When Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants in 2007 and 2008, he took a struggling defense and turned it into an aggressive, high caliber unit that played a huge role in the team’s Super Bowl XLII win versus the then undefeated New England Patriots and their record setting offense.
In 2008, the Giants defense was their anchor to a 12-4 season. That season was derailed by the loss of top offensive weapon Plaxico Burress in what is now known as the infamous nightclub incident where Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg with a gun he has concealed in his sweatpants.
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Spagnuolo became beloved by his players and fans for his upbeat and aggressive coaching style that spawned one of the fiercest defensive lines in NFL history. That defensive line was spearheaded by hall of fame defensive end Michael Strahan, and supplemented by fellow pass rushers Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora who was lost for the entire 2008 season due to a pre-season knee injury.
Now, after having a short head coaching stint as well as other defensive coaching jobs, the man know by many as “Spags” is now back to once again resurrect a porous Giants defense that was historically bad last season. It can be argued that the overall talent level on this defense is greater than Spagnuolo’s 2007 and 2008 defenses, but serious questions linger at every position.
Dec 14, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) fumbles the ball as he’s hit by New York Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (95) during the fourth quarter of a game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The biggest questions are on the defensive line. Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is the best talent on the line, with veteran Robert Ayers Jr. and Damontre Moore who is young but loaded with talent. the team drafted defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa out of UCLA in the third round of this year’s draft to add the type of dynamic pass rusher that usually thrives in Spagnuolo’s system.
Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is an underrated stud who many feel will become a star under Spagnuolo. Fellow young defensive tackle Jay Bromley will get an opportunity to shine and veteran Cullen Jenkins provides stability in the middle of the line.
For Spagnuolo’s defense to succeed, the defensive line must be aggressive in shutting down the run and putting constant pressure on quarterbacks which will make the linebackers and defensive backs’ jobs much easier. Without a solid defensive front, it prolongs the time spent on the field by the defense which leads to breakdowns in coverges.
It will be interesting to see if Spagnuolo’s scheme can ignite this talented defensive line that has under performed in recent years. The success of this defense will ultimately be defined by whether or not the defensive line can be effective. It’s time to hear your voices Giants fans, do you feel confident that Spagnuolo can bring the defensive line back to it’s glory days? Leave a comment below and let the debate begin!