New York Giants: Can Ryan Connelly Steal Playing Time At Linebacker?

The New York Giants defense has been one of the worst in the NFL over the last two seasons. In 2017, the Giants’ defense allowed 252.4 passing yards per game (ranked 31st in the NFL). In 2018, the Giants’ secondary allowed 252.8 passing yards (ranked 23rd in the NFL), showing minimal to no improvement. The Giants were poor against the run, too.

The Giants defense allowed 120.8 rushing yards per game (ranked 27th in the NFL) in 2017. In 2018, Big Blue’s defense allowed 118.6 rushing yards per game (ranked 20th in the NFL), again showing minimal to no improvement. These poor defensive stats lead the Giants to revamp their defense in 2019.

The Giants spent seven of their ten draft picks on defense in the 2019 NFL Draft. One of the Giants’ more interesting defensive selections came in the 5th round. New York selected linebacker Ryan Connelly out of Wisconsin in the 5th round. Connelly is a sleeper player to end up starting in the 2019 season. Here’s why:

Ryan Connelly Stats And Highlights

Linebacker Ryan Connelly has often been praised for his play recognition and instincts. He is excellent in run defense, but also an underrated player in pass defense. One thing that instantly jumps off the tape with Connelly is his speed.

Connelly recorded a 1.54s 10-yard split at the 2019 NFL Combine which ranks third among participating off-ball linebackers that weighed in at 240-plus pounds since 2010. This speed can be seen during Ryan Connelly’s efforts in run defense.

Ryan Connelly played linebacker at Wisconsin for four years, but he was extraordinary during his junior and senior seasons. As a junior in 2017, Connelly racked up 88 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. His 2018 senior season featured more of the same as Ryan totaled 89 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. Connelly proved to be a reliable and consistent player during his collegiate career.

Pro Football Focus gave Ryan Connelly lots of praise for his efforts in run defense. PFF gave Connelly a solid run-defense grade of 82.5. They also noted that Ryan totaled an impressive 50 total stops.

Furthermore, Pro Football Focus indicated that Ryan Connelly is an underrated linebacker in pass coverage. Many draft analysts have written Connelly off as a two-down gap-shooting linebacker, but he is more than that. When playing in coverage, Ryan Connelly only gave up 46 yards after the catch (ranked 1st in the draft class) and allowed only 0.38 yards per coverage snap (tied for 6th in the draft class).

Ryan Connelly’s versatility was overlooked by teams during the 2019 NFL Draft. Luckily, the linebacker ended up with the New York Giants, who do not have the best linebacker corps. Connelly’s play recognition and instincts, along with his underrated coverage abilities could cause him to steal some playing time at linebacker in 2019.

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