this New York Giants The new regime has maintained their plans throughout the 2022 offseason. They give the impression that the team has an overall vision, some major plans, and then a series of contingency plans.
We may never know for sure which plans came to fruition and which fell through—though we might make some educated guesses.
But believing that the new front office and coaching staff have a plan (or series of plans) gives us a starting point from which we can speculate on how the Giants will form in 2022. So far, we’ve looked at how the Giants use their offensive skills to position players, block in the frontcourt, and screen in the back end of their defense.
It’s time to see how the Giants’ defensive line fits together.
Don ‘Wink’ Martindale likes aggressive defense, which shouldn’t be news to Giants fans. But there are so many different ways to be aggressive defensively, which one does Martindale prefer?
We know from last time that Martindale likes personnel coverage, using Cover-0, Cover-1 and 2-Man shells at a higher rate than the NFL average (or much higher in some years).
Last year, the Ravens made heavy use of the 3-3-5 and 4-3-4 staffing divisions. They also frequently use 2-3-6 and 2-4-5 personnel groupings, although not at the same average ratio as the rest of the NFL.
When his defense is healthy in 2020, Martindale prefers the five-cent package.
While he doesn’t use them very often, Martindale uses the 1-4-6 and 1-5-5 wing far more often than any other player in the NFL.
It should be noted that the personnel grouping nomenclature refers to the number of back linebackers, central defenders and secondary defenders. So it tells us how many defenders are at each defensive level, but it doesn’t tell us how many defenders are charging, how many are in range, how many are actually defensive linebackers, linebackers, or defensive backs.
For more context, let’s take a look at how many passers Martindale has sent over the past three years.
While the overall shape of the charts is similar, from 2019 to 2021, the proportions are definitely different. Martindale has far more four-run rushes in 2021 than he did in 2020 or 2019. That could be explained by the injury that wrecked the Ravens defense last year.
As Nick Farato has previously detailed, Martindale’s defense thrived on deception and misdirection, resulting in confusion and confusion. Most of these involve unexpected coverage drops and blitzes from unexpected locations. So, while he might field four rushers on most passes, linebackers and defensive backs often rush to quarterbacks. For example, last year the Ravens had 22 different players with at least one QB hit, and in 2020 they had 19 different players with at least one QB hit.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who the Giants are and how they fit together.
The obvious starting point is Kayvon Thibodeaux. Like Evanill, Thibodeau is good enough and his skill set enough that his picks don’t actually tell us much about the Giants’ plans. He’s a great player who can rush the pass, dominate the run game and get into screens when necessary. Thibodeau is almost certainly downhill most of the time, either rushing past passers or defending runs. The Giants need a defender who can win quickly on the edge, which helps create opportunities for the Giants’ other charges.
However, his ability to occasionally get into coverage was useful to Martindale’s Blitz program.
Linebacker Micah McFadden, on the other hand, can tell us a bit about Martindale’s plans for the top seven.
As we pointed out in our review minor, the Giants have a thin linebacker. Blake Martinez is still planned as the Giants’ starting MIKE, and Tae Crowder, TJ Brunson and Darrian Beavers are the Giants’ off-ball linebacker depth.
McFadden was one of the Giants’ many surprising rookies after the first round. He probably won’t play a particularly big role in the Giants’ defense this year.
However, his skills suggest that the linebacker blitz could be a big part of Martindale’s plans for 2022. McFadden is listed as a “will” linebacker in Indiana’s defense, but 33 percent of his offenses last year were Blitz. That was the third-best off-ball linebacker in last year’s draft. He is only ahead of players like Devin Lloyd (32%), Channing Tindall (31%) and Nacoby Dean (27%).
McFadden is also an effective blitzkrieg, according to Sports Info Solutions, ranking fifth among off-ball linebackers in pressure rate (28 percent), third in pressure per game (2.9), and sacks per game Number 4 (0.5).
Combined with what we’ve seen from safety Dane Belton, who has one of the highest blitz rates among safety guards in this year’s draft class, defending the secondary defense, the picture of the defense uses nickel and dime a lot. , and often use blitz to form from the second level.
This could be a boon for Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown. Coughlin’s Minnesota background as a linebacker could give him extra value in the Blitz. He’s an athletic defender who started the transition from a fringe to an off-ball role last year. Brown, on the other hand, was an off-ball linebacker in college and has transitioned to a more fringe role at the NFL level. While the two have opposite paths, their skill sets are somewhat similar. Their ability to play effectively in space while also threatening pass rushers could give them a subcontract role in Martindale’s defense.
Looking at Martindale’s trends over the past few years, we can see that his defensive line is best described as “multiple.” For the past three years, Martindale has used a high forward rate of two, three and four downline players. He only used a relatively high per faction ratio last year, but his history since 2019 shows that every faction is in his arsenal.
Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari and Quincy Roche are sure to see the large number of reps as a four-man frontline on a true 7-skilled defensive end. Again, we assume that Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence III will see this field frequently. Players like Derek Wolfe, Justin Madubuike and Calais Campbell each had 40 to 65 percent defensive steals under Martindale. We can expect Williams and Lawrence to play at the high end of the range.
Jihad Ward, who has spent much of 2020 and 2019 on the Ravens defense, will likely be the first defensive tackle on the bench. We’ll likely see him rotate on the floor to give one of the starters a break. He hit 55 potential fast breaks in 2019 and 40 percent in 2020.
Justin Ellis, the Giants’ other free-agent defensive lineman who plays under Martindale, will likely be the team’s main forward. How much he (and rookie DJ Davidson) plays may depend on the name of each front. As Baltimore’s main depth player, Ellis is between 30% and 40% of their fast break defense, while their lead forward tackles about 40% to 50% of their fast break. It’s also possible that Martindale wants to try Lawrence’s nose tackle. While he certainly has the size and strength, Lawrence doesn’t have much background in 0 or 1 skills. He played mostly defensive end or 3-point skills in college and has struggled with nose tackles in the NFL.
The Giants have used the TITE line extensively under Patrick Graham, which is great for offense used in running games. However, we don’t yet have a good idea of Martindale’s preference for the Giants. Given that the Giants haven’t made a significant investment in the forward position, we’re curious to see how useful it is on the defensive end.
Overall, we’re likely to see a defensive line that favors the Martindale offense. Unbalanced fronts, strategic use of 2-gap players, and unpredictable zone drops all come into play.