NEW YORK — The New York Giants’ defensive front is one of the league’s best, but the defense of the Giants’ defense was still one of its biggest weaknesses when they hosted the New Orleans Saints.
That is no longer the case after the Giants used the first-year coordinator Mike Mularkey to re-establish the unit, giving defensive end Justin Tuck the opportunity to play the role of starting nose tackle.
The Giants got the start from Jelani Jenkins, who had an impressive preseason and played well in a dominant performance against the Saints, but their starting lineup has a lot to build on.
They have the pieces to compete for the AFC West title again this season, but they need to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this defense.
The Jets will need to be at their best if they want to win the division.
That means a defense that can cover, stop the run, get after the quarterback, and rush the passer.
They also need to continue to improve as a unit.
Mularkeys offensive coordinator Kevin Coyle had a similar role in New England.
The Patriots were in a playoff race when Mularks offense started to flourish, and he helped build a strong front that was the backbone of a Super Bowl team.
The defense played well when the Patriots were ranked in the top five in yards allowed and points allowed in 2014, but there was also a lot of turnover that was a major concern.
The offense, as expected, struggled.
The offensive line, which had been one of New England’s best in 2014 was the only area of concern.
Mules offense will be built on the same foundation.
The New England offense has been improved on the offensive line with former Giants defensive tackle Michael Johnson and defensive end Shaq Lawson joining the unit.
The pass rush was strong last season, and the secondary was the top unit in the NFL, but injuries and inconsistent play from the offensive and defensive lines made things difficult in 2014.
It will be important to get the pass rush back on the field.
M.J. Williams has been the main piece of that puzzle, and Williams should have a chance to start at nose tackle against New Orleans.
The second-year veteran has played in nine games, all at defensive end.
Williams had a strong rookie season and should start at the left tackle spot.
He played the majority of his snaps at defensive tackle in New Orleans last season.
Justin Tucks defensive line was one of Mulark’s strengths last season with the Giants.
He had a productive preseason and did well in the playoffs, but he had some struggles in the regular season, too.
It’s the same situation in New York.
Tuck was a rookie last year and the Giants struggled at the position.
He was a starter for most of the season and had some issues with injuries.
Tucks defense is a different story.
He started the last two games at outside linebacker and has played very well for the Giants, particularly on special teams.
He will need a lot more time to get acclimated, but Tuck is ready to get on the court with the big boys.
It’ll be important for the defensive line to stay healthy and not give up easy sacks.
The secondary has some questions.
Linebacker Darian Thompson had a disappointing rookie season.
He struggled to play in all 16 games and has only played five.
Defensive tackle Landon Collins was signed to a one-year deal, and both Tuck and linebacker Dontae Johnson were signed to one-day deals.
Both have played well.
They will have to do a better job with the run defense and take a big step forward on special team play.
The defensive end position is another big question mark.
Former Giants linebacker Deon Bush and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson have not been able to find consistency.
Bush had a down year, but Richardson had some of the best years of his career last season as he played in every game.
He has a chance at the starting defensive end spot, but it will be difficult for him to get back to his old form.
Safety Harrison Smith had a big offseason with the New York Panthers and is expected to be a big part of the Panthers defense.
He showed that he has the physical attributes to be an effective player in the league, but that wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the Giants roster.
He is still young, but I would expect him to be more consistent this year.
That would allow Mularkeys secondary to improve and give the Giants a good chance at winning in 2016.