By Jeff Moeller The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
The Giants’ virtual workouts have ended, and there are roughly six weeks until the projected start of training camp July 28.
With that, the thought process begins and the questions start swirling around in the heads of Giants’ brass and fans alike. Among the biggest cringes and debates will be the Giants’ defense. In spite of acquiring some talent and making seven of his 10 draft choices defensive ones, has GM Dave Gettleman found the right pieces to solidify the puzzle? Specifically, can Gettleman, head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham find the solution to fix the team’s inept defensive line?
Last season, the Giants recorded 36 sacks, good for 22nd overall on a unit that ranked 25th overall in the league – 20th against the run and 28th against the pass. An inconsistent pass produced the site of a wide-open receiver or one being chased by a Giants’ defender as he was headed to the end zone too often. To their credit, the Giants did rid themselves of veteran safety Antoine Bethea and a few others to revamp the secondary.
Graham has the daunting task of finding the right scheme for beefy defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson (2nd round, 2017) and Dexter Lawrence (1st round , 2019, both of whom were high picks with lofty aspirations, and blending them together with the franchise-tagged Leonard Williams, whose trade from the Jets still remains controversial. Together, all three can stop the run well, but they combined for 6.5 sacks last season.
Third-year player BJ Hill also is in the rotation and needs to return to his 2018 form when he had 5.5 sacks as opposed to his lone sack last season that reduced his playing time. Gettleman added bulky free-agent tackle Austin Johnson from Tennessee who can stop the run, but he didn’t have a sack last season.
Graham has mentioned multiple looks, but he likely will employ a 3-4 alignment in which the Giants can deploy their stockpile of 12 linebackers, four of them draft choices from the spring. He has a niche at his former stomp in Miami as favoring the blitz, which could be the primary generator of sacks.
Free agent Kyler Fackwell has 10.5 sacks in Green Bay two years ago, and he is viewed as the edge rusher they sought in the draft. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines also are expected to increase pressure. Fellow Packer free agent Blake Martinez was a tackling machine and will be turned loose in a blitz package. Ryan Connolly was promising before an injury ended his season last year, and former Panther David Mayo also had plenty of highlights with his pair of sacks.
Sacks will be essential to overall improvement of the unit and allow veterans James Bradberry and Jabrill Peppers to orchestrate a budding secondary. The quantity surely is there, but is there enough quality? The triumvirate of Gettleman, Judge, and Graham will discover if their defensive unit can close the gap this fall.