New York Giants: Patrick Graham takes blame for week 2 defensive problems

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

With two games gone by this season, it looks like the New York Giants are a step behind on defense compared to last season. The defense came into the season looking like one of the team’s main strengths, but was a letdown through the first two games after allowing 27 points to Denver and 30 to Washington.

While defensive coordinator Patrick Graham isn’t being criticized near as much as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, it’s safe to say things have turned out very different so far than the original expectations that were placed on him coming into the season.

As the Giants prepare to take on the Atlanta Falcons, Graham will be the first one to acknowledge that underperformance.

Graham admitted when speaking to the media that his defenses had failed in the Washington game and in the early season, but believes that it’s too soon to write the defense off this season.

Despite the fact that only a couple of games have gone by this season, it’s clear that the Giants need big changes scheme wise if they want to perform better against the Falcons.

Graham’s defense was especially criticized in week 2 for playing too soft, and allowing backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke to build confidence by getting completions against a defense that was focused on deep coverage.

Considering how Heinicke was able to throw for 336 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants, it seems like there’s some merit to those complaints. While James Bradberry did get a crucial interception that gave the offense a chance to seize the win, most of the success the Giants had in that game was in spite of the defense and not because of it.

While Atlanta is known around the league this season for their own defensive struggles, their offense led by Matt Ryan and featuring names such as Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts will be a large test for the Giants.

How the Giants respond to that test will very much have a large impact in the criticisms of Graham either quieting down or getting louder as the season continues.

New York Giants: Bleacher Report names Patrick Graham as Big Blue’s secret weapon

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

It’s debatable just how much of a secret weapon New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is.

On one hand, he came in last season as a new addition that didn’t have a ton of fanfare around his hiring, but on the other, he quickly proved himself in the role and gained recognition around the league. Graham seems like one of the most likely coordinators in the league to end up with a head coaching job, even though right now, his focus is on his role with the Giants.

Despite that recognition that Graham has been getting after turning around the Giants defense, Bleacher Report still believes Graham is flying under the radar enough to take the title of ‘secret weapon’ for the Giants. The outlet listed a secret weapon for every NFL team, and for the Giants, it was Patrick Graham.

Graham helped transform a defense that ranked 25th overall and 30th in points allowed in 2019 into the league’s 12th-ranked overall defense and ninth-ranked scoring unit. While New York added a few pieces during the 2020 offseason, including James Bradberry, Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez, Graham made the the unit become a whole.

“Coach Graham is a very, very smart guy. I know he went to an Ivy League school too. His football knowledge, his football IQ, is above a lot of guys that I have been around,” Bradberry said, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

Graham reportedly turned down the Jets head coaching job this offseason to continue with the Giants. The Giants will be lucky if the trend continues and Graham remains with the organization instead of taking an outside offer, but they have some things going in their favor.

According to Graham, who spoke on the decision after turning the Jets down, he did so because working with the Giants is his dream job.

Graham is definitely off to a good start with that job. This season, it’s reasonable to expect he may do even better with more experience in the role and a more normal offseason to help the team learn new plays and systems.

Giants’ DC Patrick Graham gives key hint in how defense will change in 2021

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

Based on the personnel decisions made this off-season by the New York Giants, it is clear the defense will be making a shift toward a more man-coverage-based scheme. In 2020, the Giants had a significant weakness at CB2, forcing them to supplement with zone coverage and additional help from the safety positions.

Big Blue quickly rotated through a variety of corners, including Corey Ballentine, Ryan Lewis, and Isaac Yiadom. The Giants traded a seventh-round pick for Denver Broncos’ former third-rounder, Yiadom, just before the start of the season, and he was asked to play a significant role despite lacking experience in the system and minimal in-person training.

However, the Giants recognized that void and found a key player to help upgrade the cornerbacks unit, signing former Tennessee Titan Adoree Jackson to a three-year, $39 million deal.

The New York Giants added a specific play in Jackson to their DB unit:

While some may believe the Giants overpaid for Jackson, he fits a specific mold that provides them the ability to expose matchups during the 2021 season. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham stated that to win in the NFL, you have to play more man-coverage defense, which opens up the ability to send additional blitzers and get more creative with your packages.

When looking at the pairing of James Bradberry and Jackson, you see two different corners who can play against specific types of receivers. For example, Bradberry thrives in off-ball man coverage, walking down quality route runners that lack high-end speed. That doesn’t mean Bradberry lacks the makeup speed to keep up with faster players, but he simply plays with more finesse and relies on his fundamentals more than his athleticism. Bradberry has impeccable vision and spatial awareness, allowing him to capitalize on his fundamentals and stay on the hip of receivers.

