New York Giants: 2015 Defensive Direction

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No New York Giants fan is really all that concerned with the offense. All indications point to a strong offense led by Eli Manning and his impressive arsenal of playmakers. The concerns for the Giants seem to be on the defensive side of the football. Where is the defense going in 2015?

The return of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is huge. Here is a guy that has helped the team win the Super Bowl before, has head coaching experience and is as proven as a coordinator gets in this league. Spagnuolo understands that a strong defensive front that rushes the passer with exotic stunts and the perfectly timed and calculated blitzes can cover up a lot of defensive problems.

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The priority therefore is to rush the passer. The Giants have Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore returning to specialize this. Rookie defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa will be part of the pass rushing rotation. The Giants signed Kenrick Ellis and they think the former Jets defensive tackle is primed for a breakout season. The Giants have the talent to rush the passer and a defensive coordinator who knows how to do it.

The problem is that the Giants defense didn’t dramatically improve in stopping the run. In 2014 the Giants gave up 4.9 yards per carry. Offenses took consistently took chunks of yards. When you force teams into third and long situations the pass rush can shine. But in 2014 the Giants opponents’ set up easy third down conversions or avoided them all together.

If the Giants defensive front doesn’t toughen up against the run, none of their problems are fixed. If linebacker Jon Beason can stay healthy the Giants should see some improvement, a contingency they cannot depend on. Other than Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins, the Giants don’t have any powerful run stuffers on the defensive line. Jenkins is a 34-year-old defensive tackle who makes a limited impact at this point in his career.

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Landon Collins (Alabama) and April Justin arrive on the gold carpet before the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The good news is that rookie strong safety, Landon Collins will help the Giants defense tremendously. He will essentially be an extra linebacker against run plays. Collins is a physical player who flies to the football. We can also expect a strong showing from the young and talented Devon Kennard as an outside linebacker.

The secondary seems to be the bright spot for this team. Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are two very talented cornerbacks. The versatility of Landon Collins will be a game changer, and teams will game plan around him, like they did against Troy Polamalu of Pittsburgh Steelers lure. Nat Berhe could be the surprise player of 2015 and he has potential as a ball hawking free safety.

The moral of the story is that the Giants defense will be better in 2015 but it is by no means fixed. The team will experience many of the same struggles it did last season. The defense will have to be opportunistic to be successful, forcing turnovers and getting to the quarterback. The good news is that it cannot possibly be worse than it was last season.

The defense doesn’t need to dominate though. Surely it would be nice to see the Giants defense shut down offenses completely, but they just aren’t that good. The defense just needs to be good enough. The offense will put up points, the defense just needs to do its fair share in 2015.

Next: 2015 NFL Draft: Grading Every New York Giants Pick

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