Patriots Plan: Will it Work for the Giants Defense

by Spiro Kasabian @nyspawtsguy_spi

We have seen them fail time and time again.  From Eric Mangini, to Romeo Crennel, to Matt Patricia.  All of which, were former Defensive Coordinators who coached under Bill Belichick and tried to take his defensive philosophies elsewhere.  All have failed, none have come anywhere close to duplicating his success.  What each coach came to learn was that it was hard to be Bill.

New Defensive Coordinator

Patrick Graham is coming off his one and only season as a Defensive Coordinator under Brian Flores in Miami.  Flores was another Belichick disciple who was also was a defensive coach from 2011 to 2018.  It’s hard to make any concrete judgements on Graham based on what happened down in Miami last year.  We don’t know how much leeway Graham was given by Flores, who probably had a major input on how the defense operated and what personnel to use. 

Speaking of Miami’s personnel, it was…..lacking.  That’s about the nicest way I could put it.  The Dolphins traded their best weapon in Minkah Fitzpatrick early in the year and their second-best player, cornerback Xavien Howard, missed 11 games in 2019.  One thing is for sure, while this New York Giant defense is not chock-full of high-end talent, Graham will be working with way more than he had in Miami. 

Graham coming to New York is on the opposite end of the spectrum from circumstances that led to James Bettcher’s hiring.  Bettcher had some serious talent on his defenses in Arizona, and that might have made him look like a better coordinator than he actually was.

The Scheme

“The way (Graham) ran his defense was really similar to what we ran in New England, so it was a lot of carryover” said former Giant and Patriot, Calvin Munson, who played under Graham in 2019.

– Calvin Munson

Joe Judge stated in his latest press conference, that this defense would be multiple and would take principles from everywhere Graham has been.  This includes Miami and New England, which both stem from Coach Belichick’s scheme. 

He is going to run a scheme that is more closely related to a 3-4 defense, but with moving parts.  When you have a lot of moving parts, you need smart and versatile football players that can stay on the field to disguise looks.  The Giants have been adding those types of players in Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers, Julian Love, Blake Martinez and Leonard Williams.

For this system to succeed, a team needs a strong secondary that will be required to play a lot of man coverage due to the amount of blitzing the system deploys.  Graham will be blitzing plenty (blitzed 35% of the time last year; 41% on third down). 

Belichick’s scheme in New England doesn’t require an Alpha pass-rusher (outside of a few Chandler Jones years) because of this.  The pass rush will come from multiple places (Linebackers and Secondary) and will be relying on cornerbacks that excel in man coverage.  The scheme will be multiple, but it will be simpler than Bettcher’s complex system (per many ex-players).

The Giants are building towards having a solid young secondary that is well-suited for the Patriot’s Plan of a successful defense.  This offseason, they added James Bradberry and drafted their potential answer at nickleback in Darnay Holmes.  Xavier McKinney was drafted in the 2nd Round of this year’s draft and will pair up with Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love to form a solid group of interchangeable Safeties. 

The key word there is interchangeable, as all three of those players bring a ton to the table (blitzing, ball skills, and tackling).  The only way the Patriot’s system worked so well is because they have had a pair of excellent safeties in Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.  They were smart, versatile, and interchangeable and could be on the field for any defensive situation.  Couple that with Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine, and you have the makings of a very good secondary. 

The Giants are clearly building this defense from the back to the front.  In the pass-happy new NFL, a good secondary is essential.  It will give the Front Seven that extra second or two it needs to get to the Quarterback.  Their hope is that all those pressures from Leonard Williams last year will turn into sacks!  Olivier Vernon only wishes he stuck around for a few more years.

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