Memories of a 32nd ranked New York Giants defense in 2015 have long been diminished and the task at hand has seemingly been keeping this group of players together.
The New York pass defense very literally made a name for itself in 2016 as it helped Ben McAdoo secure playoff football in his maiden season as head coach.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo must be afforded the same resources to work with next season if the Giants are to work towards fulfilling the realistic expectation that a Super Bowl run isn’t too far away.
A cohesive group of cornerbacks accompanied by a Landon Collins playing lights out and enjoying arguably his breakout season at safety saw the Giants secondary somewhat match the high standard of football being played by the team’s defensive linemen.
Rumours of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie potentially departing during the off-season naturally sparked concern amongst fans. The cornerback’s importance to the team was exhibited by his exit from the play-off clash with the Green Bay Packers and his team’s subsequent downfall and eventual 38-13 defeat.
The man who continues to back himself as the quickest player on the roster finished the season having defended 21 passes and made a career high six interceptions.
It proved to be a season that showcased his valuable versatility as off-season arrivals forced him to learn to play in the slot for the first time since being drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.
Cap space has been the major talking point surrounding the 31-year-old’s future, with the Giants set to save around $5million were they to cut him. A man of his experience and leadership coming off the back of a terrific season appears too difficult to let go, though, especially with it being so hard to find good corners in the modern market.
Making drastic adjustments to the team’s secondary seems a risk and frankly illogical after the Giants finished the season with a winning 11-5 record.
Securing a play-off place in 2016 for the first time since the team’s Super Bowl win in 2012 marked the return of a trend that has famously seen a dominant defense grant the Giants post-season football and beyond. A trend that also demands this roster be kept intact as much as possible.
Spagnuolo having the same options at his disposal promises a sense of reassurance in terms of knowing what the players are capable of. High expectations can drive an unchanged unit to develop an already proven understanding and work towards even greater consistency.
An unaltered first choice defensive backfield will consist of men all striving towards fresh individual objectives as a means in which to enjoy another successful year.
Veteran Rodgers-Cromartie will be looking to continue adapting to the slot while also aiding the progress of second-year Eli Apple who will be keen to build on a campaign in which he went some way towards justifying the Giants selecting him with the tenth overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Groin and hamstring injuries ruling him out of two games hampered Apple’s progress a little but didn’t stop him from showing glimpses of the speed and reach expected to make him an elite corner in years to come.
Opposite him, free agency signing Janoris Jenkins emerged as one of the most explosive corners in the league and in turn proved he was worth the five-year contract and the guaranteed $28.8 million. Three interceptions, 18 passes defended and his tendency to make receivers disappear helped him become a Pro Bowler and a second team AP All-Pro.
Star safety Collins enjoyed a similarly sparkling season, typified by a standout performance against the Los Angeles Rams in London’s Twickenham Stadium in which he made two interceptions- returning one for a 44-yard touchdown in a 17-10 win.
He finished the regular season as the frontrunner on the Giants defense with 100 solo tackles, four sacks and five interceptions and will undoubtedly be key in assisting the development of young safeties Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams.
Each man has a different responsibility and a different purpose that, when put together, can spearhead another push for the play-offs.
Another strong season has the potential to be rewarded even more with the Giants offense also bound to improve on what was a lacklustre 2016.