By Matt Rybaltowski
When asked to compare former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
with his replacement Bill Sheridan, defensive end Osi Umeniyora could find few similarities. On the sideline, Spagnuolo is animated and intense, while Sheridanis thoughtful and reserved. Like others on the defense, though, Umenioyra claims the adjustment will be seamless.
“You are not going to run into too many personalities like Spags. He was high-strung, he was into it, not too many people are like that,” Umeniyora told reporters in a late-March interview. “There are different ways to skin a cat, his (Sheridan’s) way is different, but I think we are going to respond better.”
After Sheridan, 50, was named the team’s new defensive coordinator in mid-January, Giants players were instantly awed by his intellect, his leadership and his organizational skills. For the past four years, Sheridan demonstrated all three qualities as the team’s linebackers coach. This season, he hopes to have a similar impact on the entire defense.
“You can just tell the way he puts his words together and elaborates on things that he is very intelligent,” Umeniyora said.
Sheridan possesses more than 27 years of experience as a defensive coach. He has served four separate stints as linebackers coach at Michigan State University, Cincinnati, Maine and Army. In 2001, Sheridan functioned as both the safeties and special teams coach at Notre Dame. Before coming to the Giants in 2005, he coached the Michigan defensive line under defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann. In the two years prior, Sheridan served his fifth stint as linebackers coach, also with the Wolverines.
“He was a great asset to me at Michigan and everywhere he’s been, he’s done a great job,” said Herrmann, who has replaced Sheridan as linebackers coach. “He knows the game of football, he studies the game of football, he’s one of those guys if I ever have a question there’s no doubt I would go to him.”
Though Herrmann and Sheridan ran a 3-4 set at Michigan, both are familiar with the nuances of the 4-3 formation the Giants ran under Spagnuolo. While Sheridan indicated that his defense will present less multiple sets than the team did with the former defensive coordinator, he added there will be few changes this year. Sheridan plans on attacking opposing offenses from a 4-3 formation for the entirety of the season.
“We’re not changing a lot, there won’t be a lot of changes. There will be wrinkles that you might not even notice,” Sheridan told reporters in late-April. “The players will notice it a little bit, but basically we will be running the same stuff. It’s been a big improvement from what Steve brought from Philadelphia. They have always had a good defense there and it will be very, very similar to those guys.”
The Giants add 6-foot-7, 304 pound defensive end Chris Canty and weak side linebacker Michael Boley to a unit that ranked fifth in the NFL overall last year. Canty had three sacks in a backup role with the Dallas Cowboys last season, while Boley made 73 tackles with the Atlanta Falcons. Boley has already established a rapport with the new coaching staff.
“They’re good guys, I’ve had a chance to sit and talk with them and they’re both down to earth and good people,” said Boley of Sheridan and Herrmann in an interview with giants.com. “Just from having a couple talks with them I am very excited to work with them.”
Much like Umenyiora, head coach Tom Coughlin believes there will be little drop-off with the addition of Sheridan. Coughlin expects his front four to pressure opposing quarterbacks as aggressively as it did under Spagnuolo. If so, the Giants could earn the top seed in the NFC for the second consecutive season.
"Bill is a very good football coach," said Coughlin during the announcement of Sheridan’s hiring in January. "He does an excellent job of teaching, of reinforcing what we aspire to be with our defensive team. He's coached our linebackers, he's given a big assist to Steve in all that he has done." ####