Despite the absence of defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, whose status with the Giants is still in limbo, the defense is still moving forward in training camp under the direction of Steve Spagnuolo.
The new Giants defensive coordinator is also their old coordinator. The 55-year-old Spagnuolo spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Giants and experienced a career-defining achievement in Super Bowl XLII, heading a defensive unit that stopped the New England Patriots’ historic offense fueled by the lethal quarterback-wide receiver combination of Tom Brady and Randy Moss.
After subsequent stops with the St. Louis Rams (head coach), New Orleans Saints (defensive coordinator) and Baltimore Ravens (defensive assistant and secondary coach), Spagnuolo takes over for former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and endeavors to improve a group that allowed 375.8 yards per game last season, a ranking of 29th out of 32 teams.
While there is an inextricable correlation between yards surrendered through the air and on the ground, in today’s era of pass happy football, a strong pass rush and tight secondary coverage are key ingredients for a sound defense. Spagnuolo will be relying heavily on fifth-year cornerback Prince Amukamara and rookie safety Landon Collins to fortify the latter.
Amukamara was emerging as a top-tier cornerback last season before tearing a biceps muscle and missing the Giants’ final eight games. Collins, drafted by the Giants with the first pick in the second round, 33rd overall, from the University of Alabama, was assessed by many NFL scouts as the best safety in the draft. Playing for one of college football’s best programs should serve Collins well.
“It definitely shows that his coaches had a huge impact on him,” said Amukamara at camp. “Just by how he carries himself around the facility and the type of respect that he gives and shows, and just his work ethic on the field.”