Why the New York Giants could have a much better pass rush than expected in 2020

New York Giants, Markus Golden

Taking a look at the New York Giants‘ pass rush and why they could be better than expected in 2020:

At first glance, the New York Giants’ pass rush seems awfully thin. Prior to placing a tender on free agent Markus Golden, Big Blue was set to feature Oshane Ximines, Lorenzo Carter, and Kyler Fackrell as their top players at the position. Considering what it takes to dominate the edge and stop the run at the NFL level, the unit was understaffed by a fair margin.

However, understanding the Giants’ future pass rush is heavily reliant on our knowledge of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. In 2019, Graham was the coordinator and play-caller for the Miami Dolphins under head coach Brian Flores. Overall, the defense Graham implemented in Miami did not hold up well, according to defensive metrics. When looking at their deficiencies, it is important to note their lack of talent and overall quality. Graham was not given proper pieces to work with and ultimately saw his unit fail consistently because of it.

The two significant factors that Graham brings to the New York Giants is a diverse range of blitzes and man coverage. This bodes well for DeAndre baker, who was wrongfully used in 2019 under former defensive coordinator James Bettcher.

Baker was thrown into off-ball coverage and strayed away from his strong suit impress. However, scheming a pass rush is something that Graham is used to, and utilizing safeties is a major part of his game plan.

Last season, the Dolphins blitzed on 35% of their snaps, the seventh-highest frequency in the NFL. On third down, they blitzed on 41% of the time, which ranked third in the NFL. Using a diverse range of linebacker and defensive back blitzes, the Giants will likely resort to that scheme as well. Drafting Xavier McKinney out of Alabama, a versatile safety you can also rush the passer bodes well for Graham’s defensive mentality.

Expect to see plenty of delayed blitzes from linebackers and fake blitzes, keeping offenses guessing and hopefully increasing turnover percentage. Blitzing frequently allows Graham to open up his playbook and get creative.

According to PFF, the Dolphins played man coverage 50% of the time. One interesting note is that they ranked second in using cover one, which features one free safety deep in the backfield, with the remainder of the secondary playing in man coverage.

This all plays back to the pass-rush scheme, as Graham will utilize linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks in his blitzing plans. But in the grand scheme, having a solid player to secure the edge is essential, and the retention of Markus Golden is a significant factor for the Giants. Ximines is a player I believe can break out in 2020, having logged 4.5 sacks on 45% of defensive snaps last season. With an increased workload and one year of experience under his belt, Oshane has the potential to be a significant piece on the defensive front.

Overall, the unit undoubtedly will need more support down the line but expect plenty of creativity on defense moving forward.