Up at New York Giants training camp on Saturday, coach Tom Coughlin was talking the old offseason talk about getting back to Giants-style football. They talk about this every year in Giants camp, and some years they make good on it and other years they don't. This specific talk Saturday was about the defense, and its need to play tougher. Per Ohm:
"Physical, New York Giant defense -- tough, physical and hard-nosed defense," Coughlin responded when asked what identity he wants to see his defense establish this season. "We're not that far removed from that and hopefully we'll get right back to it."
You know the Giants finished 31st in the 32-team NFL last year in total defense and were beaten too often by big plays in the passing game. But they weren't exactly stout against the run, either. They ranked 25th in the league with an average of 129.1 rushing yards allowed per game and 28th in the league with an average of 4.6 yards allowed per rush. In short, they need to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.
To their credit, the Giants know this and made it something of an offseason priority. They like Linval Joseph at defensive tackle and were happy with the way he played there last year, but they needed to build up the group around him. So they brought in former Eagles defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, drafted massive Johnathan Hankins in the second round and brought back veteran Shaun Rogers, who made a strong impression on them in last year's training camp but had to miss the season due to a blood clot in his leg.
Is that enough? Jenkins played very well in Philadelphia two years ago but less so last year. But almost no one played well in Philadelphia last year, and Jenkins was asked to move around on the defensive line there more than he'll be asked to move around in New York. Hankins is a rookie, and the Giants don't tend to ask much of their rookies, so if he becomes a major factor in the rotation it'll be because he picked things up quickly and earned the playing time. Rogers and Patterson are wild-cards as they're both coming back from unusual medical troubles.
I think you can make the case that defensive tackle is the one area of the defense in which it looks as though the Giants are improved over last year. They only had one way to go, though, after allowing 4.6 yards per rush. If this year's group can't stop the run better than last year's group did, it's hard to see the pass rush or the secondary bouncing back either.