The biggest reasons for the New York Giants defense’s dramatic improvement in 2016 was the improved play of the (1) defensive line and (2) defensive backs. The Giants defense went from dead last in 2015 to tenth in yardage allowed and second in scoring allowed in 2016. And while the team’s 23rd-ranked pass defense (251.1 yards per game) does not sound impressive, the unit played at a far higher level than that, as indicated by three defensive backs earning All-Pro honors.
The secondary became a team strength because the Giants signed Janoris Jenkins in free agency, drafted Eli Apple in the first round, and watched second-year safety Landon Collins develop into an impact player at his more natural strong safety position. An inconsistent player in St. Louis, Jenkins became one of the best corners in the NFL in 2016, teaming with Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) to form perhaps the NFL’s best trio of corners. While Apple had his growing pains, he performed well enough to shut down a number of opponents and allow the coaches to move DRC to the slot corner position. Meanwhile, Collins led the Giants in tackles, was second on the team in interceptions, and third on the team in sacks. The weak spot in the secondary was free safety as promising rookie Darian Thompson and Mykkele Thompson were lost early to injuries, Nat Berhe battled concussions, and undrafted rookie Andrew Adams started the bulk of the season. While Adams didn’t embarrass himself, he did not make many plays either. Late in the season, Leon Hall – who was shifted from corner to safety – took over the position.
In his first season with the Giants, Janoris Jenkins had his best season to date, being voted to his first Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro (second-team) selection. Jenkins started every game, except for missing one game due to a back injury, and finished the season with 49 tackles, one sack, 18 pass defenses, three interceptions, and one forced fumble. Jenkins was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. The Giants signed him as unrestricted free agent in March 2016. Jenkins is an average-sized corner with excellent speed and quickness. He is a confident, instinctive coverman who has gotten better each year and has developed into an elite shut-down corner. Jenkins plays well in both man and zone coverage. He plays with swagger.
The Giants drafted Eli Apple in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He missed two games with hamstring and groin injuries, but surprisingly started 11 of the 14 regular-season games he played in. Apple finished the season with 51 tackles, seven pass defenses, one interception, and one forced fumble. Apple combines good size with excellent overall athletic ability, speed, and quickness. He flashes as a physical run defender and tackler, but needs to become more consistent in that area. Apple had a bit of an up-and-down rookie season in coverage. While he mostly handled his opponent, there were times when he gave up big plays. Apple makes a lot contact with receivers in coverage and he needs to continue to work on his technique. He has a big upside and looks to be developing into a fine player.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) had another strong year for the Giants, being named second-team …
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