The NFL is a constantly changing league with offenses evolving every year and defenses usually following suit to stop a specific kind of offense. Now, in the NFL, offenses are passing the ball at a rate north of 59% as a league average. Only the Buffalo Bills ran the ball more often than they passed it this past season.
This article will argue that a base 4-2-5 defense over a traditional 4-3-4 is a better defense for the New York Giants
A 4-2-5 Scheme Would Be Better For the New York Giants Defense
In 2015, the New York Giants had the worst pass defense in the league, as they allowed more than 300 yards through the air per game. This off-season, the Giants front office came into free agency determined to fix that and they signed Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins. Those moves should mean the G-Men upgraded their defensive line and cornerback positions, but they have added only an injury prone Keenan Robinson to their weak linebacker corps and they have not added a safety. The team seems fairly confident in their young safeties to compete next to Landon Collins as a starter, but should they? NFL offenses are passing the ball more than ever so why don’t the Giants just play with an extra safety or corner all of the time instead of relying on the weak and injury prone linebacker corps? None of the linebackers on the team played in all 16 games last season and when they did play they were largely ineffective. Now, the safeties were ineffective and injured last year as well, but injuries such as Natnael Berhe’s blood clot are more freak injuries than things to be concerned about for the future. Also, it is easier to find a starting caliber safety in the second round of the draft than it is to find a starting caliber linebacker. The Giants should wait until round two to draft a safety where a guy like Vonn Bell will likely be available and then use their first round pick to round out their offensive line.
Now, let’s look into how a 4-2-5 scheme would be better for their defense. First off, the team has solidified their defensive line which will now be Olivier Vernon at right defensive end, Damon Harrison and Jonathan Hankins as the two defensive tackles, and Jason Pierre-Paul as the left defensive end. That is a defensive line that should strike fear into opposing running games and pass blockers as it is hard to single out who should be double teamed first. This defensive line should allow for many seven man coverage looks since they will be able to create pressure themselves and disrupt the passing and running games. So for the seven people in coverage, two will have to be cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins, two will be safeties with one of them being Landon Collins, and two will be linebackers which will probably include Devon Kennard when he is healthy. So with the way the Giants played last year on defense, wouldn’t it be better to have an extra defensive back to cover the opponent’s top tight end instead uselessly trotting out another linebacker who struggles in coverage against tight ends?
So, with the defensive line and cornerbacks set in stone and at least one linebacker and one safety set in stone, how would the defense look? Well, in two wide receiver sets and a man-zone defense, it would have Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins matching up on the receivers, and either Bennett Jackson or Mykele Thompson covering the number one tight end, with J.T. Thomas and Devon Kennard covering the halfback and the second tight end or the fullback respectfully, with the four defensive linemen being defensive linemen and then Natnael Berhe or Mykele Thompson over the top in a deep zone and Landon Collins playing a shallow zone over the middle. I would be much more confident in that base defense than seeing Jasper Brinkley struggle in coverage or be worried about Keenan Robinson’s lack of ability in run defense, especially when opposing teams run right at him.
Now, the 4-2-5 does have a major deficiency and that is the run defense. Most safeties are not nearly as good as linebackers in tackling running backs, but that is why the Giants have Landon Collins. Collins covering the underneath part of the middle is the same zone that is usually covered by linebackers and he is very good in run defense and him playing underneath would be like having a linebacker playing slightly deeper. Collins is also much faster than most linebackers so with him lining up deeper than a normal linebacker Collins could disguise what he is doing and make it less likely for the offense to send a blocker his way.
So to recap, the 4-2-5 would help improve the Giants woeful pass defense by keeping better coverage players on the field more often. It is easier to find value at safety positions later in the draft than it is for linebackers. The G-Men have a defensive line that can disrupt both the passing and running games which makes having an extra linebacker more of a luxury. The talent they have at the safety positions has more upside and versatility than the talent they have at linebacker. And finally, they have a versatile enough safety in Landon Collins, who can help halt opponents’ running game, even if the defensive line isn’t up to the challenge. Their defense won’t suffer much due to Collins’ abilities in the box as almost an extra linebacker.