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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The New York Giants defense will look different this season, which is not a bad thing considering it was ranked 21st overall last year. When teams wanted – and needed – to score on them, they usually did.
The Giants were beaten 79-0 in the last two minutes of the first half of 2021. They were spared even more embarrassment because the opponent usually did not have to do it again in the last two minutes of the match during a 4-13 season there. included 10 double-digit losses.
Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale inherits a team that put opposing quarterbacks at just 24.2% of dropbacks last season, the fifth worst according to the NFL Next Gen Stats. General manager Joe Schoen tackled the problem and used the fifth overall pick of the 2022 NFL draft on edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux to headline what is expected to be an aggressive defense that depends on the perception of pressure from the entire formation to emphasize opposing offenses.
“You want to dictate the crime instead of sitting there and letting them dictate to you,” Martindale said last week. “I think this is a game with adjustments and matchups and everything else, but I’d rather have them have headaches and stay up five nights before we play them to figure out what to do. and [we will] try to present different looks every time we play because pressure breaks pipes. That is our philosophy. “
It is embraced by his players.
“Oh, Wink, it’s really fun. I think we all enjoy it,” said safety Xavier McKinney. “You know, just so much aggression. It just gives us energy. We’re able to go out there and play without worrying about making mistakes, so it just gives us a lot of freedom to just play, go on the attack. and be the playmakers we have in our defense. “
Martindale beat more than anyone else in the NFL during his four years as the Baltimore Ravens’ coordinator, as his defense was ranked No. 1 (2018), fourth (2019), seventh (2020) and 25th (2021) overall. These units led the league in blitzing in his first three seasons with 39.6%, 54.9% and 45.3%, respectively, before falling to sixth last season (31.1%) according to the Pro Football Reference.
“Puts a lot of people on the field,” is how a scout described a Martindale-led defense. “He does not train scared.”
Enter Thibodeaux, whose first step and speed will be used throughout this defense. The belief is that he is the high-end pass-rusher that the Giants have been lacking for years, a player who could be the center of Martindale. New York has only had one true edge rusher (Markus Golden in 2018) record double-digit sacks over the past seven seasons. Baltimore also had only one edge rusher (Terrell Suggs, 2017) to reach double-digit sacks during the same time period, yet Martindale defense had placed among the top 10 in three of its four seasons as coordinator.
Martindale and outsider linebackers coach Drew Wilkins’ regarded Thibodeaux as the top-ranked edge rusher in the draft, in part because they can imagine him rushing from various positions, including inside, where they believe his speed could be a matchup nightmare against a overmatched inside lineman.
“He was just as good to us in Wink’s defense,” Wilkins said. “He has all the skills we’re looking for. He can be a dominant winger, explosive, violent, relentless pass-rusher and so everything else you can see is required.”
Martindale’s pressure often leaves his cornerbacks on an island, and in his four seasons as coordinator, Baltimore played the fifth-most man-to-man defense (39.9%) in the NFL, according to the NFL Next Gen Stats.
That turned out to be a problem last season when an injury-plagued secondary contributed to the Ravens’ final placement in the passing defense.
“Do not go to DoorDash to find a backup corner,” said Martindale, he learned.
It can get tough this season in New York because the Giants lost top cornerback James Bradberry recently as a paycheck. Adoree ‘Jackson, who has missed 22 games over the past three seasons, is their No. 1 corner, and the 2021 third-round pick, Aaron Robinson, is the favorite to win the second starting job.
The Giants Secondary has a total of 111 career starts, making it a serious question mark going into the season given what Martindale will do. Jackson welcomes the challenge.
“I want everything, it happens [man-to-man coverage], “he said.” The one who comes down and I play whatever it is, zone, I pretty much have them. I end up matching [up]. … It’s third-and-5 and he runs an 8-yard out? You’ll get to match it … You’re not just in your third [of the field] because that’s what your task tells you to do. Ultimately, it’s about being a football player and understanding what’s going on. “
With a rebuilt passing rush and questions in the secondary – the Giants signed unemployed former Ravens cornerbacks Maurice Canady and Khalil Dorsey on May 18 – the bar is set pretty low for Martindale’s defense this season. He seems to care.
“Look, we’ll control the narrative. That’s what I want to tell you,” Martindale said. “People can say what they want to say. We’ll see when it’s time to get started down there in Nashville. [against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1]. Then we have to see where we are. But we control the narrative in space, and I’m excited about this season. “