There has been much speculation about what Steve Spagnuolo's new defense would look like in 2015. Fans of the New York Giants got their first look at the remodeled group Friday evening.
Taken as a whole, the early indications are that if this is the "vanilla" form of Spags' defense, the high-test version will be very aggressive. Even though it was only the first preseason game the Giants were bringing pressure with both linebacker and defensive back blitzes as well as utilizing stunts along the defensive line .
Overall the Giants' defense scored two sacks and an interception on the evening, with Damontre Moore and Cullen Jenkins meeting at the quarterback for a sack, and safety Cooper Taylor notching a sack as well. Cornerback Trevin Wade made the game's lone interception, which he returned 61 yards.
The Giants' first-team defense couldn't do much to stop the Bengals offense, and was gashed for runs of 10, 6, and 5 yards on the Bengals' first series. However the bleeding was cauterized when Jay Bromley was inserted in place of Marcus Kuhn.
Second String Making Their Case
The combination of Bromley, Kenrick Ellis, and Moore played quite a bit this game and were all efffective. Ellis served admirably in his role as the rock in the middle of the defense, while Bromley and Moore were highly active. On one particular tackle for a loss, Bromley acted as a wrecking ball, blowing up one side of a run while Moore sliced through the line to make the stop.
Both players were extremely active in the passing game as well. Moore was generating pressure all night long, in addition to his half-sack. Bromley, meanwhile, seemed as though he was on the cusp of a sack on every pass rush snap, though he could never quite seem to get home.
Bennett Jackson, who played a role similar to Antrel Rolle, in which he doubled as a safety and slot corner, was active as well, and showed an exceptional closing burst.
Another backup player who made a strong case for the final 53 was linebacker Uani Unga, formerly of BYU. Unga took over the middle linebacker duties for Jon Beason and was extremely active all night long -- at least before exiting the game for an IV to battle cramps.
The Injury Bug Bites
Of course being a GIants' preseason game, there had to be injuries. The secondary was particularly hard hit. Rookie -- and prospective starter -- Landon Collins was taken in the back for X-rays after a teammate rolled up on his leg. Fortunately for the Giants, those X-rays were revealed to be be negative later in the game. Fellow rookie safety Mykkele Thompson had to be carted off the field with an injury to his Achilles tendon.That injury could be significant, and Tom Coughlin spoke to the rookie before he left the field.
At cornerback, starting slot corner -- given the mount of nickel packages NFL defenses play, that is a starting position -- Trumaine McBride left the game early with a hamstring injury. Interestingly enough, when McBride left the field it was Bennett Jackson who came down to fill the roll of slot corner and not Mike Harris, who replaced McBride in the slot in 2014.
Cornerback Jayron Hosley -- who has been one of the primary backups on the outside, having taken every first team snap in the Giants' practices with the Bengals before their first preseason game -- was shaken up on a play. Hosley has undergone an MRI on his neck and is being evaluated for a concussion.
From a defensive perspective, the Giants efforts against the Cincinnati Bengals are about all you could expect from the first preseason game in a new defense.
There were some pug fugly plays. There were some good plays. Some players made their cases to see action among the first or second strings in the next preseason game, while others will likely drop down the depth chart like rocks. Ultimately, what matters isn't how well the Giants performed against the Cincinnati Bengals. There was no game planning, the defense isn't fully installed, team chemistry isn't done developing yet, and the depth charts are far from final.
This game was a baseline
What truly matters is where they go from here. Where, how, and how much the team improves in the games to follow. One thing I, personally, felt was that the defense simply felt different from prior years. It had a different energy to it than in years past. That is what they need to build and expand on in the coming weeks.