Second Year Players Poised to Make an Impact:  Part 1 – Defense

by Steven Ekenstierna (@Stevie_oneduhh)

By now most Giant fans, especially those who follow NYGiantsRush, are well informed on the 2017 draft class. Many even know about the undrafted free agent signings.  So, let’s take a look at some of the Defensive players from the 2016 class that hope to become impact players in 2017.

Eli Apple:

Quietly, Apple had an outstanding first year at a position that generally takes longer to acclimate to at the pro level.  At 6’1”, 200 lbs., he has a lean frame that allows for him to add some muscle.  Despite not being considered a “big” cornerback, Apple excelled in press coverage, showing the skills needed inside the first 3 yards of the line of scrimmage, which define the cornerback position in the NFL today.

His reported work effort and natural instincts allowed him to settle into a mainstay role opposite Janoris Jenkins in a very competitive secondary that plays at an elite level.  With his success as a rookie, one can only project a bright future.  

Taking his game to the next level in 2017 will start with knowing how to stay in the hip pocket of receivers, especially if the play is extended behind the line of scrimmage.  He has a tendency to allow receivers to separate if the pass rush does not get there. 

Expectations for better ball skills are expected.  Knowing the speed of the game and additional film work should increase his one interception, especially in man coverage. There were times last year that Apple either ran through a receiver coming back for an under-thrown ball or did not snap his head around when the ball was in the air.  Year two fans will see a huge leap in his comfort zone and overall skills.  If he improves on the little things this secondary may be sporting 3 pro-bowl level cornerbacks.

Darian Thompson:

While Eli Apple played 14 of 16 games and solidified his spot in an elite secondary, Darian Thompson was the rookie sitting on the sideline because of injury.  He had been discussed as the surprise player coming out of camp in 2016.  Those hopes of a “ball-hawking” Free Safety to go along with Landon Collins were dashed after just two games when Thompson suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot.

Luckily for the Giants, Collins exploded on the scene playing strong against the run (125 comb tackles), rushing the passer (4 sacks), and snagged 5 interceptions. With Thompson on schedule to be ready for training camp, he may finally be ready to become the FS partner the Giants need.  Collins experience should give Thompson additional freedom to make plays and the second year in the system can only help his development.

B.J. Goodson:

There may be some of you reading this saying, “Who?”, and that’s perfectly understandable. For the average fan, Goodson didn’t do much since being drafted to make you remember his name. He did his part on special teams but didn’t see time at his future position at the middle or strong side linebacker spot.

A few factors contributed to this, first and foremost Jonathan Casillas played exceptionally well at the MLB position last year and was very much the veteran leader the Giants needed on defense.

Goodson was a late bloomer who came on strong later in his college career. That’s not a slight against Goodson, it was expected going into the 2016 season that he would most likely spend the year having to contribute on special teams while learning the nuances of playing such a vital position at the NFL level. While Goodson heads into his second season he must have his sights on competing against JT Thomas, Devon Kennard and Keenen Robinson. 

In his final season with Clemson he was part of a stout defense that helped lead the tigers to a National Championship game. 108 total tackles/14 for loss/6.5 sacks/2 interceptions. That’s what you’re looking for in a NY Giants Linebacker. He’s never going play in coverage like a Bobby Wagner or Luke Kuechly, but he wont asked to be.  As far as the run…he is an absolute beast at plugging the holes and takes great  angles getting to the ball carrier.  

Fans will love his aggressive nature and ability to shed blocks. On top of that, Goodson possesses a quality bull rush on the way to the quarterback and the ability to get “skinny” between the big men. Bottom line, Goodson may not takeover that MLB position to start this year but look for him to work his way into rotation. The Giants can never have enough quality depth at the LB position.

BJ Goodson is in growth mode, more development and on field experience will help him a great deal in the second half of the season.