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Spags Expectations: Dissecting the 2008 vs 2015 NY Giants

By: Marco Imperati

Since the end of the New York Giants season, fans have been absolutely giddy with the return of star Defensive Coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo. One certainty is that the team will remain in the 4-3 defensive alignment. However, questions still remain, specifically regarding personnel.

Are there pass rushers here to effectively fit into Spags defense?
Who is the veteran middle linebacker to “quarterback” the defense?

Although many of these questions won’t be answered until the team reconvenes in late July, we can look into the crystal ball with real expectations. Spagnuolo comes with an interesting subplot that he has already been here and has left a trail for fans to dissect. This isn’t like last year when we had a new offense and new coordinator that was yet to burst on the scene. Let alone, no one could have projected the type of impact a certain rookie wide receiver would have had.

Let’s first take a look at the 2008 New York Giants Defense and most specifically, the front 7.
In 2008, the Spagnuolo lead Giants ranked 5th in defense. Below is the front 7 on that impressive team.

Defensive End: Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Dave Tollefson, Renaldo Wynn
Defensive Tackle: Jay Alford, Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins
Linebacker: Danny Clark, Antonio Pierce, Chase Blackburn

This was a team that was able to get pressure from their front four. Although “Spags” is known for drawing up some exotic blitzes and alignments, the main pressure was coming from Umenyiora. Tuck was the X factor that was lined up everywhere to highlight his versatility.

In the middle of the line, Robbins and Cofield were as solid as you get for a pair of Defensive Tackles. Cofield would eventually propel this great season into a nice payday free agent contract with the Washington Redskins.

Clark, Pierce and Blackburn rounded out a smart linebacking crew. The key for this team was stability, veteran leadership and a mistake free group that Spags could trust. With Pierce being a great extension of the D-Coordinator, guys were always in the right spots. Osi was able to rush the passer and Tuck was a young matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. You could not run on this team. Corey Webster had his best years under Spagnuolo and a large credit to his play has to go to the great front 7.

Next week, we will look at a projected 2015 group that Spagnuolo will lead.