The New York Giants are far from being a Super Bowl-caliber team in the NFL, but they are well on their way to establishing a successful culture built around hard work and determination. The overhaul of the coaching staff and installment of leaders like Joe Judge, Mark Colombo, and Patrick Graham, should positively benefit the team as a whole, but we won’t know until after the 2020 regular season.
While coaching is the first step in the development of players, the product on the field must be adequate to compete against quality teams. The defense for the Giants ranked 30th in the NFL last year, but adding a few solid players this off-season should help them improve on that lowly number.
Here are three New York Giants defenders who could take significant leaps in 2020:
1.) Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers is a player I believe can make a significant jump moving forward, based on the elevation of his stats compared to 2018. In just 11 games, he matched nearly all of his statistical totals from the previous year. His 76 combined tackles, five tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, five passes defended, and one interception represent a good benchmark to build off of.
Peppers has a unique blend of athleticism and game speed, which attributes to his ability to cover tight ends and stop the run. He filled the strong safety position with the Giants in 2019, and he was well on his way to his best season yet before he suffered a season-ending hip injury on a punt return. Aside from his high motor and charismatic personality, Peppers has the ability to be a playmaker and staple on the Giants’ defense.
The Giants recently picked up his fifth-year option, showing their faith in his development and what he has to offer. Under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, I believe his role at strong safety will be expanded, and we will see him a lot more in the offensive backfield.
2.) Oshane Ximines
I have been very vocal about the progression of Ximines in recent weeks. In just 45% of defensive snaps in 2019, Ximines posted 4.5 sacks, five tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits. If he can build on these totals and show off his improved pass rush moves, the Giants could be looking at their next premium pass rusher.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. We said the same thing about Lorenzo Carter last year, and he underperformed significantly. However, I believe they are two vastly different prospects and players. Examiners came out of Old Dominion with an array of pass rush moves that isn’t normal from the lower tier division one school. He has displayed his inability to bulrush, utilize arm shops, and so much more to dominate opposing tackles.
3.) Julian Love
Love is a player that can fill multiple roles for Big Blue on defense, whether it be strong safety, free safety, or covering wide receivers in the slot. I believe Patrick Graham will utilize him in three safety sets next season, paired up with Xavier McKinney and Peppers. I really like the versatility he brings to the defense and how he is adapting to different roles. Having spoken to him several weeks ago, he stated that he played a lot of strong safety in 2019, and his adaptation to the free safety position was a bit tumultuous. He found himself creeping up to the line of scrimmage accidentally, but it was part of his development process.
I believe he will make a significant jump forward in 2020.
Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus‘ stated that Julian Love was the most underrated player on the Giants’ defense.
NEW YORK GIANTS: DB JULIAN LOVE
The Giants’ secondary has some definite question marks with DeAndre Baker facing possible legal trouble and an unproven group at cornerback behind free agent acquisition James Bradberry. But Julian Love is someone they should feel pretty good about after a promising start to his NFL career as a rookie last season. Love is a guy who graded extremely well at the college ranks as an outside cornerback for the Fighting Irish, earning coverage grades of 83.7 and 90.9 during his final two seasons with Notre Dame. Love followed that up by coming away from the 2019 season with an encouraging 70.5 overall grade despite being a 21-year-old rookie playing a new position. Whether he remains at safety or moves back to cornerback to potentially fill in for Baker outside, Love is a player to watch as he enters his second season.