Ryan Lewis into the void position. He looks solid in week 4 and will likely earn the start against the Dallas Cowboys in week 5.
As Graham continues to develop his unit and solve the minor problems, we can expect them to gradually improve. The Giants are lucky they have a serviceable defense, especially with the offense struggling as bad as they are.