While the season has been a mixed bag so far for the New York Giants, some players on defense have definitely flourished under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Some of these players were on the roster last season but have stepped their game up with a different system and better coaching. Others are new arrivals who have made an instant impact and helped the Giants turn it around over the past couple of weeks.
Two players in specific are worth praising as they’ve made themselves stand out on the field and in the statistics columns.
Dexter Lawrence came into the league at the same time as Daniel Jones and is already on his second defensive coordinator in the second year of his career. But it looks like Graham is bringing out better things in him than James Bettcher. He’s already set to surpass his statistics from his rookie season. He had 38 combined tackles after playing in every game last year. This year, after only playing in 10 games so far, he already has 33.
Lawrence already has more tackles for a loss than he had last year, and only three less quarterback hits. And when it comes to PFF grade, which accounts for a number of factors, Lawrence is currently one of the highest rated sophomore defenders.
Highest-graded 2nd year defenders:
1. Jeffery Simmons – 87.7
2. Brian Burns – 84.6
3. Kingsley Keke – 78.7
4. Dexter Lawrence – 78.2
5. Jamel Dean – 76.9 pic.twitter.com/NqP5b0dneG
— PFF (@PFF) November 19, 2020
The Giants picked up Lawrence in the draft not long after moving on from Damon Harrison and it looks like they made the right choice. Harrison had the worst statistical season of his career after leaving the Giants, and has already changed teams to the Seahawks. Lawrence, on the other hand, still looks like he has room to move up.
The signing of James Bradberry was met with varying reactions from interest to skepticism, after the Giants brought in the former Carolina corner to replace Janoris Jenkins. The Giants have missed at evaluating cornerbacks a number of times in recent memory. If you want proof of that, just look at their results after drafting Eli Apple and DeAndre Baker in the first round. Even when they brought in Janoris Jenkins, the Giants found a corner that was effective but would ultimately talk himself off the team with his attitude.
But those situations haven’t repeated themselves with James Bradberry. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. Bradberry looks like the most likely player on the Giants defense to make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team and has been worth the money so far. He has 3 interceptions so far, tying his career record, and also has 14 passes defended.
According to PFF, he leads the league this season when it comes to forced incompletions.
Most forced incompletions by CBs:
1. James Bradberry – 14
T-2. Carlton Davis – 12
T-2. Jaylon Johnson – 12
4. Casey Heyward Jr. – 11 pic.twitter.com/4d0iHQ1mqT
— PFF (@PFF) November 19, 2020
With six games left in the season still, there’s room for both Bradberry and Lawrence to further improve in their statistics. And it looks like both players are on pace for career highs in some of the most important areas. The Giants haven’t hit every time they’ve taken a swing at acquiring players. But this season, it does seem they have more hits than usual. Especially on defense, where the rebuilding process is finally showing some result.