Giants get passing grades for ‘05: Defense

Ok, fans. It's time for the Giants final report card. And just remember that the players are being graded on their entire season's body of work, not just the terrible playoff game that ended the year prematurely. Players not listed received incompletes.

Here goes the defense:

Michael Strahan – Back in the Pro Bowl where he belongs, Strahan was still the key member of New York's defense. He reached double-digit sacks as usual, and provided the stellar run defense and leadership that New York has come to expect. He put to rest any questions there were that he'd be able to bounce back from the first serious injury of his career. Grade: A-

Osi Umenyiora – He kept up with Strahan stride-for-stride all season long, and topped the Giants with 14.5 sacks. And he did it against some of the game's best tackles. More importantly, Umenyiora proved to be above average in the run game as well, which had been the knock on the second-year rising star. No longer. Grade: A-

Kendrick Clancy – He has to be New York's unsung hero this season. Basically signed to provide depth, Clancy came in and not only started, but was the D-line's best tackle all season long. His consistent effort on every play makes it almost certain that the free agent will be back next season. Grade: B+

William Joseph – Nowhere was Willie Joe's importance more obvious than when he didn't play. He disputed any notions that he was a disappointing first-round pick. He posted 19 tackles and two sacks in the 10 games he did play, and was sorely missed in the six he missed. Grade: B

Kenderick Allen – He played in all but two games, posting 21 tackles and a pair of stops along the way. Allen provided solid depth along the line, which dealt with its fair share of injuries as well. Grade: B

Fred Robbins – The starter when camp opened, Robbins was relegated to reserve duty at the outset, but ended up starting six games. He gave his usual solid pass rush, but also proved to be better against the run than he's been known for. Grade: B-

Justin Tuck – There were some rookie moments, but also times where you could see just why the Giants fell in love with the Notre Dame rookie. He has great speed, athleticism and moves, not to mention great strength. The Giants might just have struck gold in Tuck, who finished with 19 tackles, a sack and 12 special teams stops.

Antonio Pierce – If only Pierce hadn't gotten hurt, who knows how much better the Giants defense could have been down the stretch. His high ankle sprain hurt the entire defense, which is built around his ability to track down ball-carriers and make impact plays. He proved to be the defender the Giants could least afford to lose. With 98 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two INTs, Pierce showed exactly what kind of difference he could make. Grade: B+

Nick Greisen – Without a doubt, Greisen was New York's most valuable linebacker just because he kept the unit together while other guys were dropping like flies. He played through numbness during the season's second half and never said a word. He can play all three LB spots and showed without a shadow of a doubt that he's a starter in this league. The only question that remains is where. Grade: B

Carlos Emmons – He was limited to only half the season due to multiple injuries, but played well when he was on the field. He's still one of the game's best at snuffing out opposing tight end threats, but for some reason he wasn't often utilized in that role. Grade: C+

Reggie Torbor – The second-year backer finished a very solid campaign when he started nine games. Torbor certainly made some young player mistakes, but also made some special and heady plays as well. The Giants are confident that Torbor is starting-caliber, which could turn out to be bad news for Emmons. Grade: B

Chase Blackburn – Showed himself very well in his two starts late in the season. His Cinderella run was unfortunately cut short when he suffered a neck injury in Washington on Christmas Eve. He did, however, show enough in limited time to be able to count on being in the LB rotation next season. Grade: B-

Will Allen – Hard to believe he played all season and didn't record even one interception. However, it would be false to say he had a bad season. Allen provided dependable coverage and tackling all year long and his play definitely improved once he was allowed to play more press coverage. However, his year will most likely be remembered for the hat trick he surrendered to Washington's Santana Moss. Grade: B-

Gibril Wilson – One of the steadiest members of New York's secondary, so much was expected of Wilson, who had a phenomenal rookie year cut short by injury. He made it through the year healthy and posted excellent numbers – 110 tackles, three sacks and two picks. The expectations were very high and Wilson didn't disappoint. Grade: B

Brent Alexander – Supposedly the club's weak link, Alexander led the team in INTs with four. His coverage wasn't the greatest, but he was able to make some big plays to help seal away some games. Despite what everyone thought, they could do a lot worse here. Grade: B-

Corey Webster – Not exactly a smashing debut season for the confident Webster, who has all the skills in the world but obviously needs more experience and coaching. The Giants were hoping they'd confidently be able to pen him into next year's starting lineup. They can't just yet, confidently at least. Grade: C-

Curtis Deloatch – He wasn't as bad as it looked out there, but he was pretty bad. In Deloatch's defense, no one expected he'd have to start 14 games this season. Opposing teams picked on him and basically had their way with him. Grade: D

Frank Walker – As bad as Big Blue's secondary was – and it was pretty bad – Walker still only found his way onto the field in seven games and didn't start any. That says it all. Grade: C-

James Butler – The Giants defensive diamond in the rough, the rookie free agent played in all 16 games and even started one. He finished with 18 tackles and a couple of picks, which is quite impressive on an INT-starved club. He might just find himself in the starting lineup next season. Grade: B

Shaun Williams – One of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, Williams' play didn't reach the same level. He missed half the year, but was still able to turn in a couple picks. Grade: C

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