The New York Giants did address the inside linebacker position in the 2020 NFL draft this year, but it was with several later round picks that don’t represent exceptional talent or value. Essentially, creating a position battle next to Blake Martinez seems to be the most efficient way of finding the Giants’ second starter. However, they do have Ryan Connolly still on the roster, who suffered a torn ACL in week four against the Washington Redskins in the dying moments of the game during his rookie season.
Connelly started off his career nicely, posting 20 combine tackles, 1.0 sacks, two tackles for loss, two passes defended, and two interceptions. He missed zero tackles and logged a 57.1 completion rate against and zero touchdowns allowed. While his sample size is extremely small and we cannot base a cemented judgment on the numbers he did provide, the early promise he showed should offer optimism moving forward.
The New York Giants also landed Blake Martinez to pair at linebacker:
Signing Blake Martinez should get the Giants another tough run-stopping linebacker in the middle of the defense. While his coverage grade from 2019 is horrendous, he was playing in a strange mesh-zone scheme that didn’t allow him to play his preferred man coverage.
I believe new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham well utilize his players in a more efficient way. He tends to rely on man coverage far more often than James Bettcher. He played man 50% of the time with the Miami Dolphins last year and blitzed on 41% of snaps on third downs. I estimate that Connelly and Martinez will be active in the blitz game but also playing coverage against opposing tight ends and running backs.
The most exciting aspect of Connelly is his ability to shoot the gap instinctively and stop runners in the backfield. He’s also solid in coverage, allowing four completions on seven targets for just 19 yards. He is a smaller more shifty player at 6-foot-2 and 242 pounds.
I really liked what he offered early on in the 2019 season and I believe the Giants defense would’ve been much better if he was active. Nonetheless, plenty of players suffer ACL injuries and return to full health, so I believe he can do the same. The most recent injury updates are positive and he had already begun running and training. While we haven’t heard much from his camp, he should be in line to return to the defense with the green light this summer.
Again, the pairing of Martinez and Connelly could be a bit tumultuous in the beginning, considering it is a new tandem and the defensive playbook are completely overhauled, but they are two capable players who have the potential for more. I believe Connelly is a starter in the NFL and will show that in the near future.