Can NY Giants continue improving turnover differential in 2021?
S Jabrill Peppers, DE Leonard Williams
Defenders have the most opportunity for a turnover at the start of the play and the end of the play. Those on the line have the chance to disrupt a play before it develops, or at least cause chaos for a player in the secondary to read where the ball is going.
The addition of James Bradberry was critical for the NY Giants in 2020. He lead the team in pass deflections as well as interceptions. But Jabrill Peppers was not far behind in either category.
Peppers had 11 pass deflections, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He also had 2.5 sacks and 91 tackles, 8.5 of which were for loss.
As a safety, Peppers has the best of both worlds. He can cause turnovers behind or at the line of scrimmage on a blitz, or wait in the secondary to see where the ball will ultimately turn up.
Consider the top six leaders in interceptions, and we’ll look at six because there’s a three-way tie at fourth before a nine-way tie for seventh. Four of the six league leaders in interceptions are safeties.
Without a true second safety, the Giants needed Peppers to essentially be as good as two players. But with a healthy Xavier McKinney, Peppers will now have a better fitting role in Patrick Graham’s defense, one in which he or both will be able to make plays on the ball.
Peppers has continually improved since being traded to the Giants. But he’ll have to keep up this trend if he’s to make people forget about Odell Beckham Jr.
Peppers more than doubled his pass deflections from 2019-2020. Last season, he had a career high in tackles, increased his quarterback pressures and hurries, and also minimized his missed tackles.
If Peppers could continue this trend, his ability to create turnovers either at the line or in the secondary will only improve. stature and reputation in the league will grow. And with that, his stature and reputation in the league will grow.
While Peppers can create opportunity up and down the defense, Leonard Williams is slated to make them all at the line.
Williams may have been sixth in the league with 11.5 sacks, but only T.J. Watt and Carl Lawson got their hands on the quarterback more.
Williams was third in quarterback hits, with 30. (Watt had 41, Lawson had 32.) With a stronger, more complete defensive secondary, the added seconds it takes for an opposing quarterback to find his target could provide Williams the time needed to convert a few of those hits into sacks. Or better, turnovers.
2020 was a bit of a statement from Williams. Most people in NY, both Giants and Jets fans, did not believe that he could be a dominant pass rusher. His most productive season before 2020 was his Pro Bowl year in 2016. He had just seven sacks and 19 quarterback hits.
After a few years on down-trodden teams, Williams finally had a supporting cast around him, and a mad genius in Patrick Graham to design new ways to get Williams after the quarterback.
And even though Williams had just one fumble recovery, his presence forces opposing quarterbacks to hurry, which in turn makes them more likely to turn the ball over.
There were 10 Giants defenders who had at least one fumble recovery, and nine with at least one interception. The defense as a unit spreads the wealth when it comes to the finishing numbers.
But players like Jabrill Peppers and Leonard Williams are in positions to create those opportunities. And if both build on a strong 2020, the Giants defense will be dangerous in 2021.