Offseason team needs: Giants defense

Color coded chart confusing? Think "traffic light"

Color coded chart confusing? Think “traffic light”

The Giants’ defense was such an oddity in 2012. Yardage wise, they were a mess, but they survived because of good red zone defense and their knack for creating turnovers. A look at 2012, by the numbers:

  • 383.4 yards allowed per game (31st in the NFL)
  • 254.2 passing yards allowed per game (28th in the NFL)
  • 8.1 YPA allowed (tied for dead last)
  • 129.1 rushing yards allowed per game (25th in the NFL)
  • 4.6 yards per carry allowed (28th in the NFL)

And yet, they tied for 12th in points per game allowed, with 21.5. Why? Because they were 4th in red zone defense (opponents scored TDs 46% of the time they were in the red zone), and they were 3rd in takeaways, with 35.

DE: What happened here? Before the season began, many viewed the Giants’ DEs as the best group in the NFL. Now it’s a significant need area. A few days ago, the Giants voided the contract of Osi Umenyiora, which will allow him to test the free agent market. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that he won’t return to the Giants, but it’ll be difficult to keep him, considering they’re already cutting bait with some of their highly paid players to make room for players they absolutely have to retain, namely OT Will Beatty. Above, we mentioned the Giants’ penchant for forcing turnovers. For his career, Umenyiora has 32 forced fumbles. In other words, he’s good for about 3.5 FF per season. The Giants will miss that if he leaves.

In 2011, there was an argument to be made that Jason Pierre-Paul was the Defensive Player of the Year. In 2012, he was still very good, but he didn’t come close to replicating the season he had in 2011. But obviously, the Giants are set at one DE spot as long as JPP remains a Giant.

Meanwhile, Justin Tuck is clearly on the downside of his career.

So what do you have if Umenyiora leaves? You have JPP, which is great, and then you have a fading player in Tuck, and unless you really like Adrian Tracy, you have pretty much no legitimate depth. Do you move Mathias Kiwanuka back to DE? If so, you then open up a hole in your linebacking corps, with no real guarantee that Kiwanuka will even make plays at DE, or even get enough snaps to make it worthwhile.

DT: Another problem area for the Giants. I liked what I saw out of Linval Joseph in his first year of extended play in 2011, and figured him as a guy that would only get better. I didn’t really see that progression from him in 2012, and I have serious concerns about his ability to anchor against double teams in the run game. The Giants really need him to take the next step next season.

Otherwise, the Giants’ situation at DT is very thin after the team cut Chris Canty a few days ago. Marvin Austin has shown absolutely nothing so far in his 2 years with the Giants, and the team recently just signed the soon-to-be 34 Shaun Rogers. Rocky Bernard is a free agent, and is also soon to be 34. He can be a serviceable player, as long as the Giants can bring him back on the cheap. I’d certainly feel better about him on my roster at this point than Rogers.

LB: Michael Boley was by far the Giants’ best linebacker the last few years, in my opinion, but his play fell off in 2012. Whether his release is a result of some sort of degenerative injury concern, or because they simply think the size of his contract is too prohibitive to keep him, going from “Good Michael Boley” (whenever “Good Michael Boley” ceased to exist) to whatever they replace him with could be a significant downgrade. That replacement could be Jacquian Williams, who is almost like a safety/LB hybrid that can cover, but is probably not a 3-down linebacker. They may have to replace Boley will some kind of combination of players.

Chase Blackburn has made a few high-profile plays in his day, but he is not a legitimate starting LB in the NFL. The Giants can easily do better there.

Keith Rivers only played 238 snaps last season, and is a free agent.

Mathias Kiwanuka is the big question mark. What do the Giants do with him? I think they’re better off just leaving him at LB, and continuing to give him some pass rushing opportunities on obvious passing downs.

Mark Herzlich is a great story but he hasn’t shown much in his two seasons as a Giant. The reserve that I think has the bigger future is Spencer Paysinger. Perhaps Paysinger can be the complimentary player to Williams in replacing Boley.

Linebacker has been a need area for the Giants over the last 5+ years, so nothing new here.

CB: In the last 8 years, the Giants have drafted 8 CBs, including 5 in the first 3 rounds:

Giants CBs

Here’s what I wrote about Corey Webster after the Giants-Ravens game this season:

Remember how bad Terence Newman was at the end of the season last year?  Opposing teams put the bulls eye on his back and went to work.  For example, last year the Giants played the Cowboys in 2 of the last 4 games.  They targeted Newman a total of 19 times, which is an inordinately high number.  Corey Webster is this year’s Terence Newman.  Last week in Baltimore, the Ravens targeted Webster a staggering 14 times.  He gave up 8 catches for 140 yards and a TD.  I have no idea what happened to Corey Webster. He was so good last year.