Jackson is a bit different with his style, playing a more aggressive press coverage role. Against faster, more agile receivers on the outside, Jackson can use his quick-twitch abilities to jam and then trail adequately. Jackson has shown great makeup speed in the past, especially in scenarios where he falls behind by a step or two. He can quickly make up ground, which is a positive capability at the NFL level with some receivers capable of pulling away at any given moment — see Tyreek Hill.

With two corners capable of playing man coverage, it will open up the defense in their 3-4 scheme, giving Graham more flexibility with his outside linebackers and safeties. He can send additional blitzers to overwhelm offensive lines and put immediate pressure on quarterbacks, which will curate turnovers and mistakes.

Personally, I love this new style of defense that Graham intends to deploy, as it will rely heavily on a quality pass rush, which is why the Giants went out and added four new options to the unit. The additions of Azeez Ojulari, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Elerson Smith, and Ryan Anderson should all play a significant part in the season ahead. That is not even to mention the return of Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter.

New York Giants: Rookie EDGE Azeez Ojulari should have day-one impact

The New York Giants landed one of the biggest steals of the 2021 NFL Draft when they selected Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the second round. The Giants traded down from 42 overall to 50 overall and were still able to select Azeez despite his first-round draft projection. Some analysts even mocked him to the Giants at eleven overall.

Giants fans were ecstatic when Ojulari’s name was called with the 50th pick in the draft. Azeez Ojulari was a prospect with legitimate first-round talent. For the Giants, to land Ojulari and an extra third-round 2022 draft pick, made their day-two trade down one of incredible value.

Making the trade-down and second-round selection even more valuable, Azeez Ojulari is expected to be an instant-impact rookie for the Giants’ defense.

Why Azeez Ojulari will have an instant impact

The selection of Azeez Ojulari was one of those special cases where a top-talent filled a top-need for the Giants. New York has been looking for a top-tier pass-rusher off the edge over the last few years. They have invested plenty into the position, finding solid depth in later rounds and on the free agency market. However, the Giants have also dealt with injuries to their starting edge rushers, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines.

Carter and Ximines are solid edge rushers but neither one has established themselves as premium rushers just yet. But Azeez Ojulari has the potential to be a premium pass-rusher very early on in his career. Azeez was the top edge rusher on Pro Football Focus’s pre-draft rankings. The Giants hit a home run when they landed the redshirt sophomore in round two.

Azeez Ojulari recorded an impressive 9.5 sacks in his breakout 2020 season. He also totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and an incredible 4 forced fumbles. Ojulari was credited with 35 pressures by PFF in 2020. He’s a bendy speed-rusher with a sick pass-rush move that beats down left tackles.

Azeez Ojulari has all the talent to become a top edge rusher in the NFL. But he is also a perfect scheme fit with the New York Giants, which will allow him to have an impact on day one. When discussing his transition into Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme, Azeez had this to say:

Yeah, it’s nice. They had some similarities between what I been doing at Georgia, so really it’s perfect. It’s great. It’s a great scheme for sure. – Azeez Ojulari on his first impressions of Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme

The New York Giants were in need of a consistent edge rusher in their starting defensive lineup. It appears they have found it with Azeez Ojulari.

New York Giants: Kyle Van Noy an interesting new free agent to keep an eye on

New York Giants, Kyle Van noy

The New York Giants are preparing for a crucial free agency period this offseason. New York has made it known that they are in the market for new offensive playmakers. The defense was the strength of the team in 2020 while the offense fell behind, averaging only 17.5 points per game.

But that is not to say that the Giants’ defense was perfect by any means. The Giants did a good job generating interior pressure and had an impressive trio of safeties combined with some 2020 free agency standouts in Blake Martinez and James Bradberry. There was one position, though, that the Giants were lacking consistent production out of.

The New York Giants did not have a consistent presence pass-rushing off the edge in 2020. They ran with a rotational pass-rush that saw numerous players start as edge rushers. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines were solid edge players when healthy, but when they went down, New York had a revolving door at edge rusher.

Today, a new edge rusher entered the free agency market. The Miami Dolphins cut Kyle Van Noy after one season with the team to save themselves over $9 million in salary-cap space. Van Noy is an intriguing player that the Giants should keep an eye on as they approach free agency.

Kyle Van Noy stats and highlights

After one season in Miami, Kyle Van Noy is once again a free agent. Van Noy spent the first four years of his career with the New England Patriots before playing in Detroit with the Lions for three years. In 2020, Van Noy was a free agent searching for his third team. He ultimately landed in Miami but did praise the New York Giants and their new head coach Joe Judge earlier in the process.

Kyle Van Noy has familiarity with Joe Judge from their days with the New England Patriots. Last offseason, Van Noy was a guest on the Pat McAfee Show. He praised Joe Judge, referring to him as a “ball of energy,” and even said, “Go, Giants!” towards the end of his interview. Now that he is once again a free agent, Van Noy could be a potential fit with the New York Giants.

