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Giants Kickoff: Will week 15 bring another defensive masterclass?

This week is of the utmost importance for the Giants playoff hopes. A win against the Saints would vault them into increased conversation of potentially snatching one of the two Wildcard playoff spots that are up for grabs in the NFC. Since this is such an important week for the team, I felt it only right to switch up the approach here and profile one of the most important units on the team. 

All of the buzz has centered around Tommy DeVito and the excellent job he has done stepping in and helping win games. But the Giants defense has been the true backbone of the team during their three game winning streak. They have forced 11 turnovers over that time and have played a massive part in helping Tommy DeVito and the offense succeed. Turnovers lead to points and the Giants defense are playing with an authority that was not there earlier in the season. 

We’re going to dive into all three levels of the defense and highlight a few of the notable players that have been paramount to their recent success. 

It all starts with the defensive line

Any team that wants to win invests in their big bodies up front. The Giants did just that with the massive extension they gave Dexter Lawrence back in May. Deservedly so, Lawrence received a 4 year extension worth $90 million. A whopping $60 million of that contract is guaranteed. He is the leader up front and has proven time and again that Joe Schoen made the right move to invest in him over Leonard Williams. The numbers say it all, he ranks in the top-5 of defensive tackles in the league in pass rush win rate. Nightmare fuel for opposing centers and guards.

Per ESPN rankings

On the outside is second year stud Kayvon Thibodeaux. He is having a season to remember and has catapulted himself into the top-10 in sacks. Sitting at number 9 on a list with future hall of famers such Khalil Mack, T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, and Micah Parsons is an incredible achievement in it's own right. Thibodeaux has not only been successful in getting to the quarterback, but the argument can be made that he's even better against the run. He consistently sets the edge and is able to make quick reads, a trait that is needed from a player of his stature out on the edge.

Per ESPN rankings

Linebacking corps

How awesome have Bobby Okereke and Micah McFadden been? Man, they have been incredibly consistent throughout the season.

Okereke was signed as a free agent in the offseason to fill a massive hole in the middle of the Giants defense. He has proven the value of that contract, posting some of the best numbers of his career:

  • 119 tackles | 75 solo

  • 9 TFL (tackles for loss) - A career high

  • 4 FF (forced fumbles) - A career high

  • 8 PDs (pass deflections) - You guessed it, a career high

The guy is breaking his own personal records and there are still four games left in the season. As the leader of the defense, and the guy with the green dot on his helmet, he has been one of the most impactful pieces to the Giants success.

Micah McFadden on the other hand, the 23 year old former 2022 fourth round pick, is putting up strong numbers in his second season as a pro:

  • 79 tackles | 47 solo

  • 11 TFL

  • 3 FRs (fumble recoveries)

  • 3 PDs

Those are all career highs for a young linebacker breaking out in 2023. Okereke lining up next to him has certainly contributed to his success and learning from a guy like that is worth it's weight in gold.

They are the leaders of the defense and if they're succeeding, that rubs off on the rest of the nine guys on that side of the ball.

Mark Konezny - USA Today Sports

Young and hungry secondary

Deonte Banks is a breath of fresh air. The Giants 2023 first round pick is coming into his own after experiencing the ups and downs of cornerback life earlier in the season. I feel he has adjusted well to the game and is being himself out there. He is a physical defender who isn't afraid to cover the game's best wide receivers. There is a lot to be excited about from the way in which Banks has played, and he will be an anchor of the secondary for years to come. He's also hilarious, peep the below video of him rooting for Tommy DeVito in last week's big win against Green Bay.

Other big impact players such as Jason Pinnock and Cor'Dale Flott have had their moments throughout the season. In last week's win against the Packers, Pinnock played all 68 snaps at the strong safety position and picked up an interception and two PDs. For the season, he now has 47 tackles, two interceptions, and six PDs. A waiver claim last year after spending time with the Jets, Pinnock has proven that not resigning Julian Love really was one of the better moves Joe Schoen could have made.

Flott has firmly planted himself as the Giants starting slot corner, and while still learning in his second year as a pro, is showing the traits of a serviceable corner. He has had his share of ups and downs week to week, in week 11 against the Commanders he allowed two receptions for 12 yards while last week against the Packers allowed five receptions for 59 yards. Overall though, I've seen a lot of promising play from the former LSU Tiger and expect to continue to see him step up in a big way down the stretch.

The average age of the starting secondary is 24 years old, ranking as one of the youngest in the league. Banks, Flott, Pinnock, and McKinney are all younger than 25 and Adoree Jackson is the oldest of the bunch at the age of 28. Even with all of the youth the Giants are trotting out there on a weekly basis, they have performed like seasoned veterans with a collective chip on their shoulders.

Final thoughts

There is a lot to be excited about from this Giants D. They are young, hungry, and finally clicking at all three levels. They have forced 22 turnovers overall, tied for fifth in the NFL, and 11 over the last three games. Joe Schoen has himself some nice pieces to work with on the defensive side of the ball. Their play of late has certainly given him and the rest of the front office a chance to breathe a sigh of relief and focus on bringing the offense back to glory.

This week's opponent is the New Orleans Saints who have a flurry of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that the Giants will need to stop. The likes of Chris Olave, Alvin Kamara, and Taysom Hill could give them trouble, however, if they keep playing with the agression they have brought over the past few weeks, then they will be fine. They win the turnover battle, they win the game. Simple as that.


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