The second (Giants) coming of Steve Spagnuolo aka Spags 2.0 means a return to a blitz-heavy power defense that can only recover after finishing No. 29 overall last year. Spagnuolo’s preference for the 4-3 as well as his ability to make do with a sub-elite secondary is well documented and an open trade secret. Much harder to gauge is how the former Rams coach will utilize the personnel at his disposal to fit his scheme.
Where in his first stint, Spags’ arsenal contained weapons such as Antonio Pierce, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Michael Strahan, this year he will shepherd the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, J.T. Thomas, Jonathan Casillas, Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard et al; meaning fans should anticipate a depth-based defense in which quantity beats quality. In other words, it will be a team effort in which Spagnuolo will be constantly changing looks and schemes, rotating players, and making in-game audibles, something the players may be entrusted with as the weeks wear on.
For Spagnuolo, the mobility, talent, or footballing IQ of his current squad is not in doubt; instead, their collective history of injury is a bigger concern. Jon Beason, for instance, has not been shy in professing his leadership ambitions and is a solid middle linebacking option but he’s played in only 24 games since the 2011 season. The same can be said for Jameel McClain who had a spinal cord contusion as a member of his previous employer, the Baltimore Ravens, or freshly-franchised Pierre-Paul who underwent back surgery in 2013 to fix a herniated disc.
If fit, fans can expect Big Blue’s defense to show major improvements ala Ben McAdoo, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., and the offense. For one, Spags will blitz a lot more often while also adapting the defensive gameplan as and when he sees fit. Fans can also anticipate an improvement against the run with players not as tied to the zone as they were under Perry Fewell, the team’s previous defensive coordinator. Following this, Spags will be looking for leaders that can develop the team and effectively marshal the on-field troops. This means the need to trust one another and play within the system, understanding its deficiencies and learning from early-season mistakes. Early, mid or late, fans of the New York Giants will be hoping that Steve Spagnuolo can rekindle a similar defensive fire to the one he created from 2007 to 2009, years that included a postseason birth as well as a championship.