375.8 yards were allowed per game. 6 yards were allowed per play. 4.9 yards were allowed per rushing attempt. 15 rushing touchdowns were allowed. That was the resume of the New York Giants defense in the 2014 season. Obviously, the Giants most important offseason priority is fixing the defense. Since football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage, the defensive front 7 is a good place to start the rebuilding.
Let me explain why the Giants defensive front is the priority through another perspective. The Giants offense was pretty good in 2014, in fact it ranked seventh overall in yards per game. The Giants offense scored a respectable 23.8 points a game, which ranked 13th overall. This means that even though the Giants offense was prolific and the team averaged in the top half of the league in scoring per game, they found themselves with only 6 wins.
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They say that defense wins championships; I say that not having a defense wins a comfortable couch to watch the playoffs in. The goal of every team in the NFL is to go to the playoffs.
If you just get into the postseason anything can happen; a truth the Giants know better than anyone making two almost surprising Super Bowl runs in 2007 and 2011. The Giants cannot be a playoff team with the defense they had in the 2014 season.
The defensive line may not look like a problem area. The Giants have Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Damontre Moore, Jay Bromley and of course Jason Pierre-Paul. On paper that sounds like a respectable unit. The problem is that these are the same players that got pushed around and blown back on a regular basis last season.
Pierre-Paul and Hankins are on my good list, they can at times be dominant players. The others, I am not quite sold on. The Giants aren’t either, why else would they be willing to spend a heaping helping of money of Ndamukong Suh? As a group it is just not good enough.
Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) prior to facing the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The linebacker group is just as suspect. Jon Beason is an aging veteran who can’t seem to stay healthy. Jameel McClain is a decent player but fits much better in the 3-4 playing next to a bigger and stronger interior linebacker.
Mark Herzlich is a good story and a high effort guy but his game leaves much to be desired. Spencer Paysinger had just 15 tackles last season in 15 games. If it wasn’t for Devon Kennard, I’d say the second level of the Giants defense was rather hopeless.
The offensive line may not be perfect but it is not putrid. The offense could use more weapons but it is certainly not lacking talent. The Giants defense on the other hand had some putrid results in 2014 and showed to lack the talent to shut offenses down.
I don’t mean to give an Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday like speech. I am not going to shout that the inches we need are everywhere. I am however going to tell you that little things win football games and that the battle at the line of scrimmage decides the outcome. The front 7 is the priority because the tackle box is the epicenter for action in NFL football.
The flashes may come deep down the field with the “skill” positions. Though the substance comes in the front 7. Because if Pierre-Paul knocks the daylights out of the quarterback the big flashy play down the field never happens.
Because if you fill the gaps and linebackers flow to the football, DeMarco Murray is doomed from the start when the Giants battle the Cowboys. Because you shouldn’t have to ask your offense to put up 28 points or more every week because the defense gets pushed around. The defensive front 7 is without doubt, the single most important priority for the Giants this offseason.