New York Giants Training Camp Unit Breakdown: Defense
As part of our continuing coverage of New York Giants training camp, Joe Bianchino checking in once a week to break down the team. This week, he tackles the defense.
Any casual football observer could have told you that the 2011 edition of the New York Giants featured a defense that was...suspect, to put it gently. To just put it? They were bad. Never has a case of agita been so biting than the one experienced watching the early and midseason editions of the New York Giant defense - specifically their secondary.
And yet, all of that changed in spectacular fashion in the last two games of the regular season and through the playoff run. Coach Tom Coughlin has noted that while his defense gave up a woeful 25 points per game in the regular season, they allowed only 14 in the postseason. With nearly everyone returning, a healthy Osi Umenyiora, and few key additions, it's expected that this Giant defense will be vastly - mercifully - improved.
Such a goal took a big hit earlier this week, however, when corner back Terrell Thomas - whose return from an ACL tear figured to help mend what was a broken secondary - suffered another partial tear to that same ACL. He'll be evaluated later this week, but it seems as though the worst is to be feared. Still, anchored by a dominant defensive line, expect this defense to be improved. For more, check out below.
Key Loss - Aaron Ross: Anytime a guy like Aaron Ross is your team's biggest loss, you're doing alright. Ross is a serviceable corner, but his tenure with the Giants was largely a waiting game - one that had Giant fans everywhere eagerly awaiting the realization of talent that always promised more. But as such an improvement never truly materialized, Ross' move to Jacksonville will be one that will effect their depth - depth that could be needed given the injury to Thomas - but should be replaceable.
Key Addition - Keith Rivers: When this article was first being planned, Terrell Thomas' name was the one scheduled to be slotted here. But with Thomas' football future in limbo, we slide in an off season acquisition, linebacker Keith Rivers. Traded from the Bengals for a fifth round pick, Rivers is a former top ten draftee - taken ninth overall in the 2008 draft. He was projected as a special talent, but injuries have kept him from the kind of success that everyone said would be his. Despite the injuries, a fifth round pick is a small price to pay for top ten talent. Rivers could very well become the linchpin of a linebacking corps that has been in need of improvement.
Key Injury - I think we get it by now: And if you don't, keep reading. You will.
Weakness - Defensive Backs: Much like the "key addition" above, Thomas's injury has forced an adjustment to what would have been listed here. With Thomas, the defensive back corps of this Giant squad had a depth and talent that would likely have seen them greatly improved. Without the fifth year player out of USC, however, not much has changed from last year. There is still depth and young talent that coaches hope will step up this year, but their effectiveness is unknown.
Strength - Defensive Line: While the back seven languished through repeated decimation at the hands of the likes of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Charlie Whitehurst - fear the porn 'stache - the defensive line remained a saving grace. Though not the ever dominant force Giant fans have come to know, the D-Line was still dynamic, turning it on in at the tail end of the regular season and maintaining their dominance throughout the playoffs. With players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck, this defensive line is fast, strong, and deep, and likely the best in the league.
Most Important Player - Justin Tuck: Tuck is the leader of not only the vaunted line mentioned above, but this entire Giant defense. Capable of disrupting any game with his combination of speed and size, Tuck has become one of the feared defensive forces in the game. To put his value in cliche and mildly overstated terms, when he goes, so too do the Giants.
Player to Watch (In Camp) - Prince Amukamara: After missing much of last season with an injury suffered just days into training camp, the 2011 first round pick is finally being given a chance to learn - and so far during training camp, he's making the most of it. The same day that Thomas' injury was announced, Amukamara was a standout player in practice. He figures to be the most likely to slide into Thomas' vacated role, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell hopes for improvement now that the coaches have the opportunity to take their time with his development.
Player To Watch (In Season) - Jason Pierre-Paul: When Pierre-Paul was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, many wondered why a team with such depth at defensive line would waste a pick. Since then, all Pierre-Paul has done is become the most dynamic young talent in football. "He's just scratching the surface of what he can do...and where he can go with his talent," Fewell boasted about his defensive end. He warned that offenses will do more to stop him this year, but still, with Pierre-Paul's tireless motor, and freakish physical abilities, he's absolutely one to watch.
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