With the calendar flipped to July, Giants.com asks 20 important questions heading into the team's 2020 training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
For the next 20 days, a member of the Giants.com crew will answer one question about the roster, coaching staff, schedule, and much more.
No. 11: What is the most important defensive stat to improve?
John Schmeelk: Last season, the Giants ranked 29th in the NFL with 7.6 yards allowed per pass play - this put them in the bottom quarter of the league with the Bengals, Raiders, Dolphins, Cardinals, Lions, Jaguars and Falcons (all non-playoff teams). Six selected in the Top 10 of the draft, and four, including the Giants, were in the Top 5.
I don't care what the Giants do offensively, or against the run defensively. None of it will mean anything if they don't creep their way closer to the middle of the league in yards allowed per pass play. Staying near the bottom of those rankings would inhibit the offense from sticking with a run-first philosophy and force them into too many passing situations that can lead to more turnovers.
There are two facets to improving the pass defense: pass rush and coverage. Spare James Bradberry, the Giants lack established players with long track records in either area of the defense. Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines or Kyler Fackrell need to be consistent pass rushers. Multiple players from the young defensive back group are going to have to step up to be starting caliber NFL players. The season depends on it.
John Schmeelk: Cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants' biggest question mark coming off last season was their pass defense. They released Janoris Jenkins and carried over a room full of young cornerbacks. They needed a veteran to come into the room, be a stabilizing force and bring some experience covering the opponent's best receiver.
In Carolina, Bradberry consistently followed receivers such as Mike Evans, Michael Thomas and Julio Jones no matter where they lined up. I would expect him to do the same for the Giants. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham could also put Bradberry on an island against the opponent's second-best receiver and run double-teams against its top wideout.
The Giants' pass defense will be the key to the season, and no player affects that more than their top cornerback. When Bradberry was brought in this offseason, he immediately became that player. He will impact the team more than any new addition, and perhaps even more than any other player on the roster not named Daniel Jones.
View photos of every roster addition made by the Giants this offseason.
Lance Medow: For any quarterback entering his second year in the league, the expectations are pretty simple: show improvement across the board. Evaluating a signal-caller isn't just about fantasy football numbers, so I certainly won't dedicate the bulk of my response to a mathematical equation. As it goes without saying, the Giants want to see his stats trend upwards. Case in point: Eli Manning, who played in slightly fewer games than Daniel Jones during his rookie year in 2004, improved his production in just about every statistical category in his second year in the league. But there's one notable difference between year two for Manning and Jones. Manning had the same head coach and play-caller.
Why do I bring up the changes on the coaching staff? Well, that ties right into expectations. For the bulk of the roster, this will be the second or third new scheme players are learning in as many seasons, and when you have a young roster, you never know how the learning curve will play out. This will be Jones' third offense in three years, and now he is adjusting to Jason Garrett's scheme during a virtual process with no on-field work up to this point. This isn't to say that Jones can't handle a new system. How young players deal with change is a true test and can be a challenge. That's something to watch as the season progresses and something to keep in mind when placing expectations on a player.
If there's one stat to watch, it's Jones' fumble rate. He fumbled the ball 18 times (and lost 11) in 12 starts or 1.5 fumbles per start. Ball security is critical for all players but even more important for quarterbacks, who touch the ball on every play. Jones obviously knows this better than anyone and made it his focus this offseason. If both Jones and the offense want to make strides in 2020, they have to maximize possessions and avoid cutting down on the volume of opportunities, or what I like to call at-bats.
View photos of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throughout his NFL career.