Unlock More Content Like This With a Footballguys Premium Subscription
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE
Links to discussions for other teams:
With a record of 4-13, the 2021 Giants were not a good football team. They had issues on both sides of the ball, but when we look closely at the numbers, the defense was not 13 losses bad. They were more like 9-8 bad. The pass defense allowed a high percentage of completions, but they were middle of the pack in yards and points. The pass rush was very respectable with 40 sacks, their 22 takeaways ranked in the league's top half, and they can hang their hats on a run defense that was top-ten in yards per carry, total yards, and points. Had the offense been even mediocre, this team might have been in the hunt in a rather weak division.
There is a new coaching regime in place for 2022 that includes former Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale. His scheme is described as an aggressive base 3-4, and it is aggressive, just not for the guys up front. The aggressive tag comes from all the blitzing and pressure off the edges. It is still a 3-4, which the Giants have been in for a few years, so there will be no sweeping changes, but minor ones will likely affect how the fantasy value breaks down for some of these players.
The biggest effect of Martindale’s scheme will be seen along the defensive line. Under the previous coaching staff, the defensive line was allowed to penetrate and disrupt. As a result, defensive end Leonard Williams turned in the two best statistical seasons of his career, landing among the top ten linemen in the last two years. At the same time, Dexter Lawrence finished among the top 20 at tackle in both of those seasons.
We need to remember that it was Martindale’s 2-gap 3-4 scheme that took Calais Campbell from 36-20-6.5 and 3 takeaways in his last season with Jacksonville to 25-18-1.5 and a fumble recovery last year in Baltimore. Unless Martindale adjusts his scheme to take advantage of Williams’ strength as a penetrating disruptor, we are likely to see a decline in production and a potentially disgruntled Williams. That said, it should be pointed out that Martindale made no adjustments to take advantage of Campbell’s strengths.
In Williams and Lawrence, the Giants have a pair of excellent foundational players. Williams is a talented big man with the size and strength to be one of the game’s more sturdy run defenders and enough wiggle to make a difference as a pass rusher. In years past, he has consistently given us 50+ combined tackles with a career-best of 82 in 2021. The 11.5 sacks Williams put up in 2020 are a career outlier, while 5-7 have been his norm.
Despite checking in at a hefty 342 pounds, Lawrence played a lot of defensive end under the previous regime. With Austin Johnson moving on, Lawrence could see most of his playing time at nose tackle going forward. Wherever he lines up, Lawrence will be a hard-to-move anchor for the run defense. There is not much wiggle to his pass rush, but raw power gives him the ability to crush the pocket and flush the passer to his teammates. The third-year pro has 50+ combined tackles in each of the last two seasons, contributing 8.5 sacks to date in his young career. It will be interesting to see if either of these players can overcome the limitations of the scheme to continue having IDP value. We should be prepared for both to see a drop-off on the stat sheet in 2022.
Moving Lawrence inside would leave the Giants with a hole at defensive end. Journeymen Jihad Ward and Jayln Holmes are in the mix for the starting job, but neither can be considered a long-term solution. With Justin Ellis's signing and J.D. Davidson's drafting in round five, we could see a variety of alignments this year. Both Ellis and Davidson are nose tackle types at 325+ pounds, but Ellis has seen some action as a 3-4 defensive end in the past.
- NT/DE Dexter Lawrence – Solid DT2 if the scheme doesn’t hold him back
- NT Justin Ellis – No impact
- NT J.D. Davidson – Unlikely to have a significant role as a rookie
- DE Leonard Williams – Possible DL2 with lowered expectations under the new coaching staff
- DE Jihad Ward – No impact anticipated
- DE Jalyn Holmes – No impact expected
The main story at the second level is the recovery of team leader Blake Martinez from last year’s knee injury. For both the Giants and IDP managers, the news here is good. Martinez tore his ACL in September so there has been time to rehab. He was able to participate in OTAs on a limited basis, and there is hope he will be ready to do much more when training camp opens. The team will be cautious and bring him along slowly with the expectation that Martinez will be full go late in camp and ready for week one.
