There is a feeling around the New York Giants that their defense has the potential to be special in 2017.
The defense was all-time bad in 2015. They allowed the third-most yards (6,725) in NFL history, only the 1981 Baltimore Colts and 2012 New Orleans Saints allowed more. After upgrading the defense via free agency and the draft, the Giants defense allowed the second fewest points (284) in the league. Only the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots allowed fewer points.
The excitement is so high that linebacker Keenan Robinson turned down multi-year deals with other teams to remain with the Giants. Robinson signed a one-year, $3 million free agent deal in March.
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For Robinson, it wasn’t a hard decision to remain with the Giants.
“Not really,” Robinson said at the 24th annual United Way of New York City Gridiron Gala honoring teammate Mark Herzlich. “Other teams offered multiple-year deals, but I’m still young. A one-year deal is fine. I’m still 27, so, like I said, right now I’m in a great situation. So, I wanted to be a part of it. I was willing to make it work and be flexible as far as that goes.”
Robinson was an integral part of the Giants defense last season. He wasn’t a starter but played in more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps as the nickel linebacker. Robinson was especially effective against the pass. He will more than likely continue that role in 2017. Starting middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is still unsigned. B.J. Goodson will step in as the middle linebacker in base formations.
The Giants (11-5) finished second in the NFL East and made the postseason for the first time since winning Super Bowl XLVI.
They will return nine of 11 eleven starters from 2016. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins signed a free agent deal with the Indianapolis Colts. The Giants drafted Alabama’s Dalvin Thompson to replace Hankins. Thompson’s selection (and Goodson’s selection in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft) was part of the reason the team didn’t re-sign Sheppard.
The Giants defense wants to build on last season.
“We did pretty well,” Robinson said. “The only thing is what we did last year is gone. If we don’t follow with the same stats or better…so for us it’s not starting over but making sure we pick up where we left off to try to get back to that high level of play so that first game we’re ready so we don’t have any setbacks from last year.
“Instead, only going forward to be a top-five defense in all aspects, not just one or two. Like last year we were pretty good in red zone defense and third-down defense but didn’t force enough turnovers. We didn’t have enough sacks. There are things we can improve upon, but we want to be the total package.”