Tough Pick: Which New York Football Team Has The Better Secondary?
Over the years, the New York sports media has tried everything in its power to get Giants and Jets fans to care about their annual preseason meeting.
Whether it's because the teams play in different conferences, or because their fan bases live (for the most part) in different parts of the greater New York area, or because, deep down, nobody really cares about preseason games, neither fan base has ever felt threatened (or over-confident) enough to really turn the Meadowlands showdown into an event.
It hasn't helped that the teams are rarely competitive at the same time, and that is true again this season. The Giants, provided they can get over their health concerns, are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Jets, on the other hand, are optimistic but ultimately in transition.
But if there is one scrap of controversy that can be wrung out of Saturday's game, one remotely meaningful debate that could conceivably be had between blue and green-clad fans tomorrow night, it is this:
Which team has a better secondary?
From a purely statistical standpoint, this might seem like a strange debate. The Giants finished 8th in pass defense last year against one of the toughest schedules in the league, playing in a division featuring the pass-happy Cowboys and Eagles. The Jets, playing a comparatively lighter schedule in a much less aerially potent division, finished 29th.
Jets fans will argue that the Giants' pass rush gives them an advantage, but it's less significant than one might imagine: The Giants generated just one more sack than the Jets did last year. And with Rex Ryan's aggressive, blitz-crazy defense in place this season, pressuring the quarterback will be the least of the Jets' worries.
But this year, changes to the Jets' defense go well beyond scheme. Gang Green added a ball-hawking corner in Lito Sheppard, and a scrappy film-nut safety in Jim Leonhard to their roster in the off-season, and they also expect second-year corner Dwight Lowery to improve on a tremendous rookie year in which he had 16 passes defended and an interception.
Pair that talent with Darrelle Revis, who finished with five interceptions last season (tied for second in the NFL), and Kerry Rhodes, a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, and that's an awfully impressive last line of defense.
The Giants, by contrast, are going to be relying on growth and cohesion this season. If training camp is any indication, there is plenty of both. The defense notched 30 interceptions up in Albany, even with last year's starting corners, Aaron Ross and Corey Webster, missing significant portions of camp with nagging injuries.
Second year players Terrell Thomas and Kenny Phillips both look vastly improved, and the entire team is comfortable with a defensive scheme that has been in place since 2007.
It's probably not enough to drag New York into a civil war. But with the regular season still two agonizing weeks away, this debate should give New York sports fans something to get heated up about.
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