Jerry Reese and the New York Giants have built a legitimately elite defense, but how sustainable is the current formula for success?
Fleeting success comes to teams from every corner of the professional sports world, but sustainability has been achieved by only a select few. The New York Giants know that as well as any team in the NFL.
The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 and 2011, but they made just one postseason appearance in the seven other seasons between then and 2016.
Fortunately for the Giants, 2016 served as a brief reminder of the glory days. Head coach Ben McAdoo led New York to its first postseason appearance since 2011, and Jerry Reese built a defense that executed at an elite level.
Dan Graziano of ESPN Insider believes the Giants’ current formula for success on defense can be sustained if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo finds the missing piece.
"I think the Giants are in good shape with the big-money pieces they’ve added on the defensive line and in the secondary the past two years. If they can develop a middle linebacker for Steve Spagnuolo, they could sustain what they did last season for a while."
The development of a high-quality middle linebacker has been a longstanding issue for the Giants.
The Giants have a legitimately elite defensive line and a secondary that’s deserving of that same distinction. Between the front four and back four players, however, is a trio that ranked amongst the very worst in the NFL in 2017.
It’s fair to believe that the defensive line and secondary will continue to perform at a high level, but the linebacker corps is a glaring weakness.
In 2016, Pro Football Focus graded starter Keenan Robinson at 44.0 out of 100, and found that Kelvin Sheppard owned the lowest run-stop percentage of any linebacker in the NFL.
The player whom many around New York are eyeing is second-year linebacker B.J. Goodson. The former Clemson Tigers standout was was the Giants’ fourth-round selection in 2016, and was heralded for being a run stopper in college.
Spagnuolo’s defense would benefit greatly if Goodson can be the thumper at middle linebacker that New York has been missing since Antonio Pierce and, briefly, Michael Boley.
The New York Giants have the talent to be elite again on defense in 2017, but improvement at linebacker will be the key to sustainable success.