One of the clearest signs of improvement in the New York Giants’ defense from last season to now is that the Giants currently have some good players whose snaps are being limited. The best examples are cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Devon Kennard.
Rodgers-Cromartie, moving into the slot while Eli Apple plays outside when the Giants have three corners on the field, has played 116 snaps, 82.86 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps thus far. Against the New Orleans Saints last week, Rodgers-Cromartie played only 39 of 59 snaps, 62.9 percent.
For Kennard, the reduction in snaps has been even more drastic. In two games the third-year linebacker has been on the field for just 37 snaps, 26.43 percent of the time. In the nine games he played last season, Kennard never played fewer than 39 snaps in any of them. Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson and Kelvin Sheppard have all played significantly more snaps than Kennard.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was asked this week about playing time for both DRC and Kennard.
“Devon and I have talked about that a little bit, and we want to try and get some packages with him in there. These are team guys. We’re using a lot of different people, we’re using, they’re all into it, because they know their names are going to be called at some point. It’s good to do that from other standpoints. By that, what I mean is offenses have to deal with a lot of different jersey numbers. I think that works to our advantage, which is one of the reasons why we do it,” Spagnuolo said. “When it’s all said and done, you’re going to need everybody. I remember Kennard and I talking about it last year at this point, I thought he had way too many snaps. I think that was probably a part of the reason that he got hurt. Now I think we’re keeping him fresh and can keep him all the way through the season.”
As for Rodgers’-Cromartie, Spagnuolo said “we want him out on the field.”
“We had some packages (vs. the Saints) where Leon was in there as the nickel not DRC, for certain reasons I won’t go deep into now. I think taking a couple of snaps off helps him in the fourth quarter,” Spagnuolo said. “You go back to Dallas, if you remember the end of the game, DRC and Janoris Jenkins, their legs were heavy at the end of the game and we need those guys at the end of the games. I think DRC understands that.”
Here are a few of the other topics Spagnuolo addressed in his weekly chat with reporters.
On being able to be more creative this year ...
“Well, I think that’s coming. A lot of it has to do with the guys gelling together and I think they are gelling well. I know that I’ve mentioned this before, when I watch out here on the field, I watch and listen for communication and what the guys are doing, not even during plays, but what they’re doing when they’re coming off the field. Guys like Keenan Robinson have been great. Landon Collins, second year on the defense, he’s been great. They’re figuring things out; they’re unwinding things on their own. Sometimes we don’t have to walk over there and say anything, they got it figured out. With all of that, you can start to do some things that maybe you backed off on when you were trying to build the thing and get the foundation.”
On the lack of depth at safety ...
“Yeah, it’s getting to be a concern. We’ll miss Darian Thompson. He kind of communicated back there and kind of glues things together. Landon’s just got to step up and help out the guy that’s next to him, whether it’s Nat Berhe or whoever it is. But, we’re getting thin at safety.”
On new middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard ...
“He’s been great. He’s one of those guys, I’ll tell you what happened in the game. I can’t remember what group we put out. Let’s say we put the dime out. There’s 12 guys on the field and somebody didn’t get the communication, and didn’t come out. And Kelvin, who wasn’t in that package and was on the sideline, he caught it before anybody and was yelling to whoever to get out. I thought that was as compelling as anything as to what Kelvin means to us. He’s on top of everything. He’s in there in the meetings giving things to guys. He didn’t play as many plays this week because we didn’t have much base defense. But I love having him. He’s one of those guys that gets football and he loves the game of football. He’s into it and he plays that position of Mike, where guys feel confident that he’s going to get them lined up.”
On the value of veteran defensive back Leon Hall ...
“We’ll move him all over. He’s been in a number of different spots. He’s been a backup safety, played that role. He was getting a little bit of that prior to this week so hopefully foundational reps help.
“His greatest value is that you can trust him. He’s going to know exactly what to do. Let’s face it, you only get so many reps out on the field and you can’t give all the guys all the looks and all of the coverages whatever we do defensively. Yet, he’s a student of the game. Even though he might not get a rep of something, you can throw him out there and he can figure it out, and that’s really valuable. Right now, he’s playing really two or three different positions.”