Kyle Van Noy is an eight-year NFL veteran that has played a versatile role throughout his career. He might not fill up the stat sheet, having a career-high of only 6.5 sacks in a season (2019). But Van Noy is one of those guys that generates a lot of hidden production.

According to Pro Football Focus, Van Noy tied third among non-defensive linemen in pressures with 28 in 2020. Kyle Van Noy is an edge rusher, but he is also an off-ball linebacker. He plays a variety of defensive alignments and performs well at every one of them. If the Giants sign Kyle Van Noy, he could potentially fill two needs for them. Van Noy would contribute to the Giants’ pass-rush and he would also be able to plug in as a solid off-ball linebacker next to Blake Martinez.

The Giants utilize a complex, versatile defense under Patrick Graham. In 2020, New York sent plenty of creative blitzes. Kyle Van Noy might fit perfectly in this scheme as a player who can rush from anywhere on the field. Additionally, his familiarity with the coaching staff could connect him to New York.

New York Giants: Joe Judge thankful for Patrick Graham staying

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants won’t be changing defensive coordinators this season. Despite interest from other teams such as the Jets, it didn’t take long this offseason for Patrick Graham to agree to a new contract with the Giants. The extension came after the Jets asked to interview Graham, and confirmed that he’ll remain with the Giants instead of looking into the head coaching options.

One person that’s happy about the immediate move to keep Graham is Joe Judge, who was largely involved in the hiring of Graham in the first place this offseason.

“Keeping Pat here was definitely a priority for us. We know Pat’s gonna have a lot of opportunities going forward. He’s a very, very smart coach, he’s very good communicator, he has a lot of really good ideas and he’s very good getting the players to buy in and understand the concept he’s trying to do,” Judge said while speaking to WFAN on Tuesday.

The Giants defense improved quickly under Graham, with the Giants finishing in the top half of the league in terms of stopping the opponent from gaining yards. They also allowed the 9th least opponent points, and several players such as Leonard Williams and James Bradberry stepped up to have improved performances while playing under Graham.

Defense kept the Giants in several games, and they could have had more wins if it wasn’t for having one of the worst offenses in the league. So, it’s understandable that keeping Graham was a priority.

“I tell you what, that to me was huge. That was huge. Pat’s a great coach, he’s a good friend. Being able to keep him in this organization for as long as we can, that definitely was a priority. He’s a tremendous help to me, he carries that title of assistant head coach and that’s not just fluff on a sheet. He does a lot of things helping me internally,” Judge said about the coach.

Both of the Giants’ coordinators have received interest from other teams. Graham obviously turned down the chance to interview for the Jets job, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett accepted an interview from the Chargers. It remains to be seen what the staff will look like come the 2021 season, but we do know for sure that the Giants will keep their best performing coordinator from 2020.

New York Giants sign defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to contract extension

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants have signed standout defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to a contract extension, per multiple sources. Patrick Graham will not pursue any head coaching opportunities in 2021. The New York Jets requested to interview Graham for their vacant head coaching position yesterday.

Patrick Graham earned this contract extension after a phenomenal first season with the Giants. Graham was signed to be New York’s defensive coordinator last offseason after spending the 2019 season as the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.

The Giants defense allowed only 22.3 points per game this season (ninth-best in NFL). This is a huge improvement from the 28.2 points per game that New York allowed in 2019 (third-worst). Graham’s defense also allowed only 349 yards per game and forced a solid 22 turnovers on the year.

Under the toolage of Patrick Graham, the Giants saw multiple players celebrate career-years. Leonard Williams posted a career-high 11.5 sacks. Blake Martinez was phenomenal, totaling 151 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles. James Bradberry made his first career Pro Bowl and played at an All-Pro level in 2020. Additionally, the Giants’ main safety duo, Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers were crucial to the Giants’ success. Peppers also had a career-year while Ryan played above expectations in his first season as a safety.

The Giants also saw tremendous growth from their young defenders. Rookie Darnay Holmes was a solid starter at slot cornerback. New York had a revolving door at the second cornerback position but saw each player grow and develop until turning into capable starters at the position.

Details on the length and money of the contract have not yet been revealed. But this is a big move for the New York Giants. Signing Patrick Graham to an extension ensures the Giants continuity and the chance to build something special on the defensive side of the ball for years to come. Graham was one of the best assistant coaches in the NFL this season and has been rewarded as such.

New York Giants: DC Patrick Graham was requested to interview with the New York Jets

New York Giants, Patrick Graham

The New York Giants’ defense was extremely impressive all season long. The person behind this defensive performance with non-other than Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. After an impressive season with the Giants, he is now getting some looks to become a head coach. The first team to request an interview was another New York team, the New York Jets.

