Brian Daboll, Zyon Gilbert
Syndication: The Record

The Giants’ secondary was a concern heading into the year. General manager Joe Schoen dumped veteran corner James Bradberry and safety Logan Ryan, lowering the overall experience level of the group. The roster was subsequently left with cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and various guys on rookie contracts.

How was defensive coordinator Wink Martindale supposed to trust this group to execute man coverage so he could unleash his exotic blitz packages? It was shaping up to be a true disaster.

But, this defensive backfield actually kept the Giants in various games earlier in the year. Amid a shocking 7-2 start, the defensive backfield was allowing only 217 passing yards per game and a 58.3% completion rate. Jackson was playing some of the best football of his life and Fabian Moreau was surprisingly productive after stepping into a starting cornerback role.

But then the injury bug — that same injury bug that could easily change the course of any season — arrived in East Rutherford around Week 11.

Safety Xavier McKinney had already landed on the non-football injury list after injuring his hand in an ATV accident during the Week 9 bye. But in, and following Week 11, Jackson went down with a knee injury (he’s missed three straight games) and Moreau missed the Thanksgiving loss to Dallas with an oblique injury. Starting nickel corner Darnay Holmes also missed the Week 13 tie with Washington due to a shoulder injury.

The Giants, therefore, have resorted to a rotating door in the secondary that’s included Nick McCloud, Zyon Gilbert, Rodarius Williams, safety Jason Pinnock, and numerous other young pieces.

As you could expect, this makeshift secondary has struggled. Over the last four games (0-3-1), the Giants’ secondary has hovered around the same yardage mark (214 per game) but has allowed a disastrous 67% completion rate. This lousy performance has affected the entire defense, which has let up around 400 yards and over 30 points per game amid this current four-game skid.

It’s starting to become clear, now more than ever, that the Giants’ defense is only as good as its secondary. And that secondary must get healthier, quickly.

Because over the next four weeks, the Giants are fighting for their playoff lives with games against the Commanders (current NFC six seed), Vikings (NFC two seed), Colts, and Eagles (NFC one seed). No thanks to bad football over the last month, the Giants have set themselves back in the playoff race and are now the seven seed.

The defense needs a resurgence in order to take pressure off a weak Giants offense that can only do so much against superior opponents. But in order for that to happen, Martindale will need to return his top defensive backs to help unleash the pass rush, get the unit off the field, and ultimately keep the team in games.

Head coach Brian Daboll says it’s “too early to tell” whether Jackson or McKinney return this Sunday night against Washington. If either does, it would greatly benefit a Giants defense that still must face Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (275 yards, two touchdowns in the last meeting), Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins-Justin Jefferson connection, and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, the current NFL MVP betting favorite.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.