Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 02-22-2023

Dave Klein was the Giants' beat writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books and he was one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls up until last year. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.

How can the Giants improve the secondary in 2023?

By Jason Leach
The 2022 Giants will be remembered as the year they brought back credibility to the franchise. They ended their streak of five consecutive seasons with double-digit losses, with a 9-7-1 regular season record, and a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the wild card round.

However, there is still a ton of work that needs to be done in order for the team to be considered a contender. There are many areas on the roster that need to be upgraded this off-season, the most notable being wide receiver and the interior offensive line.

But there's another area that needs improvement not getting enough attention and that's the secondary. If you just look at the numbers you would say to yourself the secondary is a little above average since it had the 14th-ranked pass defense in the league (214 yards per game). However, the defense managed only six interceptions on the season, and when playing against better passing offenses on the schedule, it struggled mightily.

When you look at the three games played against Jalen Hurts of the Eagles, the two games against Kirk Cousins of the Vikings, and the one game when they faced Dak Prescott, New York gave up an average of 238 yards through the air as well as 11 touchdowns. Those numbers would have been higher if the Eagles hadn't let up during their 38-7 victory in the Divisional round.

Even though the Giants were without Xavier McKinney and Adoree Jackson for the majority of those games, it's an area that still needs to get better and add more depth, especially when you factor in the team's opponents for the 2023 season.

In addition to playing the Eagles and Cowboys twice next season, Big Blue will also have to face the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, who both had top-seven passing offenses in 2022. So it's imperative that the secondary gets better heading into next season.

The question is, how do they do it?

For one thing, GM general manager Joe Schoen needs to seriously consider re-signing Julian Love, one of the many free agents on the team. Love is arguably the most versatile defender in the secondary and led the team in tackles with 124 this past season.

But above all else, the Giants need to solidify cornerback who plays on the opposite side of Adoree Jackson. The team tried a couple of players at the right cornerback position, including second-year Aaron Robinson and veteran Fabian Moreau.

Robinson played in the season opener against the Titans but then missed the following two games after an emergency appendectomy. He returned in Week Four against the Bears but played only 12 snaps before he partially tore his ACL and MCL. Moreau would start the next 11 games and finished the season with 66 tackles and 10 pass defenses.

But Moreau is a free agent and may not be best suited as a starter, and there's uncertainty if Robinson will be ready for training camp. So in order to make an upgrade at the position and factoring Daniel Jones latest contract demands, the Giants need to look at acquiring a corner in the draft. Financially, New York can't afford to acquire one of the top corners in free agency such as Buccaneers' starter corner Jamel Dean. So they'll need to take the route the old fashioned way, and that is to build through the draft.

New York hasn't had much success over the last decade and a half of taking a cornerback in round one. Aaron Ross (20th overall pick in 2007) was part of two Super Bowl teams but never lived up to the expectations of being a first-round pick. Prince Amukamara, the 19th overall pick in 2011, won a Super Bowl as a rookie, but just as with Ross, didn't play up to expectations and was plagued by injuries.

DeAndre Baker, who New York took with the 30th pick in the 2019 draft, is a pick that will go down as one of the worst in the history of the franchise.

However, if New York wants to once again try taking a corner in the first round, they can look at Penn State's Joey Porter Jr. if he's still on the board when they are on the clock.

He is the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers' linebacker Joey Porter, and at 6-2 and 195, has the size you want from a starting corner, along with good speed and footwork.

He's the prototypical "press corner," which is ideal in today's game and he had 20 pass defenses as a senior. However, the one knock on Porter is that in four seasons with the Nittany Lions he only had one interception.

Another first-round option is Georgia sophomore cornerback Kelee Ringo, who missed the 2020 season due to surgery on his labrum. Over the next two seasons, he appeared in 29 games and recorded 63 tackles and 15 pass defenses. His 6-2, 205-pound frame allows him to be physical at the line of scrimmage to knock receivers off their route.

The concerns for Ringo would be that he's only had two years of playing experience, and how much did he benefit from playing on the best team in college?

But of course, New York doesn't have to take a defensive back in round one, since claiming a wide receiver seems more appropriate for the franchise. The brain trust can see if Northwestern corner Cameron Mitchell is available in round two, or if Michigan corner DJ Turner is available in the middle rounds. Both Mitchell and Turner have appeared in over 25 collegiate games, which will benefit them at the next level.

They do need to be coached up and you can expect growing pains as they get acclimated to the speed of the NFL game.

But what the team is also banking for an improved secondary in 2023 are two players from the 2022 draft class - cornerback Cor'Dale Flott (81st pick overall) and safety Dane Belton (114th pick). Can take the next stride in their development in their second season?

Injuries forced Flott to play a bigger role than expected, as he started six games and was credited with 15 tackles and two passes defended. Belton appeared in 15 games and started five of them and had 24 tackles and two interceptions.

The playing experience they received will be valuable in defensive coordinator Wink Martindale's aggressive schemes. If they can improve on their performances as rookies, it will bode well for the entire secondary moving forward.

And if the team can add one or two talented rookies to go along with Jackson, McKinney, Love and the progress of the 2022 draft picks, we'll see a much better secondary in 2023.

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