New York Giants Jabrill Peppers, Deandre Baker
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

After making a number of moves over the past couple of days, the New York Giants could have a solid defensive lineup in 2020.

Jason Leach

It’s been a busy couple of days for New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman. First, he signed linebacker David Mayo to a three-year extension. Then on Monday, he gave Leonard Williams the franchise tag as well as signed cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Blake Martinez to three-year deals.

All of this was done to help improve a ballclub that finished 25th in total defense last year. Additionally, this team will face six of the top eight offenses from a season ago in 2020.

Gettleman will make more free-agent acquisitions and select players in the upcoming draft. But as of right now, here’s a look at what New York’s starting defense may look like if they decide to run a 3-4 scheme.

Defensive line

RE Leonard Williams: Many questioned Gettleman’s decision to trade two draft picks to acquire Williams last season. Nonetheless, he’s confident the former No. 6 overall pick can reach his maximum potential in his first full season with Big Blue. In eight games with the Giants last year, Williams racked up 26 combined tackles and .5 sacks.

NT Dalvin Tomlinson: Dalvin Tomlinson has been one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league for the past three seasons. He’s excellent against the run and averaged nearly 53 combined tackles per year in his initial trio of campaigns. Last season, he put up a career-high 3.5 sacks.

LE Dexter Lawrence: Dexter Lawrence was one of the few bright spots for the Giants in 2019. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 76.1, which was the highest for a rookie interior defensive lineman. Expect for him to improve on the 24 solo tackles and 2.5 sacks he recorded a season ago.

Linebackers

ROLB Lorenzo Carter: The Giants are hopeful that Lorenzo Carter can take the next step in his third NFL season. He’s shown glimpses that he can play at a high level, having combined for 88 total tackles and 8.5 sacks in two seasons. Nonetheless, he needs to be more consistent.

RILB Blake Martinez: The newly acquired Blake Martinez’s 155 combined tackles last season were second-most in the league. Only Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks had more with 159. Martinez has put up at least 144 combined tackles in each of the last three seasons and additionally has nine sacks during that span.

LILB Ryan Connelly: Ryan Connelly was having an excellent start to his rookie campaign last year before tearing his ACL in the Week 4 win over Washington. In just four games, he recorded 20 total tackles, two interceptions, and one sack. He’ll likely split time with Mayo, but if he hasn’t lost any of his quickness, Connelly is poised to be an every-game starter at this point.

LOLB Oshane Ximines: As a rookie, Oshane Ximines appeared in all 16 games (two starts), finishing the season with 25 tackles and 4.5 sacks. If the Giants aren’t able to add another pass rusher in free agency, it’ll be imperative for Ximines and Carter to be able to consistently pressure the quarterback.

Secondary

RCB Deandre Baker: Deandre Baker struggled mightily in his inaugural pro campaign last year, especially early in the season. Although, some people attribute this to former defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s schemes. Now that Baker is acclimated to the speed of the NFL, his performance should improve under new coordinator Patrick Graham.

FS Julian Love: Julian Love provides the versatility that head coach Joe Judge adores, as he can play both the safety and nickel corner spots. After playing sparingly in the first 10 games of the season, Love’s time on the field increased in the final six matchups. He finished the year with 30 solo tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. The way it stands now, he’ll have to battle Antoine Bethea for the starting job.

SS Jabrill Peppers: Gettleman acquired Jabrill Peppers in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade last offseason. And in 2019, he was off to a solid start. Through 11 games, Peppers combined for 76 total tackles, three forced fumbles, and one interception, which he ran back for a touchdown against the Redskins in Week 4. A transverse process fracture ended his season abruptly, but he’ll be back as one of the team’s key defenders in 2020.

LCB James Bradberry: The Giants needed a veteran corner and Gettleman delivered by signing James Bradberry. He’ll become the team’s top corner, and although he may line up primarily on the left side, he’ll follow opposing No. 1 receivers if the scheme calls for it.

Bradberry is used to lining up against the best receivers in the league, such as Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Julio Jones. Last season, he notched a career-high three interceptions to go along with 65 combined tackles.

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