What Giants’ 2016 defense now looks like

John Breitenbach takes a look at the Giants' defense with the additions of Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack), (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images), 
(Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images), 
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack), (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images), (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images), (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

What Giants’ 2016 defense now looks like

The New York Giants have been one of the most active teams this free-agency period, investing big money on the defensive side of the ball. It seems that immediate results are expected of the man who has led the Giants’ personnel department since 2007, General Manager Jerry Reese. The Giants added the top defensive end and one of the best corners on the market—Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins—as well as the top run-stopper in the league, Damon Harrison. Those additions will play alongside Jason Pierre-Paul, who the team re-signed on a one-year contract.

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Defensive line

The Giants’ should have one of the best defensive lines in football because of their investment this offseason. If Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand recovers to the point the club becomes obsolete—or he gains more experience playing with it—New York’s pass rush will be even more fearsome. Even if tackling remains an issue, JPP finished with the 11th-highest pass-rushing grade in 2015, despite rushing the passer just 314 times. He amassed 41 combined pressures (one sack, six hits, and 34 hurries) in those limited reps. Partnering him with Vernon—assuming the former Dolphin’s 2015 was no fluke—gives the Giants one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league. Vernon racked up 81 combined pressures of his own last season, finishing second amongst edge defenders with a 90.7 rushing grade. Robert Ayers will prove better value for money, but Vernon can be a difference-maker off the edge.

On the interior, the Giants brought in the league’s top pure run-stuffing defensive lineman. Damon Harrison is immovable in the ground game; he excels at occupying double-teams and makes plays when single-blocked. No interior defensive lineman (DT, NT or 3-4 DE) aside from J.J. Watt has recorded a better run-stop percentage than 12.9 percent. (In 2012, Watt recorded a whopping 17.1 run-stop percentage.) Still, that figure lags some way behind Damon Harrison’s 2015 figure of 18.1 percent. Harrison recorded 49 stops from just 271 snaps (missing just two tackles), finishing the year atop our rankings with a 97.3 grade in that facet of play.

He doesn’t offer much as a pass-rusher (70.4 grade), but there are no better run-stuffers on the planet right now. The addition of Harrison will allow Jonathan Hankins to kick out to three-technique, where he may make more of an impact as a pass-rusher with more one-on-one opportunities. The Giants could use more depth on the interior, where Cullen Jenkins (71.7 overall grade) is declining, and Jay Bromley (66.3) and Markus Kuhn (47.7) have failed to develop.


Reese also places significant value on the cornerback position. The five-year, $62 million, $30 million guaranteed contract handed to Janoris Jenkins is evidence of that. Jenkins’ contract follows the one he gave to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a couple of seasons back, worth $35 million over five years, with close to $15 million guaranteed. Reese has also significant draft resources in corners. Since becoming GM, he’s spent four high draft picks on the position, including a pair of firsts, a second, and a third. Corner is clearly another priority of this Giants’ front office.

Janoris Jenkins was overpaid, that much is obvious, but partnering him with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gives the Giants a pair of playmaking corners. In theory, the boosted pass-rush should lead to turnovers by the back end. Rodgers-Cromartie is incredibly inconsistent, but had one of his better years in 2015. Overall, he allowed a completion percentage of 59.5 percent for 533 yards, just one touchdown, picked off four passes, and made seven pass deflections. Rodgers-Cromartie finished the year with an 83.6 grade in coverage, good for 10th-best at the position.

Jenkins, meanwhile, is even more of a gambler than Rodgers-Cromartie. His numbers are less impressive, because those gambles don’t always pay off. Overall, he allowed a completion percentage of 67.7 for 738 yards, five scores, three picks, and 10 pass deflections. While Jenkins is far from a great player, he’s still an above-average starter, ending the year with a 79.8 grade in coverage. With Trevin Wade (71.0 overall grade) proving adequate in the slot, the Giants have a more-than-solid trio of corners for 2016.


In many ways, describing linebacker as an afterthought for the Giants is an exaggeration, seeing as Reese barely seems to consider the position at all. The Giants have invested a high draft pick in a linebacker once during the GM’s tenure—a second-round pick used on Clint Sintim in 2009—preferring instead to spend late-round draft picks and veteran-minimum contracts on the position. The Giants haven’t added a high-level free agent LB since Michael Boley was added that same year.

Five linebackers played more than 400 snaps for the Giants in 2015. Jasper Brinkley (66.5 overall grade) was the most effective, but still wasn’t a good starter. While he was dominant against the run (94.7 grade), he really struggled in coverage (41.7). Brinkley has just hit the market, so isn’t guaranteed to be back.

2014 fifth-round selection Devon Kennard flashed potential (62.6), but couldn’t stay healthy. Veteran linebacker and former Saint Jonathan Casillas failed to provide a solution to the Giants’ long-standing issues at the position (38.7). Uani’ Unga (38.7) and J.T. Thomas (60.9) also struggled. Short of an unforeseen investment in April, the Giants will hope to succeed without quality linebacker play.


The Giants have invested slightly more resources in the safety position than at linebacker. Landon Collins was taken in the second round last year, and Reese invested a first and third in 2008 and 2010 respectively. The likes of Stevie Brown took significant snaps for too many years as part of the Giants’ secondary, however. Last year, Brandon Meriweather (60.2) somehow received another opportunity to start and proceeded to struggle. Even Craig Dahl (51.5) took over 400 snaps, despite never proving to be a capable NFL player. The Giants will likely rely on journeymen again to man the free safety spot in 2016.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Ben bolanos

    Surprised Trevin Wade graded out so well @71 but he seemed to get better as the season went on.

