The last time the New York Giants earned a trip to the playoffs, it was in 2016 and they were carried to the postseason on the back of an elite defense. In the years since, the Giants have seen their defense degrade.
2016 also happened to be the year when the Giants first hired Patrick Graham to coach on their defense. His first time with the franchise, he was hired to coach the Giants’ defensive line under Steve Spagnuolo, but this time around it’s his job to restore the Giants’ defense to its former glory as defensive coordinator.
But that familiarity was one of the motivating factors behind Graham leaving the Miami Dolphins and taking the Giants’ job.
“I think Joe [Judge] spoke on it earlier,” Graham said. “The Giants went through the process of contacting Miami, Miami granted permission, and we went from there. Obviously I have familiarity with Joe, we worke together in New England and so it presented an opportunity to work with the Giants, you know, I have familiarity with the organization, it’s close to home. So it’s been positive and I’m just I’m excited to be here now 2020.”
Here are more takeaways from Graham’s videoconference with media on Tuesday.
On the Giants’ defensive personnel
The Giants’ defensive tackles
The Giants’ defensive tackle group is probably the strongest position group on their whole roster, with a variety of big — and athletic — players for Graham to work and scheme with. He didn’t hesitate to let everyone know how excited he is to work with them.
“What stood out to me about Leonard [Williams] is the fact that he’s been very very inquisitive. He wants to know why he should be thinking that, what he should be thinking ‘here’. Asking our opinions whether it’s me [or] coach Spence, just talking to us in terms of trying to find out how to be a better player. And so far he’s been working really hard, being real diligent in the classroom. From afar, I know that he’s been a productive player in this league. He’s a big body who has athleticism that plays with his hands, who affects the passer, who can play in the run game, and he can move up and down the line.
“So right there is a big smile that comes on my face you’re dealing with something like that and can’t wait to get your hands on them and just get out on the field, see what he could do and be able to coach him.
“Honestly I’m excited to be around him, to work with him. I’m excited to be around all the guys. I mean, we got guys that, from afar, I’m very interested in coaching these guys. Dalvin [Tomlinson] is a guy I’ve worked with in the past, I’m excited to work with all these guys, whether it’s RJ [McIntosh] AJ [Austin Johnson], Chris Slayton. I’m excited to work with all these guys.”
“I met Dex before,” he added when asked specifically asked about Dexter Lawrence II, “during the combine, and I thought it was big then, or tall then. And then you go a whole year, you don’t see him, and I saw that before the game when Miami played the Giants and I realized okay. Yeah. This guy is pretty big.
“Then you finally see him again after the hiatus off of football, you know, everything was over Zoom. He’s reduced to one inch box, and all of a sudden you see him walk in there, like “this dude is really big”. That was my main impression. He’s a pleasure to be around. He has a bubbly personality. I mean, I’ll say that counters my demeanor that’s usually not too bubbly.
“So he as a way of keeping it light and I like that, I think a big part of being a coach and being a leadership role is being receptive to other people and how they are, and I think I like that about him. I know he worked so hard too, so I’m very excited to be around them. Very excited to see him out there on the field and get this thing going.”
The pass rushers
The Giants don’t have an “ace” pass rusher in the mold of Myles Garrett or Von Miller, but they do have a variety of young defenders with a variety of skill sets. Graham wouldn’t say precisely how he would use them, but he did say that he wanted to fit each into the defense according to his skills.
“Not to be cliche, but it’s gonna be week to week,” Graham said. “I think during this development stage, we’re in a developmental stage where we’re trying to find out what we have. They all have unique skill sets and we have to figure out “okay is this guy better rusher on the inside? We stand them up on the inside. Is he a better rusher on the outside? Is he better from the left, is he better for the right? I think it’s gonna be some trial and error getting everybody on the same page and trying different packages, different schemes, and see how that plays out.
“What is going to be the rotation, it’s too early to even talk about that stuff right now. But everybody’s going to get an equal opportunity and whoever ends up being up there is going to be based on they earned it during camp.
“So this is going to be interesting and it’s going to be fun to work with these guys. I mean, I know this they all work hard. Brett [Bielema] does a great job coaching those Edge guys.
“Coach Spence [Sean Spencer] does a great job of coaching the interior guys. So I’m really excited to see how it plays out.”
Graham wasn’t specifically asked about many of his defensive backs, but leave it to Emory Hunt — long time friend of, and current contributor to, Big Blue View — to ask about a young player who has been somewhat forgotten in rookie CB Christian Angulo.
Graham said, “I think Christian has a unique skill set, his size and he can run. So right there, the ability to play with some size, instead of us getting some mismatches, he can help [match-up with bigger receivers]. The big thing for him is the size, the speed, and then his willingness to learn.
“Obviously there’s going to be a transition coming up those first year in the league, but we’ll see how it plays out, working hard, being diligent, listening to coaching, and going out there and getting conditioning.”
On the scheme
One of the big questions has been what the Giants’ defense would look like under Graham. The expectation has been that it would be “multiple”, but that’s a vague term and open to a wide variety of interpretations. Graham was asked what his “non-negotiables” are as a coach, as well as what the term “multiple” will mean for the Giants.
Graham’s list of “non-negotiable” aspects of the defense were straight forward. Good technique, “attention to detail,” “toughness,” and “physicality” are all expected watch-words whenever a football coach speaks on what he is looking from his unit.
But when he was asked about what kind of scheme and front he would run, he was refreshingly honest — with just a touch of dry humor.
“Well, I always answer with “yes”,” Graham said when asked about what schemes he would run. “So you say 4-3, 3-4, 2-4, 3-3-5, whatever you want to say, I’ll say “yes.” I mean, I’m not trying to make a joke of it. We’re going to do what is best for what we have in terms of people, the personnel we have, and then what we think is best for the game.
“I would say this, the game is mostly made up of sub plays. You look at the percentages, most of the time there’s three receivers out there. So I think you got to kind of look at it from a sub perspective and terms of how you’re going to deploy the guys and then go from there. But what is the 3-4, 4-3, 4-2-5? I mean they all have the basic football foundation in terms of defensive scheme. So they all kind of blend together in my mind.”