Jordan in New York: Dave Gettleman has obviously taken analytics very seriously in the last two years investing a lot of capital in the secondary rather than pass rush. Patrick Graham is known for a 3-4 defense with a lot of nickel. We don't have a true defensive end on the roster, or what we traditionally considered "d-ends" when we ran a 4-3. Do you think our pass rush will be largely dependent on scheme, the young OLB group (Ximines, Carter, Fackrell) or the big guys up front?
John Schmeelk: This is a very good, multi-layered question Jordan, and those are many of the same questions I am asking myself when I try to envision what defensive coordinator Patrick Graham's defense is going to look like.
I'll answer the easy part first: the outside linebacker group you mentioned that includes Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Kyle Fackrell will be a big part of the pass rush. When the team goes to a four man front in some passing situations, they will turn into edge rushers as defensive ends. They'll focus on narrowing the width of the pocket.
The second part of the pass rush concerns the depth of the pocket. Players like Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill will be charged with pushing the interior offensive line into the lap of the quarterback or getting penetration through the middle. The edge and interior players work in tandem so the quarterback can't escape.
Given the way the Patriots and Dolphins have run their defenses the last two years, I would also expect frequent extra pressure from the secondary or from the interior linebackers. The Patriots blitzed linebacker Jamie Collins often last season.
With so many quality players added to the secondary, Graham might have the ability to blitz more often. It would not surprise me to see players like Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly and David Mayo coming through the A and B gaps, while safeties and slot players like Xavier McKinney, Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love come from different areas. Last year with Miami, Patrick Graham also used defensive formations where the entire seven-man front was standing up before the ball was snapped. I look forward to seeing Graham's scheme in action in 2020.
Manny in California: With this year's draft additions, the Giants now have an offense with potentially six former first round and three second round picks among its starters.
- 1st round picks on offense: Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, Nate Solder, Kevin Zeitler, Andrew Thomas
- 2nd round picks on offense: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Will Hernandez
On defense, the team potentially has four first round picks starting and two more second round picks.
- 1st round picks on defense: Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Jabrill Peppers, DeAndre Baker
- 2nd round picks on defense: Xavier McKinney, James Bradberry and Dalvin Tomlinson.
I suspect our starting 22 has as many top draft picks as any team in the division. Even though draft position is no guarantee of success, shouldn't this translate to improvement in the team's record this season given the new coaching staff?
John Schmeelk: I'm not going to waste everyone's time and start counting the top draft picks starting for the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys, but the Giants certainly have a number of young and talented players on their roster. As much as fans like to focus on the new additions in free agency and the draft this offseason, I think the team's record will be far more dependent on the development of some of those past draft picks you listed in your question.
Can Evan Engram stay healthy for most of a 16-game season? Can Sterling Shepard put together his best year in his fifth season and finally crest 70 catches and 1,000 yards? Will Daniel Jones clean up his turnover issues from his rookie year and excel in a new offense? Will Saquon Barkley's third season look more like his first than his second? Can Will Hernandez continue to improve at guard? Will Nate Solder have a year more reminiscent of his play earlier in his career, rather than 2019?
Can Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, both former third round picks, develop into more consistent edge rushers who win one on one more frequently? Can Dexter Lawrence be a more consistent interior pass rusher? Can Jabrill Peppers establish himself as a top safety in his fourth season? Will Julian Love find a set position that fits his skillset? Will Sam Beal emerge after two injury plagued years to start his career?
As important as high draft picks are, developing those players into effective NFL players is more essential. As the Giants continue with that phase of their building process, it will go a long way to determining how quickly they can turn themselves into a playoff contender.