First, here’s my analysis of the run defense. 

Now to the pass D…

There is no area of the Giants harder to predict than pass defense. Three out of four starters in the secondary – Sam Madison, Corey Webster, and Will Demps – are new starters for Big Blue.

Adding to the difficulty of predicting is that it’s hard to know what to expect out of these individual players. Madison is staving off the effects of Father Time and has heard whispers about being over the hill all camp. Demps is coming off knee surgery that sidelined him for the latter part of 2005. And Webster has never started for a season in the NFL before.

However well these three newcomers to the starting lineup perform, one would expect them to do better than last year’s group. With the frustrating Will Allen departed, the overmatched Curtis DeLoatch relegated to his proper place on the bench and special teams (if he even makes the squad), and the solid, but uninspiring Brent Alexander retired, they would be hard press to duplicate last year’s mediocrity.

Statistically, the Giants finished 18 in the NFL against the pass with a DVOA of 2.3%. (Don’t know what DVOA is? Well, it’s an advanced metric created by the smart folks at FootballOutsiders.com that adjusts every play of the NFL season to situation and opponent, and then calibrates statistics accordingly. Click here and scroll down a bit for a more fleshed out explanation. But to make a long story short, 2.3% for defense is a little worse than average, while 2.3% on offense is a little better than average. Conversely, -2.3% for defense is a little better than average for defense, while -2.3% is a little worse than average for offense. Understand? Sort of?)

So anyway, the Giants pass defense, judging by DVOA, was a little worse than average, making it the only facet of the team (run-D, run-O, pass-D, pass-O, special teams) that was below league average.

That the Giants pass defense was below average is particularly egregious when you consider that the Giants had one of the best pass-rushes in the league. Any time you have Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora and you’re pass defense still struggles, it reflects pretty poorly on your defensive backs.

In fact, when the guys up front weren’t sacking the quarterback, the ineptitude of the secondarily was on full display. When the Giants had three or more sacks, the pass defense compiled a -18.1% DVOA, which, for the uninitiated, is somewhere between very good to excellent. In games that Big Blue did not record at least three quarterback sacks (6 of the games last year), the secondary put up a 29.4% DVOA, which, for uninitiated, is horrendous.

The conclusion to draw from these numbers is that our defensive backs were horrible last year, and it was only our dominant pass rush that spared them embarrassing statistics. If only our defensive backs had been average, our pass defense would have been above average.

And there is no reason to think that our acquisitions will not give us at least a average secondary, which, combined with our outstanding pass rush, should give the Giants an above average pass-defense. If we can improve the weakest facet of our team from 18th in the league to, say, 11th, that would be huge, and our free agent dollars (Madison, Demps, McQuarters, Harris) and draft choices (Webster, Peprah, Butler [who was actually an undrafted free agent]) will be well worth it.

Let’s examine these guys individually, using a pretty crude and questionable measurement, the Scout.com ratings. Take these ratings with a grain of salt; we’re talking about the same people that wrote that Tiki has trouble holding onto the ball – in this year’s reports! But just to illustrate the point in an objective way, let’s look at this year’s d-backs who they’re replacing:

Madison: 77    Allen: 70

Webster: 30?!!!    DeLoatch: 59

(Webster’s grade is obviously some sort of glitch. I don’t even think Scout.com would argue that DeLoatch last year was twice as good as Webster will be this year).

Demps: 74    Alexander: NA

(Alexander wasn’t terrible, but Demps is undoubtedly an upgrade)

Wilson: 70    Wilson: 70

Ok, aside from the Webster hiccup, it’s safe to assume that we’ve made significant improvements in the secondary. Even if Webster is a little worse than Allen was last year (which would actually be disappointing), we’ve still substantially upgraded both corner spots, the free safety spot, and, with another year under Gibril’s belt, the strong safety spot.

All of these upgrades add up. Even if the pass-rush doesn’t have quite the banner year that it did last year, the pass defense will be much better this year.