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Steve Spagnuolo: Dalvin Tomlinson Has Taken “Big Jump”

Giants’ defensive coordinator talks about the development of some of his newest players

NFL: New York Giants-Training Camp William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have broken training camp. That doesn’t mean much for the players and coaches themselves, but it does represent a breaking point. The 2017 offseason is over, the preseason is in full swing, and the 2017 regular season is marching ever closer.

The Giants have a solid defense, with veterans at every level. However, one of the story-lines of the offseason has been the development of the defense’s younger players. When defensvie coordinator talked to media Friday, he was asked how the young players were doing.

Defensive Linemen

Starting up front with the defensive line, Spags was asked what he has seen from his defensive tackles.

“I’ll go to Dalvin (Tomlinson) first,” he said. “I was talking with a couple of the coaches, I think Dalvin made a big jump from last week to this week. He’s played a little bit more violent, I think he’s getting a little more comfortable with the guys he’s playing with. I’m really encouraged by him. Jay (Bromley) has been a steady Eddie, He knows the defense. We’ve always talked about him working on his footwork and he’s been doing that. Some of the other guys, we know Snacks, we know he’s ingrained there and has done a heck of a job, but we’re sad to see what happened to CB (Corbin Bryant). He got hurt, and we’ve got some other guys back there rolling through, but the rest of it is just going to have to work itself out. Those three guys right now are kind of working in there at tackle.”

And while the Giants have two reliable, and very well rounded, veteran defensive ends, both also played too many snaps in 2016. Spagnuolo was asked about his confidence in former undrafted rookie Romeo Okwara as their third defensive end. About Okwara Spagnuolo said:

I had a lot of trust in him last year. You know, when JPP went down and he surfaced in that one game and then continued. You know you have trust in the guy when you give him a bunch of things to do. Romeo will play what we call the Joker position, he’ll play tackle. Every once in a while, he’ll move inside on third down. So, there’s some trust there. I talked with him the other day, I think he needs to jump it up a little bit. We need to see him do some of the things he did a year ago that we were all impressed with. Right now we’ve got confidence in him as our third defensive end.

Young Linebackers

The Giants will be counting on second year player B.J. Goodson to be their new starting middle linebacker. He has commonly been thought of as more of a two-down run defender, but lately he has been seeing time in nickel packages. It’s believed that the Giants suffered in 2016 because they lacked a middle linebacker who would stay on the field for all three downs.

“Very good,” Spagnuolo replied when asked how Goodson’s coverage was developing. “He runs real well. He’s embraced the whole thing, being a linebacker and taking command. I love the look in his eye. Believe it or not, the other day, I said something to him maybe a little harsh and he responded just as harsh. Now, I like that in a Mike linebacker. Antonio and I were talking about it, and there weren’t many moments like that with AP and I, but I like that when there’s a little fire in the Mike linebacker.”

The Giants also have some young linebackers who have made a strong impression over the spring and summer. Reporters asked Spags what he has seen from rookie linebackers Calvin Munson and Curtis Grant.

“Yeah, Curtis and Calvin,” Spags said, “I think both of those guys are doing a good job. I’ll tell you this about Calvin, really impressed with the command he has in the huddle for a rookie free agent just walking in. I always look at those guys, I mentioned this about Darian Thompson last year when we got to the Dallas game, I saw the way he reacted on game day. Calvin did the same thing in this past preseason game. It was just good to see him kind of take over. He was into it. Curtis is doing a lot for us. He’s played all three positions, he plays the Mike, the Sam, and the Will. He was out in the sub defense. So, from his standpoint, he’s learning a lot, but he’s embracing it and knows that the best thing in his position is to be a jack of all trades.”


Finally we come to the back end of the defense. In 2016 evaluators reckoned the Giants’ secondary as the strength of the defense. The secondary’s ability to play man coverage allowed Spagnuolo to call audacious blitzes and pressure quarterbacks from unexpected angles. The 2017 secondary could be even better, but Spagnolo wouldn’t say that it is the best he’s had.

“I wouldn’t even do the comparison thing,” he said. “I would like us to be better in the secondary than we were last year. We gave up too many explosive pass plays, that’s not all the secondary. I know the guys feel that, too; everyone wants to get better.”

While the secondary’s front line players, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins can be nothing short of dominant, there is some concern about the unit’s depth.

Yeah. Double D’s (Donte Deayon) doing a heck of a job, he had another big play today. And look, there’s been some great battles and what I like about that group of corners is that they love to compete. You can’t play that position in this league if you don’t embrace competiveness. If you want to be competitive, you’ve got to have a short memory.

The unit’s star player, Landon Collins, raised eyebrows earlier in the off-season by grading his stellar 2016 play as a “seven out of ten”, and said that he wants to play at a “hall of fame” level. Spagnuolo was asked whether Collins has improved over his third offseason. He said:

I will tell you this, he works at getting better every day. Landon has come a long way from being a rookie. He’ll do all the little things, he’ll look for areas to do extra work, he’ll condition extra, he gets extra ball drills. He does all the extras, and that’s the beginning of trying to go from good to great. Hopefully his goal will come to fruition.