It’s a difficult task for the Giants, exorcising the ghosts of yesteryear. But as Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins looked back and saw their defense mostly contain the Jaguars’ offense Sunday, they were resolute in the fact that this could be the first step to erasing those 16 weeks of frustration.
“We’re not talking about last year,” Collins said. “Last year is done. We’re not the same team. It’s 0-1. That’s all it is . . . I’m confident” 2017 won’t repeat itself. “We can build on top of [Sunday] and make sure we get our communication right, our assignments right and stay on the same page as always.”
For a defense that was second-worst in the NFL last year, on a team that was considered a bust just a few weeks into the season, the Giants’ 20-15 loss in the 2018 opener gave them reason for optimism.
James Bettcher’s new system, which the defensive coordinator described as aggressive and relentless, paid immediate dividends. The Giants’ defense held the Jaguars’ offense, which had the best ground game of any NFL team last year, to 13 points in the first half and none in the second (the Jags’ only touchdown of the second half was courtesy of a pick-6).
Save for the game-ending possession, all seven of the Jaguars’ drives in the second half ended in a punt. They had only four of their 17 first downs in the second half. They also stalled in the red zone twice in the first half and had to settle for two 39-yard field goals.
“We came in at halftime, made corrections, saw how they were trying to attack us and we made adjustments,” Jenkins said. “We’re making strides — the defense, the team, special team — we’re making strides. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and work and critique ourselves and make sure everyone stays up and push.”
Jenkins was all over the field and had an interception in the first quarter, jumping a fade route and beating Donte Moncrief near the sideline.
“It is [frustrating], but at the end of the day, we’re a defense, so we’ve got to keep going making three-and-outs, keep playing defense,” Jenkins said. “We understand it’s a team game and we’ve just got to keep playing.”
Said Collins, “We thought we gave the offense a chance. We got the ball back as quickly as possible for them.”
For a defense that didn’t do much of that at all last year, it was a start.