Pat Shurmur (268181)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

Leads must be preserved. It’s one of the shortcomings those held over from the Giants defense last season will readily admit and a undeniable source of their 5-11 record. A blown 17-point lead versus the Philadelphia Eagles in a deflating 25-22 loss in Week 12 was a microcosm of the Giants’ season.

It derailed what would have been their third straight win following five consecutive losses and interrupted a potential five-game winning streak as they were victorious in their previous two games and won the next two. The inability to maintain leads became the prevailing characteristic of the Giants’ defense and a recurring theme as they relinquished point advantages in five of their final eight games, including back-to-back one-point defeats to the Indianapolis Colts (28-27) and Dallas Cowboys (36-35) to conclude the season.

In the loss to the Cowboys, the Giants were ahead 35-28 with 2:35 remaining and allowed Dallas to score a touchdown and execute a two-point conversion to snatch the win. One of the primary goals of defensive coordinator James Bettcher is to correct the structural and schematic breakdowns experienced last year.

The Giants have also changed personnel in losing safety Landon Collins and edge rusher Olivier Vernon but adding safety Jabril Peppers and pass rusher Markus Golden, and drafting rookie defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence from Clemson and cornerback Deandre Baker out of the University of Georgia with the 17th and 30th picks in the first round respectively.

Putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is paramount to reversing last season’s trend. The Giants’ defense ranked 23rd overall and was tied for the second fewest sacks in the league at 30 with—ironically —the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. However, the Patriots defense was ranked sixth overall.

“I definitely feel like the way we’ve been working and the emphasis we put on pressuring quarterbacks this offseason,” said the rookie Lawrence at Giants training camp Tuesday. “It’s just been great, the guys just coming out knowing what we have to do to get to the quarterback, and how we’re going to get to the quarterback, so we’ve just got to put it all together.”

The preseason may not be an accurate indicator of how the defense will perform when the regular season begins or if they have made strides from last season’s struggles.Starters don’t play a significant number of snaps or get substantial reps as a collective group. So expectedly, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur was measured in his assessment after last Friday’s 32-13 win over the Chicago Bears at MetLfe Stadium.

“The more they play together…and the more seasoned they are as a unit,” said Shurmur, “the better we’ll become at keeping teams out of the endzone. That’s certainly the challenge.”

The Giants will face the Cincinnati Bengals tonight on the road in their third game of the preason. Thus far they are 2-0 having also defeated the Jets 31-22 two weeks ago.