I may have jinxed Martinez by pointing out his durability in last year’s EOTG column. Before the knee injury, he had not missed a game in his five-year career. This time around I’ll just say that he does not miss games with minor nagging injuries and leave it at that.
On the field, the healthy return of Martinez would be huge for the team. He is dependable and consistent and provides much-needed stability. He is not the fastest or most athletic of inside linebackers but is a strong physical run defender who is good enough in coverage to stay on the field full time and make some big plays. Most of all, he is this defense's leader and about as top-shelf as it gets on and off the field.
There is no question about the value of Martinez in IDP circles. He has never made the top three but has been exceptionally productive and consistent. Over three seasons as the starter in Green Bay, Martinez never fell short of 93 solo tackles and 49 assists, recoded a combination of at least five turnovers and sacks every year, averaged 13.30 or more points per game twice, never falling short of 12.4, and finished 4th, 8th, and 6th in the linebacker rankings from 2017 to 2019 respectively. Nothing changed when he signed with New York in 2020. His first year with the Giants produced 150 combined tackles, 4 turnovers, 3 sacks, 5 pass breakups, and an average of 13.2 points per game, making him the number six linebacker. Indeed, the only detractor keeping managers from making Martinez one of the first ten linebackers taken this year is the injury, and that might be a non-factor come September.
When the Giants took Tae Crowder in round seven of the 2020 draft, even they did not expect he would be an every-down starter in his second season. Crowder worked his way into a role as a rookie and even started five games next to Martinez. He opened 2021 in a timeshare with Reggie Ragland as the second inside backer. When Martinez was lost, the coaching staff turned to Crowder, who played every defensive snap for the rest of the season.
He is not Blake Martinez, but Crowder did a solid job under the circumstances and put up good numbers in the process. With 130 total tackles (63 solos), 3 takeaways, 6 passes defended, and an average of 10.1 points per game, Crowder slipped into the top 20. We must remember here that Martindale had no every-down inside linebacker in Baltimore over the last two years. Maybe there is some correlation between that and his being unemployed when the Giants called, but it is a fact nonetheless. There is virtually zero chance that a healthy Martinez is not on the field every down, but chances are good that Crowder will see no more than a 65-70% share of the action at best. Keep your finger on the trigger in case Martinez is lost, but using a draft pick on Crowder might not be a good choice.
New York is short on veteran depth at inside linebacker but they used the later round of the draft to stock the shelves at the position. Fifth-round pick Micah McFadden out of Indiana, sixth-rounder Darrian Beavers from Cincinnati, and 2020 seventh-round pick Carter Coughlin are set to compete for the backup role.
Pressure off the edge is key to the success of any 3-4 scheme. The organization addressed the outside linebacker position in 2021 by selecting Azeez Ojulari in round two. That pick worked out well as he went on to lead the team in sacks as a rookie with eight. Most edge defenders show significant improvement in year two, which bodes well for both the team and IDP managers in big-play-based leagues.
Another thing that bodes well for both groups is Kayvon Thibodeaux's selection at number five overall this spring. He will help Ojulari by giving offenses another weapon to be concerned with and could go a long way toward helping the Giants turn the corner defensively.
Thibodeau is more powerful and relentless than skilled and polished at this point in his career. He has above-average speed but is not a burner and should improve as a pass rusher with experience and the addition of a few more moves. He excels as an edge setter versus the run with physical talent and pro-ready attributes that should get him on the field right away. One slight concern is the fact he was a defensive end in college, so making the switch to a two-point stance and the additional responsibilities that come with it could lengthen the learning curve.
Thibodeau was not lights-out productive at Oregon but the numbers were solid. In 30 games over three seasons, he totaled 126 combined tackles with 19 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 7 batted passes.
In Oshane Ximines, Quincy Roche, Ellerson Smith, and Cam Brown, the Giants have a collection of young, middle-round draft picks to provide depth on the edge. All of these guys have some potential but the incoming coaching staff apparently does not see any of them as future starters.