Black Monday in the NFL had three head coaches fired yesterday. One of them was the New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. It took less than 24 hours for the Jets to request the Giants stud defensive coordinator for a head coaching job.

The 41-year-old, Graham joined Giants head coach Joe Judge’s staff last offseason after he was lured away from the Miami Dolphins with the “assistant head coach” title. This is not Graham’s first time coaching with the New York Giants. He coached for the Giants in 2016-2017 as the defensive line coach.

Graham also spent time in various roles with a few other teams before landing his role with the New York Giants. The Miami Dolphins, Green Bad Packers, and the New England Patriots. Graham does not have any current connections with the New York Jets.

Graham is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent defensive coaches in the league. The New York Giants star safety Logan Ryan calls him the “the Black Picasso” because of the way he can draw up plays from his defense. Graham takes what Ryan calls him a compliment, as he should.

The New York Jets are not the only head coaching job open this offseason, this will not be Graham’s only requested interview for a head coaching job this offseason.

New York Giants to face another strong rushing attack against the Ravens in Week 16

The New York Giants lost their Week 15 matchup with the Cleveland Browns last Sunday night. The Browns possess one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL this season, but the Giants kept them mostly in check on the ground. It was through the air that Baker Mayfield, Kevin Stefanski, and the Browns offense did the majority of their damage.

The Giants held the Browns’ offense to only 106 rushing yards, which is far below their season average of 152.6 yards per game. This week, the Giants will be facing another AFC North team. This team, the Baltimore Ravens, also has one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL. The Ravens are averaging a league-high 172.7 rushing yards per game in 2020. The Giants need to contain speedy quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ running backs to pick up a necessary Week 16 victory.

The Ravens’ rushing attack

Not only has quarterback Lamar Jackson thrown for 2,461 passing yards this season, but he has also run for 828 rushing yards. Jackson is the Ravens’ leading rusher in a backfield that has multiple talented running backs. Gus ‘the bus’ Edwards has totaled 578 rushing yards this season and rookie J.K. Dobbins has totaled 568 rushing yards this season. This trio of Jackson, Edwards, and Dobbins has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards this season.

The Baltimore Ravens have rushed for over 100 yards in every single game so far this season. Furthermore, the Ravens have rushed for over 200 yards in four games this season. They have been absolutely dominant running the football in 2020, playing a style of football contrarian to the pass-heavy offenses taking over the league this year.

Of course, the Ravens’ offense is built around Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP. Jackson is the fastest quarterback in the NFL and is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. The Louisville product is averaging a league-high 6.1 yards per rushing attempt and has already matched his career-high with 7 rushing touchdowns this season.

The Ravens have scored 7 rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks alone. They have totaled 21 rushing touchdowns this season. The number one priority for Patrick Graham and the New York Giants’ defense this week will be to stop the run.

New York Giants lack of pass-rush doomed defense against Cleveland Browns in Week 15

The New York Giants lost a crucial Week 15 matchup with the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield put together a dominant performance that saw him complete 27 of his 32 passing attempts for 297 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 turnovers.

For the near entirety of the game, Mayfield stood upright in a clean pocket with all day to throw. The Giants just failed to generate pressure against the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line that was dealing with the absence of stud offensive guard Wyatt Teller. New York was doomed from the start due to their lack of a pass-rush in Week 15.

Baker rarely pressured in Week 15

Baker Mayfield was able to have an elite Week 15 performance against the New York Giants. Baker won Pro Football Focus’s Week 15 Offensive Player of the Week award after earning an overall grade of 92.2 against the Giants. This was his third 90+ overall PFF-graded performance of the season.

Baker was deadly off of play-action against the Giants, as he has been all season. The Browns have run play action on 34.1% of their passing plays this season (sixth-most in the NFL). On play-action passes, Baker has had a 121.3 passer rating (PFF).

The Giants pressured Baker Mayfield only three times on Sunday night, per Next Gen Stats. Baker was kept clean and able to complete 84% of his passes against the Giants.

The Browns were able to call plenty of deep passing plays for Baker in this game because he had so much time in the pocket. Mayfield took advantage of this opportunity. On throws that traveled 10+ yards in Week 15, Baker Mayfield had a perfect 158.3 passer rating. According to Pro Football Focus, Mayfield completed 12-of-14 10-plus-yard attempts for 189 yards and two scores, with four big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.

The New York Giants have another tough AFC North matchup on the schedule this week. In Week 16, the Giants will travel to play the Baltimore Ravens. If New York wants to win this game, they will need to apply pressure to reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. The Giants cannot win games with no pass-rush.