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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — While Pat Graham isn't a big fan of playbooks, the slimmed-down New York Giants defensive coordinator did let his mind wander about some new formations for his unit while vacationing near Cape Cod this summer.
It would be the formations that would give opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks something to worry about. The 42-year-old coach didn't talk specifically about any of his thoughts, but he and his players joked last year about using nine defensive backs for a play.
It never happened. What did happen was Graham turned around one of the NFL's worst defensive team in 2019 and finished with the ninth-ranked unit. The Giants won six games mainly because of the defense.
That's why much is expected again from the defense, which was led by lineman Leonard Williams last season. The only serious loss in the offseason was defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to Minnesota as a free agent. Danny Shelton was signed as a free agent and Austin Johnson and B.J. Hill will fill the middle in the 3-4 formation.
Leading tackler Blake Martinez guides a young and quick linebacker corps that added Azeez Ojulari in the draft (second round). The secondary is very strong and deep with shutdown cornerback James Bradberry joined on the other side by free agent signee Adoree Jackson.
“If you leave it to me, I might go a little crazy,” Graham said about adding formations for the defense. “I’m sitting there on vacation on the (Martha's) Vineyard this summer, yeah, I start thinking about stuff. But then you got to think about this, you got to be mindful, what are your core principles? What do we want to be?”
Graham started off training camp telling his unit to forget about last year. Nothing carries over. Everything is back to basics. Play tough. Play hard. Hit. Avoid penalties.
Along the way, Graham wants his players to build a foundation, understand those core principles, then study opponents and grow.
Graham said one of the biggest differences this season is that many of the players have reached that point. They've learned. They can come to the sideline and talk to the coaches about what is happening on the field. His job as coordinator is to get his players ready to handle what happens between the sidelines. That's coaching. At some point, they have to take over.
“They get paid a lot of money to make those split-second decisions, decipher those plays and all those scenarios that come up,” he said.
Less than two weeks into training camp, it's obvious Graham isn't happy with what he has seen. He had a blowup on the field this week and let his unit have it verbally.
From the press area, it seemed he was angry with his pass defense.
“I’m more concerned about the run game,” he said. “So, if you were wondering about that, I might be mad about that, you never know. I’m more worried about the run game. The pass rush will come. I know it’s a passing league, but I’m not there right now.”
NOTES: Judge had no update on the hamstring injury free agent WR Kenny Golladay sustained earlier this week. ... G Shane Lemieux, who hurt his knee last week, took part in walk-through work on Thursday.
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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press