For the second year in a row, fans of the New York Giants find themselves in the foreign territory of not knowing what to expect out of their team in the coming year. A year ago, fans were wondering what to expect from Ben McAdoo and his new West Coast-flavored offense after years of knowing exactly what to expect from Kevin Gilbride's Run 'n Shoot based offense.
This year, the defense is transitioning from Perry Fewell's schemes to something new under returning defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Granted, we have already seen Spags' defense at work in 2007 and 2008. However, seven years is an eternity in the NFL, and much has changed since he left the Giants to be the head coach of the St. Louis Rams.
The way the league plays offense has evolved in that time. As well the types of players coming into the league from college have changed, the Giants' defensive personnel is a full generation removed from the defenses of '07 and '08, and Spagnuolo himself has traveled and learned in that time.
When Spagnuolo was first hired to helm their defense (again) by the Giants, corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had this to say about Spags:
"It's very exciting. If you know anything about Spags and what he has done in this league, you know his defenses get after it. He's already gone to the Super Bowl with this team. You are excited to play for him and get back to playing that type of defense."
Answering questions with the media after this past Monday's OTA, DRC filled in a few more gaps about what the renovated Giants' defense might look like:
"It's the Giant way, they are known for these defensive guys that come out and just read a defensive end of the ball game not just going out. The guys he has on the wall are pretty good guys and anytime you can live up to that aspect you want to try to do that. I think it is good that he is teaching us the history so that we can get back to playing that type of defense."
He went on to explain:
"His whole concept and the things that he allows us to do...I feel great with [it].
"I would say this defense…..some of the things they do here are things that are a whole lot more conducive things that really plays to our corners that we have skill sets."
To ESPN's Kieran Darcy, DRC elaborated:
I would say this defense is kinda corner[back] friendly. It allows you to use your vision a whole lot more and do some things that really play to the corners that we have, [their] skill sets, as far as vision and breaking on balls.
It also seems as though Spagnuolo's defense will be calling for much more physicality than Perry Fewell's did. As reported by Jordan Ranaan, DRC has come into the Giants offseason program at 208 pounds. That is a career high, and much heavier than the (roughly) 190 pounds the 6-foot-2 corner played at last season.
"I know Spags' mentality. He want you to get your hands on people," Rodgers-Cromartie said Monday after an organized team activities workout. "So I had to bulk up a little bit, you know what I mean ... That's the Spags mentality. Every chance you get, in seems in every defense you have an opportunity to [use] press [coverage], he wants you up to press. There is definitely going to be a lot more press."
That still isn't much to go on, but the emphasis on aggression and physicality, and players like DRC -- who doesn't have a reputation as the most physical defender -- embracing it, should be music to the ears' of Giants fans.