Patrick Graham and staff are molding several young, draft-centric players with a few key free agents.
Joe Judges’s desire for versatility and multiple schemes will be on full display.

Here’s GiantsNation’s look at the Defense.

In an interview on Friday night at halftime of the Giants Blue-White Scrimmage, General Manager Dave Gettleman spoke of the three-year rule referring to the continued maturity of this young Giants team.

There are several second and third-year players on this roster.  The growth of this defense will be key to the team’s success this season.

Defensive Line

Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, BJ Hill, RJ McIntosh, Austin Johnson

While this is a very young group, it is also the Giants’ most experienced unit playing together.  The top five all return from last year’s team.  Chris Slayton, a 7th round draft pick in 2019, spent last season on the practice squad.   He is on the bubble and battling Austin Johnson and Daylon Mack for the last DL spot.

The Giants added Johnson, a 5th-year player, as a free agent back in March.  Mack was waived by the Ravens at the start of August.

There could be another addition to this unit depending on the scheme Graham implements.  But, I’ll give the nod to Johnson to start the season with the team.  Slayton may head to the practice squad.

Edge/Outside Line Backer

Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Kyler Fackrell, Carter Coughlin

This unit is better with the return of Markus Golden (10 sacks in 2019).  Lorenzo Carter very active during Friday’s scrimmage “touching” Giants QBs for five “sacks”.

The Giants will need both Zo and X-Man to take a big leap forward this year and team with the Defensive Line to apply consistent pressure on opposing QBs.  Fackrell was signed as a free agent and looks to return to his form of 2018 when he recorded 10 sacks for the Packers.

Carter Coughlin, a late-round draft choice, had a good scrimmage and was recognized by Coach Judge for his efforts to set the edge on run plays.  UDFAs Cam Brown and Nick Lalos are on the outside, looking in.  Brown may be a special teams player or practice squad.

Middle Linebacker

Blake Martinez, Devante Downs, Ryan Connelly, TJ Brunson, David Mayo (injured to start the season)

Blake Martinez has been a tackling machine since he joined the NFL.  When Martinez signed with the Giants this offseason, it gave the team a respected field general to keep this young defense focused every play.  David Mayo is nursing a knee injury which may lead him to start the season on IR.  Ryan Connelly has been slow to return to full speed practice from his 2019 knee injury.  This leaves an opportunity for someone to step up and take the slot next to Martinez.

Devante Downs has definitely taken advantage of playing time and has shown good skills in pass defense and adequate run defense. Downs spent the last half of 2019 on the Giants roster, but only played special teams.  He could be regaining his “Butkus Award” nominee status that evaporated with a season-ending injury in 2018.  Not to be lost in the competition for a slot on the team is Tae Crowder, another Butkus nominee from 2019.

The middle linebacker is crowded, but very thin right now.  I give the start alongside Martinez to Downs right now, mainly because he’s out there every day.   A special mention to Josiah Tauaefa, a football guy that played his heart out last year.  He was very good on special teams which could be his only shot to make this team.


James Bradberry, Darnay Holmes, Corey Ballentine, Montre Hartage, Grant Haley

There are ten players vying for five CB slots.  Yet, things might just get a little clearer with Logan Ryan now in camp.  Bradberry was signed as the Giant’s top free agent to be the CB1.  Darnay Holmes is proving to be the steal of the draft and should secure the slot CB position.  Corey Ballentine will be a backup and could be part of secondary packages if Ryan slides to Safety.  Montre Hartage came to the Giants from Miami and is familiar with Coach Graham’s defense.  He gets the fourth slot.

That leaves Grant Haley looking to survive.  Haley has been with the Giants since 2018.  The team has made a conscious effort to upgrade the talent at CB.  It’s been a quiet camp for Chris Williamson, the Giants 7th round draft choice.  UDFAs Prince Smith and Jarren Williams have flashed some good skills.  They may end up on the practice squad.

KeiVarae Russell, Brandon Williams just arrived in camp on 28 August after being waived by other teams.


Jabril Peppers, Logan Ryan, Julian Love, Nate Ebner, Sean Chandler

The Giants agreed to terms with CB/S Logan Ryan on Monday.  This signing instantly brings experience, versatility, swagger, and credibility to the Giants secondary.  We pencil Ryan in as a Safety, but he can play CB just as smoothly.  In fact, his presence now may give Coach Graham the chance to use the secondary packages he planned for Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, and Julian Love.

Simply swap Logan Ryan for the injured McKinney.  But, Ryan might best fit as the second outside corner right now.  We’ll watch for his practices to see where the coaches play him.

Julian Love continues to shine and show versatility.  Nate Ebner is on this list as a Safety, but his primary duties will be to anchor the special teams.  Sean Chandler, Jaquarius Landrews and Dravon Askew-Henry are fighting for special teams and the fifth Safety spot.  Chandler gets it for his experience.

Special Teams

  • Kicker: Graham Gano

  • Punter: Riley Dixon

  • Longsnapper: Casey Kreiter

So, there you have it.  The Giants 53-Man roster.  Book it.  Lock it in.  And now, prepare for the craziest week of the preseason as teams start cutting from 80 players down to 53 players.

As players hit waivers, there will be surprises and there will be movement as GMs and Coaches start shuffling and tweaking the roster as players become available.

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