Giants fans had a season to talk about in 2016. After a few year hiatus, the boys in blue were finally able to get back into the postseason. In 2017, the Giants hope to show this was not a fluke and they have some unfinished business to attend to. While 2015 was a season of adequate offense and poor defense, 2016 was filled with subpar offense and praiseworthy defense. Naturally, the Giants hope this is the year that both sides of the ball will be firing on all cylinders. Due to the offense’s failures in 2016, many fans will be quick to claim that the key to success for the team this season will revolve around running the football. However, this is not the case. In 2017, the Giants pass rush will make or break the season.
Giants Pass Rush the Key to Success in 2017
Eli and Receivers Can Carry Offense
For starters, it is important to note how the Giants efficiencies and deficiencies on the different sides of the ball played into the overall success of the team over the past two years. When the Giants were hot on offense and off on defense, the team struggled to put up a sufficient number of wins. Last year, when the defense was dominating and the offense was struggling the Giants were still able to post an 11-5 record. This could be an indication that the success of the Giants will rest more heavily upon the shoulders of the defense than the shoulders of the offense. As seen in 2015, the Giants offense can still flourish without a consistent run game. With the additions of Brandon Marshall and a field stretching rookie tight end to go along with the electric tandem of Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard, the Giants should be able to move the ball regardless of the running game’s success. Furthermore, while the Giants overall team success may rely on the defense, the defense’s overall success relies on the pass rush.
Three Shutdown Corners Just Need a Little Help
When the Giants took Eli Apple with the tenth overall pick in the 2016 draft, many fans were skeptical about the selection. However, after only a year of play it seems as if Jerry Reese and company made a smart move. The Giants now possess a secondary with three corners who could all be CB1 on different rosters. What can make these three good cornerbacks great is a consistent pass rush. Even the best cornerbacks can only hold their coverage for so long. If the Giants can repeatedly force quick passes, opposing teams have no chance at putting up big numbers. With Damon Harrison anchoring the interior of the defensive line, teams will continue to struggle running the ball as well.
With defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo getting back into his comfort zone, the Giants should be able to build off of their success from a year ago. In 2015, the Giants put up 23 sacks. In 2016, the Giants were able to improve upon this number to reach 35 sacks. While this progress is admirable, the Giants still have work to do to reach the pass rush success of their past. In the Giants last two Super Bowl winning seasons of 2007 and 2011, the team accumulated 53 and 48 sacks respectively. As a result, a dominant pass rush has become associated with Giants success. With big money defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have the potential to reach for the 50-sack marker once again.
Pass Rush Can Prevent Last Season’s Downfalls
Last season, an ineffective pass rush played an instrumental role in the Giants playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers embarrassed New York from start to finish. With the defensive backs having to cover for extended periods of time, Rodgers managed to exploit matchups time and time again. Perhaps the game would have ended differently if the Giants had been able to get a stronger push up front. This game should continue to haunt the Giants and lead to a strong pass rush being an area of emphasis for the impending season.
When the Giants could not get a strong push from their defensive line last year, they turned to defense back blitz packages that provided a different kind of pressure for opposing quarterbacks. This is what led to new defensive leader Landon Collins racking up four sacks throughout the season. If Spagnuolo can continue to draw up effective blitzes while simultaneously seeing improvements from Vernon and JPP, the Giants defense should be able to stop everyone, including Aaron Rodgers.
As seen in the Giants past, a dominant pass rush can lead to a Super Bowl victory. An inadequate pass rush can also lead to an embarrassing blow out in the first round of playoffs. While the Giants run game could be improved, the Giants pass rush is the most important factor in evaluating just how far the Giants will go this season. If Steve Spagnuolo and company can learn and improve from last year, the Giants should only get better and go further in 2017.