Webster is going to make $7 million this season, and he turns 31 in March. I think the Giants would prefer to keep him around this season, seeing as the only other legitimate NFL CBs on the team are Jayron Hosley and Prince Amukamara, but it will be hard to justify his pay. Webster may have to take an outright pay cut, or he could be a goner.

Amukamara has been “OK” his first two season in the NFL, but I’d worry about him being my “#1 CB.” Hosley was impressive to begin the season, but struggled as the year wore on. Terrell Thomas’ health simply can’t be trusted at this point.

S: A few weeks ago, I did a whole big write-up on cautioning the Giants against letting UFA Kenny Phillips walk. I’ve since heard from a few people around the league that think his injuries are of the long-term variety, and he’ll never be the great player he once was.

If that’s the case and Phillips is indeed no longer a Giant heading into 2013, I’m not so sure Stevie Brown is an answer as Phillips’ replacement at safety. Brown had 8 INTs last year, but the majority of those were of the “ball finding him” variety, rather than Brown finding the ball. If you have Brown penciled in for a half dozen picks in 2013, you’re probably setting yourself up for a disappointment. Brown is player the Giants can upgrade. I realize that sounds ridiculous, seeing as he was 2nd in the NFL in picks last season, but that’s just what I see on his game film. He’s better suited to be a #3 or #4 safety, not a starter.

Antrel Rolle is overpaid, but he’s not going anywhere. Rolle had a brutal 2011 but was far better last season, and has become a smart, wily safety. He has two years left on his deal.

Will Hill is a nice, physical 3rd safety who likes to hit people.

The Giants’ could use another safety if Phillips walks, but it’s a lesser need than the other spots on the defense.

K: I didn’t mention special teams players on the other “team needs” posts, but I think the Giants could be in the market for a kicker in the draft. Lawrence Tynes’ career long is 53 yards, and while he hit on 84.6% of his kicks this year, it’s the one he missed Week 4 in Philly that stands out. It was a 54 yarder that landed short. There has been a recent influx of NFL kickers with cannons for legs. They’re weapons. Tynes is reliable, but he’s not a “weapon.” He’s also a free agent and will turn 35 in May. There’s a kicker I watched at the East-West Shrine Game by the name of Caleb Sturgis (Florida). Cannon. That could be a guy to keep an eye on.

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  1. Jason M. says:

    Although secondary might be the most glaring hole in New York’s defense, I’m concerned about DT depth. Like you mentioned, Linval Joseph has shown nice improvement and turned in a pretty solid 2012. Beyond that, I’m not sure who you put next to him in the middle. Marvin Austin is quickly falling into the “bust” category and can’t seem to stay on the field long enough to show any signs of life. The 2011 6th rounder Marcus Kuhn is far from polished and was only thrown into a starting role last year out for a few games out of necessity. Shaun Rodgers, despite coming back from an clot issue in his leg that likely has little if any effect on his health moving forward, is 34 and way past his short lived prime.

    Reese has attempted to stock pile DTs in the early rounds of recent drafts, I would expect that trend to continue.

  2. DE: Tuck/Kiwi (yellow)
    DT: Anvil (green)
    DT: Austin/Rogers (yellow): Austin looked really good at years end)
    DE: JPP (green)
    C :Prince (green)
    C :(red)
    WB: J Will (green)
    MLB (RED!!!)
    SLB( red)
    FS: (green) Rolle,Hill and Brown.
    SS: (red)

  3. ct17 says:

    I think you were a little stingy with the greens. If Rolle is yellow I expect every other safety in the division would be red.

    1. Jimmy Kempski says:

      I think the Giants would love to have better safeties in place so they could cut bait with $7 mil/year deal, which he isn’t worth. He’s also now 30+. So in that sense, I see that position as a very realistic position to address.

      It’s more about the need/likelihood of addressing the spot than the players themselves in some cases. At least that’s what’s going on in my head when assigning the highly scientific color system. I just didn’t go to the trouble of explaining the whole thing because I didn’t want it to become the focus of these posts… which they did anyway, ha.

      1. ct17 says:

        The Giants overpaid for each of their top free agent signings over the last few years. And then Mara negotiated the cap that would kill them.

        1. I would love to write a post detailing how the Giants wrecked their team by overpaying all those guys… if only they didn’t win the freaking Super Bowl. Bastards.

