The analysts at NFL.com are apparently not very impressed with the defensive personnel of the New York Giants. NFL.com says the Giants have the weakest linebacking unit in the NFL, and are in the conversation for weakest safety group.
Now, that's not very nice of Chris Wesseling and the crew at NFL.com. It might, however, lend credence to something that was written today by Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports. That is that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo holds the key to whether or not the Giants are able to return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
There will be much talk, again, about whether this will be it for head coach Tom Coughlin, but in the meantime Spags might be the guy to get this defense back to where it once was, or close to it. His first stint at the helm was as good as it gets, and the Giants have some pieces in place to make big strides … if they can stay healthy. The offense looks like scoring points won't be a problem, so if Spagnuolo can get them back to pummeling opposing quarterbacks and forcing turnovers, maybe this is the year the Giants get back to the postseason.
LaCanfora has an interesting point. The belief here is that the Giants linebackers and safeties could be better than they look on paper right now. The defense as a whole, though, remains a question mark. The Giants have the offensive firepower to be an upper echelon team, provided they can put together a competent offensive line. They need their defense to be at least adequate, to not play them out of games. That didn't happen last season and it's why Spagnuolo is in and Perry Fewell is coaching defensive backs with the Washington Redskins.
We have gotten a couple of clues recently as to what the defense might look like.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said recently that the scheme "really plays to our corners."
Middle linebacker Jon Beason said the system was the "most complex" he has ever had to learn, and that the defense "will not sit back and be dictated to by anybody."
What does any of it mean, and does it mean the Giants will be good enough defensively? We won't know until the regular season rolls around.
"I'm not a magician. No coaches are magicians. Things aren't going to happen like they may have happened in a different time, but hopefully something exciting will happen. At least that's the goal," Spagnuolo told reporters during rookie mini-camp. "I believe that any year in this business, in the NFL, it's a different challenge and this one is certainly different than 2007. There were hurdles. There were hurdles then and there will be hurdles now, but that's a part of coaching. That's what we embrace. That's what we enjoy. That's the challenge of it and if all of us accept it and work together to get over the hump, hopefully we'll build something successful."
For the giants to get where they hope to go in 2015, Spagnuolo better be successful.