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Mailbag: Strength of the Giants defense?

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Bill in Florida: Where are the sacks going to come from? Will Markus Golden be forced to sign another one year contract because of the tag he is now under?

John Schmeelk: The Giants only have one player under contract who has recorded a double-digit sack season: Kyler Fackrell. He did so in 2018, and his next best season total is three. The Giants' sack production this season is going to be a team effort. The hope is their interior rushers like Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence push the inside of the pocket, and it is fair to expect them to blitz often. Last year with Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, the Dolphins blitzed 35.1% of the time, which was the seventh highest rate in the league. The Dolphins often trailed in games, which makes that percentage more meaningful. Teams tend to blitz more frequently when they hold leads in games. The Giants defensive backfield must cover well enough for Graham to have the confidence to rush more than four with frequency.

Markus Golden is free to sign with another team until July 22. If he doesn't, then his rights revert to the Giants.

Carl in Texas: With all the new additions to the defense, which position do you find the strongest, and how can Patrick Graham take advantage of it?

John Schmeelk: The strongest part of the Giants defense is their interior line. Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson are excellent players and should be stalwarts against the run. If they allow the defense to stop the run without bringing an extra player, theoretically a safety, into the box, it will free up Patrick Graham to be more flexible with his defense and play two deep safeties more frequently.

The sleeper position in this conversation is safety. Xavier McKinney and Julian Love are unproven but have a lot of talent. Jabrill Peppers is an ascending young veteran entering his fourth season. If those players figure out the new defense quickly, their versatility and athleticism will allow Graham to move all three around on the field at the same time to confuse defenses with different coverages and pre-snap looks.

Chris in New York: Which of the 2020 NFL draft picks by the Giants do you think will be Pro Bowlers, MVP's, or NFL Rookie of the Year?

John Schmeelk: I'm not going to overthink this one, Chris. The Giants didn't draft a quarterback or any skill position players, so the chance any in this class eventually wins MVP is close to zero. Xavier McKinney would be the only one with a semi-realistic chance to win NFL Rookie of the Year, but he would have to rack up a ton of interceptions to beat out the quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs in the class. Both McKinney and Andrew Thomas have the ability to turn into Pro Bowl caliber players, and any of the Giants' middle round picks (Matt Peart, Darnay Holmes, Shane Lemieux) could merit consideration in the future if they develop quickly with NFL coaching.

John in Ohio: Taking the current roster, who do you think will be the front seven?

John Schmeelk: Assuming you are asking about base defense personnel, if I had to guess right now, the starting linemen and linebackers on opening day will be:

Defensive Line: Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dexter Lawrence

Linebackers: Lorenzo Carter (edge), Blake Martinez, David Mayo, Kyler Fackrell (edge)

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