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PFF bullish on Giants’ secondary for 2018

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The expert analysts are optimistic about the back end of New York’s defense, but could they be looking through rose-colored glasses?

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NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Focus isn’t necessarily declaring 2018 a renaissance era for the New York Giants’ secondary, but they are certainly feeling good about the numerous changes that area of the defense has undergone during the offseason. PFF’s Mike Renner ranked all 32 NFL secondaries heading into the season and has the Giants at a respectable—if not bullish—15th, ahead of all of their NFC East counterparts.

That’s not quite apparent in Renner’s assessment of the group. His optimism appears to hinge on cornerback Eli Apple improving this year. He wrote:

The once-dominant Giants pass defense that had more interceptions than touchdowns allowed in 2016 has lost some of its luster. Gone is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie while Jenkins’ play came crashing back down to earth after his career year. The key for them will be the development of former top 10 pick in Apple, who is now thrust into a starting role. He’s flashed that first-round talent at times, but has been mired by inconsistency. For his career, he’s allowed a passer rating against of 108.4.

Additionally, two projected starters—safety Darian Thompson and nickel corner William Gay—graded in the 50s in 2017, while just safety Landon Collins graded in the 80s for his performance last season. And though it is true that the Giants made severaln additions to their secondary during the offseason, the only drafted player was Sam Beal, recently taken in the Supplemental Draft.

These underwhelming moves were part of the reason our own Chris Pflum wrote in May that “[o]n paper the Giants’ secondary, and cornerback position in particular, has taken a step backwards in 2018.” Though, he did note that, “if coaching improves as we hope, the secondary is more likely to play up to the level they showed in 2016.” Indeed, the hiring of the defensive-minded Pat Shurmur to replace Ben McAdoo could be a catalyst for the defense to return to form.

However, a season ago, the Giants ranked 20th in interceptions, with 14, while coming in last in the league in passing touchdowns allowed and next-to-last in passing yards. And the team’s pass-rush—the effectiveness of which directly relates to the success of the secondary—isn’t looking like its poised to take a big step forward this year. PFF itself ranked that unit 29th heading into 2018.

Perhaps the key to PFF’s positive view of the Giants’ secondary is more about an overall negative outlook about the league’s corners and safeties for the upcoming season than anything the Giants have done to improve their personnel during the offseason. However, there is only room for improvement given the way New York’s secondary performed a season ago.