New York Giants
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The Giants are about to take the final wrappings off their renovated defense this summer, a unit that was the recipient of more than $200 million in free-agent contracts doled out to players such as defensive linemen Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Jason Pierre-Paul; linebackers Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson; and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Yet for all the resources poured into the Giants defense, there are still numerous questions regarding whether the improvements made on paper will show up on the field and whether they really have enough depth to make it through a 16-game season.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is confident that the first question regarding improvement will come to fruition.
"We are going to be better," Spagnuolo said at the end of the team's mandatory minicamp last month. "We are going to be better because of players, we are going to be better because of better coaching, less mistakes. We are going to be better because it is the second year in the system and that is what we fully expect to do.
"Everything that we went through last year is over and we are moving on."
While Spanguolo's confidence isn't unexpected, he also admitted that the offseason wasn't enough time to address all of the issues that contributed to the defense's struggles last year.
A key issue is the identity of the team's slot cornerback. Over the offseason, the Giants were linked to unrestricted free agents Jerraud Powers and Leon Hall, with no deal being consummated.
While the Giants still have Trevin Wade, last year's slot cornerback, there was some belief that first-round pick Eli Apple might be groomed for that key role, yet throughout the spring, the coaches mainly kept Apple on the outside.
"We are trying to find that out," Spagnuolo said when asked if they had a natural slot cornerback.
They're also trying to figure out how their linebacker unit will look.
"There is a lot of competition there," Spagnuolo said. "All of the defensive spots, you find out most when you put the pads on and that one especially. That hasn't really ironed itself out as far as who is playing where (and) who is starting. That is going to be an interesting battle in training camp."
Among the other minor, yet still important questions Spagnuolo will need to sort out include the depth at defensive end and at cornerback and whether he has what he needs at safety in a young, but inexperienced group that includes Darian Thompson, Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson and Cooper Taylor.
"(General manager) Jerry (Reese) and his staff have put together a group of guys that can compete against each other," Spagnuolo said. "I think that any time guys know that there is competition and are being pushed, I think that everyone gets better, so that is a good thing."
CAMP CALENDAR: Full squad reports July 28; first practice July 29, joint practices with other teams, camp ends August 15.