The New York Giants’ defense is coming off a disappointing year, but things are looking up if you ask linebacker Michael Boley.
According to the New York Post, Boley claimed that the Big Blue defensive unit "can be the best in the league."
"We got a lot of playmakers on this defense, a lot of talented guys," Boley told the Post. "There's no limit to what we can do."
That’s a bold proclamation for a defensive unit that allowed 427 points last season, the third-most in the NFL.
Boley struggled to make an impact last season, battling injuries that forced him to sit out for several games.
"I missed everything last year," Boley told the Post. "It holds a player back as far as learning the player next to you. This year will be a better year."
The Giants’ defense isn’t short on talent with Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck and first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul. But it’s the challenge of balancing that talent that could make for trouble in the Meadowlands.
Umenyiora and Kiwanuka are fighting for a starting job, and Umenyiora even is threatening to retire if he doesn’t get it, the New York Daily News reports.
Former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi used to say "you can never have enough pass rushers," and maybe that’s true. But if the Giants can’t balance their depth on the defense, they may have some angry pass rushers sitting on the sidelines.
"If somebody's in there and getting the job done and staying hot, they're going to stick in there," new defensive line coach Robert Nunn told the Daily News. "I'm sure there will be some rotation. But again, if a guy gets in there and is clearly being productive and doing a good job, we're going to stick with a guy that's hot."
Tuck, a defensive end, isn’t entirely enthusiastic about rotating players based on production.
"Do I like it? Certain aspects about it I do. Others I don't," Tuck told the Daily News. "It puts a lot of pressure on you to try and get in a rhythm early. If you get off to a slow start, it really makes it hard to catch up when you're rotating like that. But you don't have to be as tired in the fourth quarter — even though in the fourth quarter I'm not coming out."
Head coach Tom Coughlin emphasized the fact that the Giants are a "situation-oriented" defensive team that routinely rotates players in a variety of positions. In order for the plan to work, the players have to check their egos at the door – something that’s easier said than done.
"It's going to be tough, I'm not going to lie about that," Kiwanuka said. "Nobody wants to sit and watch somebody else playing instead."
The Giants, so far, have managed to control the variety of locker-room attitudes and conduct a relatively drama-free training camp.
"That’s a reflection of our team, and our team’s commitment and their focus,"Coughlin told The New York Times. "The realization of what camp is all about and just the idea of why we’re here. We are here to work, prepare and become the best team we can be."
Other NFC East teams seemingly haven’t been able to do the same. The Cowboys’ Dez Bryant has provided plenty of distraction by refusing to participate in rookie hazing and later spraining his ankle. The Redskins’ Albert Haynesworth can’t seem to pass a conditioning test that would allow him to participate in practice.
And, of course, the neighboring Jets have become a media circus as the focus of HBO’s Hard Knocks, plus Darrelle Revis’ highly publicized contract dispute and subsequent holdout.
The Giants are content in their distraction-free training camp bubble with a glut of defensive talent. But will it translate to success on the field like Boley predicts, or will egos clash and get in the way?
The competition between headstrong players could actually help the team.
"We all understand that the best person for the job is going to play," Tuck told the Daily News. "We accept that. And I think Osi's the same way. He's going to push Kiwi and Kiwi's going to push him, and that's going to make both those guys better."
Maybe some internal struggle wouldn’t be so bad for the G-Men, after all.