Joe Judge has been a revelation for the NY Giants, but his best move so far has been bringing Patrick Graham with him as defensive coordinator. He’s become invaluable to what Judge envisions for his Giants.
It may be early, but it’s not a stretch to say that the NY Giants’ already made their most important off-season move.
When Patrick Graham was hired on January 17th, 2020, it wasn’t met with much praise of fanfare. Now, he’s become a vital piece of the team’s future.
What a difference a year makes for Graham – and his Giants’ defense. In one season, the unit went from a laughing stock to a force, and he’s not ready to leave what he’s built. With another infusion of talent this off-season, the sky’s the limit for Graham’s defense.
The Giants’ didn’t have any players selected to the All-Pro first or second teams, but they certainly had players who were deserving. With help from Graham, players like Leonard Williams, Blake Martinez, and James Bradberry made strong cases.
What Graham did for Williams may be the most impressive part of this past season – turning him from a player that never reached his potential to arguably the second best interior defensive lineman in the league. The former Jet improved from half a sack last season to 11.5 this year, a gigantic jump.
After getting blown to bits by the media over the trade, general manager Dave Gettleman has been vindicated by Williams’ play. While Williams deserves credit for improving his play by leaps and bounds, Graham gets the assist.
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The signing of linebacker Blake Martinez was another move that was panned by critics, but Graham couldn’t praise him enough this year. Perhaps no player was more important to his defense, captaining the squad and ensuring Graham’s vision was seen by his teammates.
Along with his leadership, Martinez also added 151 tackles, three sacks and three turnovers – that doesn’t hurt either. The Giants’ haven’t had production out of a linebacker like that since the Antonio Pierce days.
While James Bradberry was a proven cornerback with the Carolina Panthers, Graham helped him become one of the league’s shutdown corners this season. His 18 pass defenses and three interceptions should’ve garnered him more than one All-Pro vote.
Graham gets credit for helping these players reach their potential, but perhaps the more impressive thing was the fact that he got solid play out of players who weren’t as heralded. The Giants had seventh round picks, un-drafted players and practice squad members littered throughout the unit at different times during the year.
While their play wasn’t always perfect, guys like Tae Crowder, Carter Coughlin, Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis and Niko Lalos were always put in a position to succeed. It led to some of the biggest plays of the season, like a game-winning fumble return by Crowder and a momentum swinging, LeBron James tweeting interception by Lalos.
Graham’s defense saw their top options at defensive end go down with lengthy stints on the injured reserve, but he still found a way to manufacture a pass rush. With the return of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, and the possibility of adding talent in the draft and free agency, Graham may finally be able to deliver Gettleman the ferocious pass rush he’s been looking for since he became general manager.
The journey of Graham going from an unknown, uninspiring hire to a key piece in the Giants’ return to glory was one of the most unexpected in the entire league. He’ll be a head coach in the league one day – but until then, he’s returning to finish what he started.
Judge was looking for assistants who teach, who lead, and who put the team first – he hit the jackpot by bringing Graham in. Now, it’s up to them to keep building on the impressive foundation they’ve built in year one.