          1. NYG_slater says:

            Yea, prime position coming off a 2007 super bowl win and a ton of cap room. But they nearly blew it—-except that they own the pats :). By chance, do you remember any notable FA’a they passed on by overpaying canty rolle boley (could lump Baas in there too)

            1. ct17 says:

              SF replaced Baas with Goodwin for half the price, and he was considered by most to be a better player.

              It is not so much that we missed on other guys, it is that we paid over market price. Canty was a disappointment in Dallas. Boley had been benched. Baas was a temp starter.

              1. I never heard Canty was a disappointment…he wanted to get paid is all. Boley was benched due to a system change that took away his free lance abilities.Baas was a strait up NEED and its not un common for FA to be overpaid. they all are.

  4. I agree that Amukamara should be “green” because the point of doing a needs post is to identify positions the team would consider upgrading, right? I can’t imagine a scenario where the Giants don’t believe they are set at one of the starting cornerback spots because of Amukamara.

    What does the gray mean for middle linebacker?

    Is that worse than red?

    And Mathias Kiwanuka is going to play DE next year I imagine, but time will tell.

    1. Jimmy Kempski says:

      MLB is supposed to be light red. Yellow for both CB spots means I don’t like the depth there. I certainly agree Prince is a legit starter.

      1. Ok that makes more sense.

        The MLB is Chase Blackburn I’d make it burgundy!

  5. Joe D says:

    Jimmy, at request can you make a post on how Michael Vick has very little chance of “excelling” at any offense, let alone chip kellys…Anything to ease the pain of reading BGN at the moment… I would love it

    1. Jimmy Kempski says:

      Yep, that’s coming tomorrow morning.

  6. NYG_slater says:

    Pretty much agree with everything here except Amukamara.

    Per, PFF, last season Prince only allowed 375 yards in coverage–it was the fourth-fewest of 73 CBs with as much playing time. He was 2nd in the entire NFL in yards per coverage snap at 0.86. He deserves to be green.

    1. NYG_slater says:

      furthermore, remember he’s done this without having a full training camp yet. Hit with the lockout and than a broken foot. Nevertheless, he’s our best CB, statistically speaking one of the best ones in the league, and only heading into his third year. If you consider, Cedric Thornton and Cullen Jenkins “green” after making an imaginary transition to a 3-4 defense and somehow Nate Allen is still “yellow” (dude was horrendous last year, and according to PFF the 48th ranked safety in the NFL). Yet Amukamara, statistically ranked far better at his position than ANY player on the eagles defense, I don’t understand you color system.

      1. NYG_slater says:

        oops, Prince missed training camp with the lockout and than a sprained foot (vs the bears i believe)

      2. Corey Webster was a walking talking bulls eye last season. He gave up 988 yards (3rd in the NFL) and 8 TDs (2nd in the NFL). Even in games that Jayron Hosley and Michael Coe started, Webster saw more balls come his way because he was the easiest target.

        So Amukamara gave up 375 yards, which was the “4th fewest of 73 CBs with as much playing time.” That’s fine. However, there weren’t any CBs with as much playing time that had more targets, because again, opposing offenses were too busy beating Webster like a rented mule.

        So I’m not sure that one stat translates to one of the best CBs in the league, statistically.

        He had 1 INT. 4 PBUs. There were 19 CBs with LESS playing time that had more picks and 29 that had more PBUs. So we’re not talking about a guy here that was making a lot of plays.

        He was OK. He’s a nice player, and he’s going to get better. I just don’t see him as a #1 guy yet.

        1. NYG_slater says:

          Jimmy seriously???

          Yards per coverage snap and QB passer rating against are pretty much the two best indicators for evaluating corners. Amukamara is near the top in both categories when compared with corners receiving starter type #’s. Considering it was his 2nd year, I think its fair to say he is one of the leagues best young corners.

          I cant even believe you are trying to minimize his numbers by referring to his INTs and PBUs totals. Looking at INTs and PBUs can’t tell you if the defensive player made a good play, or the opposing quarterback made a horrible one–and you know this!! You wrote an entire freaking post (which I agree 100% with) minimizing Stevie brown’s #’s based on the idea that INTs and PBUs can be misleading and that “the ball found stevie” rather than vice-versa.

          Amukamara is green!

          1. NYG_slater says:

            and the statistics are based off of snap totals, not targets. So webster being an easy mark doesnt have anything to do with amukamara #’s.

        2. Ints? Jimmy really?.. The list is loooong with very good Corners that had small int totals..i think u know why.

          Take it from Giant fans when we say he is the man…sure as shit we wont be saying that often when it comes to our defenders.

          PS . J Will can/will be a 3 down WILL backer… no doubt on that front as well.(just needs be healthy)

  7. giantsfan says:

    So. Many. Holes.

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