Training camp is only a few days away and although Giant fans are stoked, I must ask this simple question: what did they do to get better on defense over the offseason?
To answer this, you must outline the areas that prevented them from succeeding in 2012.
Pass Rush / Defensive Line
No way the pass rush is better at this point in time. Osi Umenyiora is gone, Jason Pierre-Paul may not be ready for the season and Justin Tuck it trying to rebound from two subpar seasons.
They're not better, but they might be different. Mathias Kiwanuka is moving back to his natural position of DE. Adrian Tracy, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo are a year older and more experienced. Rookie Damontre Moore is a gifted pass rusher who the Giants can strategically place in situations where he can succeed.
One would think the DTs have to be better this fall. They've brought in an army of new faces at DT which should shore up some holes and provide some stability and pressure in the middle. That can only help the ends from drawing double teams.
Last year Linval Joseph was basically out there by himself. This year, he'll have much more capable help: Cullen Jenkins, Jonathan Hankins, Shaun Rogers, Mike Patterson et al. But....truth be told, with JPP either out or not at full speed, the pass rush will continue to struggle. Sorry.
Has Corey Webster put his ghastly season behind him? Let's hope so. Logistically thinking, he can't possibly play any worse than he did last year, so he's got to be better. Will that be good enough, though?
Prince Amukamara has to continue to improve, Aaron Ross must find consistency and Jayron Hosley has to play bigger, like Jerry Reese said he could. Terrell Thomas, by admission, is not 100%, so don't count him in as of yet. My suggestion to fellow Giant fans is to batten down the hatches, it's going to be rough seas out there...again.
This group remains about the same. Kenny Phillips was often injured and his knee problems reduced him to becoming an ordinary player. He won;t be missed much. Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown will be your starters. Cooper Taylor and Ryan Mundy will be on the field often as well. If T2 makes it back physically, he might find success as a nickel or a safety. Will Hill can help, too, providing the Giants bring him back after this suspension.
If you believe in Mark Herzlich the way the Giants do, then your fears of who will run this defense have been allayed. The team has been grooming Herzlich to take over the playcalling for three years now. It's blank or get off the pot for him. Dan Connor must completely outplay Herzlich in order to win the job. He's here for only one year and will serve as a backup should Herzlich get nicked up.
On the outside, they have a lot of talent: Keith Rivers, Jacquian Williams, Aaron Curry, Spencer Paysinger. All four are singing for their supper this season, so the level of competition should be raised this summer. Don't forget to throw in Moore as a 'joker' in certain formations. Yes, folks, this unit will be better this season. Finally.
The Giants finished 31st in overall defense in 2012, but only surrendered and average of 21.9 points per game (12th lowest in the league). They were ranked 25th in the NFL against the rush and 28th vs the pass. They survived their sieve-like scrimmage play to win nine games by creating turnovers. They were third in INTs and fourth in fumble recoveries.
But you can't live on the edge like that for too long. A time is going to come when the Giants' defense is going to have to start making stops more regularly if they want to advance into the post season again. From the outside looking in, the defense will have to rely more on man coverage and less on DC Perry Fewell's soft approach to prevent big plays. That's not working. Physical play at DT and LB will help the team get away from that 'bend but don't break' philosophy.