    Don’t forget Bennett Jackson, might be the best safety on the roster.

    Excited to see Owa Odighizuwa and what he can do when healthy.

    How does Jay Bromley compare as a pass rusher v run defender? Always thought he was a better pass rusher

    Also expect Keenan Robinson to win the starting MLB spot, hopefully playing in his 2014 form.

    A lot to be excited about for the Giants.

    • jerseyjoehaven

      Wish the Giants resign DE Ayers, MLB Brinkley, and CB Amukamara along with a few other DB’s and an O-Linemen. I will be happy with that till the draft.

      • Sam Sirin

        Considering they have about 20 mil to spend (taking out money for draftees), there’s no way they’d be able to sign even Prince and Ayers, let alone them, Brinkley and multiple DBs and a lineman.

        • jerseyjoehaven

          Brinkley 2 million, Ayers 7 milion. The team needs good backup or in this case good rotational players. The Giants dont have much on backups. I would rather get rid of the subs and keep Ayers and Brinkley. Robinson has a bad accident history. Team needs good rotational players. Hell Ayers had 9.5 sacks last year. What player has that on there history.

          • George T. Manson

            Ayers got most of sacks when JPP came back because he was benefitying from JPP getting doubled.

  • mormonrock124

    I guess PFF doesn’t recognize injuries to starters and backups as a reason why guys like Dahl and Merriweather ended getting so many snaps.

  • jerseyjoehaven

    The biggest problem with the Giants and Reese. His problem is in the past going after non-starting players that end up starting. Then the team falls apart. This time in free agency he over spent on most of the players. Signing JPP for 10.5 mil a year is crazy. The team does not know how he will be playing next year. I would have signed him for 5 mil with insentives to reach 10.5 mil. He has 8.5 mil guaranteed in his contract.

    • fuster

      hell no, joe, signing him for one year wasn’t crazy at all. it was quite a fine move. JPP will likely turn out to be worth more than he’ll be paid this year.

      if not, it’s no big waste of money. they aren’t married to him on a one-year, they’re just going steady

      • jerseyjoehaven

        I did not say signing him was crazy it was the amount and how it was set up that was crazy. The team has no Idea how JPP will be on the field. He was a mess for all intents as he was missing tackles and sacking the QB. He could not grab with his right hand to stop the runningbacks or the quarterbacks. Was he disruptive? Yes he was but in most cases he could not finish but at some points he lead the player into another defensive player for the stop. His contract should have been cut up with a base at about 5 mil then escalating higher with Stops, Sacks, TFL’s, etc. Topped out at 10 or 11 mil for the year. I am now more worried about not signing DE Ayers and MLB Brinkley and a few DB’s too.

        • fuster

          joe, they just watching him playing the last half of the season.

          they have a dam good idea of his capabilities…… and from what I saw he’s still good.

          let me ask you this….. if they had squeezed him and had him sign for $5M instead of $8M….then they would have saved 3 mil he stinks this year.

          on the other hand, if he plays well….and he’s up for a new contract as a free agent next season…..would the 3 mil saved be worth having him go elsewhere because he was squeezed?

          • jerseyjoehaven

            If I could have to pick between JPP after accident and DE Mario Williams I would have picked Williams. Williams better history compaired to JPP and Williams comes cheaper. Reguardless of JPP problems from the 4 of July accident the Giants always have worried about him. The accident showed the flaws as JPP is a manchild that does foolish things and the 4th he paid big for it. Really I would have traded him a few years ago. Also you said if the Giants Squeezed him on this contract all the Giants have to do is show him the money next year. He will follow the money. He did want the Phins or Tampa to get involved in bidding. The only place other then the Giants he wants is his home teams he lives in Florida. They did not want to bid for him.

          • Steve

            Mario had 19 tackles in 15 games. JPP had 28 tackles in 8 games. Nuff said.

          • George T. Manson


        • Sam Sirin

          Dude, the Giants got to see how he performed with the injury this past season and he was still quite good. Giving him a one-year, prove-it deal is exactly the type of motivation to get the best out of him. JPP is even proving how motivated he is RIGHT NOW.

          It’s comical that you’d sign Super Mario over JPP considering he’s older and was way less effective last year. But stick to your opinions.

    • TheGiants

      You have to remember that arizona wanted him too. No way he would have took 5 mill after the world seen what hes capable of. Nfl history showed me that you can still be elite after losing a finger. Jpp is worth 10 mill

      • mac

        Its 2 fingers and a thumb not a single finger

  • jerseyjoehaven

    Collins showed he was not the first round player. He could not contain in space.

    • TheGiants

      The kid had 112 total tackles as a safety. He proved he was a 1st round pick. 112 tackles is linebacker numbers.

      • Hdjdjdj

        He proved that he is not a cover saftie but instead is a hard hitting up in the box saftie which i say is 2nd round talent not a bust nor great but potentially a good starter

  • crosseyedlemon

    Jerry Reese is doing his part to give the incoming coaching staff some upgrades to work with so you have to give him credit for that even if he is digging deep into the piggy bank. Not sure how all these new pieces will be integrated together but the defense was such a disaster last season that something drastic had to be done.