By Michael Stewart/@golferbad
Introduction: The New York Giants finished the 2018 season 24th in the league in total yards allowed per game. They were second to last in sacks with only 30 (Raiders finished with 13), surrendered the most 20+ yards passes in the league and were equally as bad against the run.
The defense failed to hold a lead on the opposing team’s final drive on three separate occasions and gave up over 4000 total yards. If the Giants expect to even come close to being a playoff contender, they must have success in three areas on defense. If not, it’s going to be a very long season and another top 10 selection in the 2020 NFL draft.
- Pass Rush: The Giants are basically counting on a few players to either have career years or to develop quickly in 2019. Here are my top 4 players that need to have production in the sack department:
- Markus Golden: Golden is being counted on to at least come close to his 2016 production (12.5 sack), if not; it’s going to put more pressure on the younger players to produce.
- Lorenzo Carter: Carter played well as a rookie in 2018 with 4.5 sacks and with the expected playing time to increase, hopefully so will his sack totals.
- B.J Hill: Hill had 5.5 sacks in 2018, but many experts don’t believe he can improve on that total enough to make a difference. Perhaps with the improved play of the other players mentioned above, the experts might be wrong.
- Oshane Ximines: Fittingly the 3rd round selection could be the X-factor in 2019 for the Giants and could catch a lot of teams by surprise. It all depends on what Ximines role will be and that will be up to him to convince the coaching staff, based on his performance in the pre-season if he is more of a “every down” linebacker or a situational linebacker.
- Minimize big plays: The Giants must minimize the big play totals in 2019; which wasn’t the case in 2018. GM Dave Gettleman will only have one starter returning from the secondary in 2019 (Janoris Jenkins). Lots of new faces who could make or break the Giants season in 2019.
- Jabrill Peppers: Will have many Giant fans forget about Landon Collins. Peppers may not an elite coverage safety, but he’s better than Collins.
- Antonie Bethea: Much more dependable and a better tackler than Curtis Riley. Bethea will not put himself out of position like Riley did in 2018.
- Sam Beal: Supplemental pick a year ago who will battle for the other corner spot. Solid coverage corner in college who also played the run well.
- DeAndre Baker: Baker was lights out in college as the Bulldogs cornerback responsible in covering the other team’s best receiver. As the season progresses, there’s a good chance he’ll inherit that same role with the Giants.
- Julian Love: Giants like his game and also his versatility; which could eventually lead to Love moving to safety in 2020. Until then, Love should see a lot of action in many of the Giants defensive packages, especially in the slot.
- Corey Ballentine: Small school talent that can contribute in certain packages and especially in special teams.
- Grant Haley: Haley will most likely battle with Love for the slot corner spot and could make it a good problem for DC James Bettcher to have in 2020.
- Neutralize the run: The Giants run defense struggled with Damon Harrison and once he was traded it got worse. This area needs to improve tremendously in 2019. Despite the NFL being more of a passing game, games are still won in the trenches, GM Dave Gettleman added two new starters on the Offensive Line and now he hopes the new additions on defense are difference makers.
- Dexter Lawrence: Lawrence was drafted for the sole reason to stop the run. Although he did display pass rushing ability at Clemson, the Giants would be more than happy if Lawrence can help neutralize the middle of the line of scrimmage and be a force.
- Dalvin Tomlinson: Tomlinson struggled at nose tackle once Harrison was traded and the return to the outside could benefit him and the Giants; at least that’s the plan.
- B.J Goodson: Goodson was able to stay on the field more in 2018 and hopefully he can do the same in 2019. Goodson is arguably the Giants best linebacker against the run.
- Alec Ogletree: Ogletree uncharacteristically had 5 interceptions in 2018. He is more suited as a run stuffer between the tackles and that’s what the Giants are expecting from him.
- Olsen Pierre: Olsen is another former Cardinal that was brought in to add depth in DC James Bettcher rotational system.
- Ryan Connelly: Connelly could take playing time away from either Goodson and/or Olgetree at the inside linebacker position. DC James Bettcher likes to keep his defensive front 7 players fresh, so like the defensive line; look for a possible rotational system at inside-backer as well.
Other notable players not mentioned such as R.J McIntosh and Kareem Martin must provide additional sacks to give the Giants more depth and balance production. Defensively for the Giants; these three areas are essential to their success overall as a team in 2019.
Their 5-11 record in 2018 was more of a reflection on their poor defensive play than their offensive production. DC James Bettcher seems to have the players on paper to give him the flexibility and big play potential, but the talent must translate it on the field.