- ILB Blake Martinez – Quality LB1 once we see that he is healthy
- ILB Tae Crowder – Injury sleeper with LB2 potential
- ILB Micah McFadden – Developmental rookie
- ILB Carter Coughlin – No impact expected
- ILB Darrian Beavers – Developmental rookie
- OLB Azeez Ojulari – Double-digit sack potential but light in the tackle columns
- OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux – High upside rookie for those in big-play-based leagues
- OLB Quincy Roach – No impact
- OLB Oshane Ximines – Injury sleeper with low ceiling
- OLB Elerson Smith – No impact
The Giants’ secondary is where the most turnover is found. The team moved on from three of last season’s starters, including corner James Bradbery and safetied Logan Ryan and Jabril Peppers. These decisions were financially driven in large, as the team had to cut about $40 million in salary to get under the cap.
This means that Xavier McKinney can finally shift into the strong safety role, and Julian Love becomes one of those late-round sleepers that might put up starter numbers for us. The previous regime used a lot of base nickel with three safeties on the field. Martindale is not known to do a lot of that so the roles should be more traditional.
McKinney missed most of his rookie season and was not the box safety in year two with that role going to Ryan, yet he still managed to be highly productive. He was a little light in the solo tackle column with 59 but more than made up for it with 33 assists, 5 picks, 11 passes defended, and a score to finish as the fantasy game’s number eleven defensive back.
than made up for itto be highl r. hat the r best pass rusherder 6He is a bit undersized for the strong safety position, but don’t try to tell McKinney that. The 2020 second-round pick was not the biggest safety in his draft class, but he hits like a truck at 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds. He was not the fastest among them either but has the speed, cover skills, instincts, and versatility to play deep, in the box, or over the slot. He was highly productive at Alabama, where in two seasons as a starter, McKinney totaled 169 combined tackles, 15 pass breakups, 12 turnovers, and a pair of scores, so his production last year was not a fluke. In summary, there is no reason to think McKinney will not excel in the new role and produce excellent numbers in the process.
The Giants had a good problem entering last season in that they had four starting quality safeties on the roster. Julian Love was the odd-man-out initially but became a starter when Jabril Peppers was injured in week eight. As the deep safety, Love started away from the action most of the time but still managed double-digit points in five of the seven games that he played at least half of the snaps. We will have to keep an eye on this situation to see exactly what his role will be. I don’t envision huge numbers but can see Love making a solid DB3 for us this season.
The Giants need both McKinney and Love to stay healthy this year because they are now thin at the position. Rookie Dane Belton and former Packers castoff Henry Black are set to compete for the third safety role.
The organization tried to keep Bradberry in the fold, but he was unwilling to re-negotiate a deal that would lessen the $21.8 million cap hit, so in the end, the team had no choice but to let him walk. The problem is, they had no one of that stature to step up. Adoree Jackson is established as one starter on the outside, and he is a pretty good one. The former Titans’ first-round pick spent two successful seasons as a starter in Tennseess before finding his way to the doghouse in 2019. He is not much of a splash play threat with just three career interceptions but is a solid number two corner in by NFL standards.
Some have penciled in rookie third-round pick Cordale Flott as the starter opposite Jackson. It might be a bit early to do that, but then there are no other options that leap off the depth chart. Maurice Canady is the most experienced of the remaining options. He has been in the league long enough to know he is not a starter. Darnay Holmes, Aaron Robinson, and Rodarius Williams are all young players picked between the third and sixth rounds by the previous regime over the last two years. All of these guys will get a look but the winner of these battles, fair or not, often goes to the player picked by the current regime. If Flott does indeed come out of camp as a starter, the rookie corner rule could be in play.
- SS Xavier McKinney – Low DB2 floor with a high DB1 ceiling
- FS Julian Love – Sleeper with DB3 potential
- SS Dane Belton – Dynasty sleeper
- FS Henry Black – No impact expected
- CB Cordale Flott – Rookie corner rule could be in play
- CB Adoree Jackson – Possible CB2 with limited upside
- CB Darnay Holmes – No impact expected
- CB Rodarius Williams – No impact expected
- CB Aaron Robinson – Deep sleeper in corner required leagues
The Eagles are up next, heading into the home stretch with six teams to go.
Enjoy this article? Find more from John here.
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
An ELITE subscription is required to access content for IDP (individual defensive players) leagues. If this league is not a IDP (individual defensive players) league, you can edit your leagues here.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE