By Michael J Basile, @MdoubleJB
Does a new look mean a new result
The Giants made a handful of strong moves this off season to change the look of the defensive back unit. The safeties for Big Blue will be a new tandem when the 2019 season kicks off. For starters, former 2nd round draft pick, Landon Collins will be OPPOSING the Giants twice this year as a member of the Redskins.
After a trade with the Cleveland Browns Safety Jabrill Peppers will slide into the role of Strong Safety. A trade that many fans hated but ultimately will workout for the franchise. Journeyman Curtis Riley signed with the Raiders this off season, and GM Dave Gettleman brought in veteran Antoine Bethea who will be 35 when the season .
With Bethea you know what you’re getting. A reliable starter who is familiar with DC James Bettcher’s system from their time together in Arizona. PFF rated him the NFL’s best safety at rushing the passer, which will provide Bettcher with flexibility to move him around.
At the moment, the Giants defense lacks a dominant pass rusher so the signing of Bethea is a perfect fit. PFF also rated Curtis Riley as the worst tackling safety in the NFL so he will not be missed. Even though he did show up well in coverage, he couldn’t tackle, Bethea’s leadership and experience is certainly an upgrade over Riley.
Now on Peppers impact replacing Collins:
Collins lead the team in tackles, but wasn’t great in coverage. It was easy to understand that Collins didn’t warrant a $14 million per year salary (Sorry Skins). Peppers is about $12 million dollars cheaper per year . The production down “in the box” will be hard to replace. But the flexibility of having Peppers should create a unique opportunity in coverage. He was a first round draft pick just two years ago. His scouting report raves about his sideline to sideline speed, athleticism and versatility. His agility helps him in coverage, and was one the the main reasons he was a drafted in the first round.
He can play safety/corner/linebacker, line up on the outside or in the box, and heck, he can even play offense or special teams if asked. When offenses put on the film in 2018, there wasn’t much nuance Bettcher could implement with Collins and Riley – you knew where they were going to be and what they were trying to do.
With Bethea and Peppers, the Giants defensive coaches can scheme up anything they want. Peppers can literally line up anywhere, and has a skill set to be productive in coverage AND against the run. Bethea can blitz while Peppers hangs back, or Bethea can cover on the back end while Peppers roams around the line of scrimmage.
Once you look at the strengths and weaknesses of these players individually, you start to realize how this is a definite upgrade for the Giants. You will notice the production once they put on the pads in 2019.