Giants linebacker Devon Kennard said he hopes New York's defense can maintain its high energy a year after giving up the second fewest points in the league.
"I want to see us set the tempo from ground zero, and that's me personally," Kennard said. "If safeties and linebackers are communicating well, and we are getting the things that we need to to the D-line, from a linebacker perspective, I think it starts there. If we are doing that and being physical, I like where we are headed."
The Giants bring back a strong defensive core with a defensive line that features Jason Pierre-Paul, Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon; linebackers Kennard and Jonathan Casillas; and a secondary of Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. By retaining so many defenders, Kennard said the team's familiarity with the system and each other can only help moving forward.
"We already know so much about the defense, so now we can get into the little details and nuances that maybe a year or two ago we weren't able to hit the same way because there were so many guys trying to learn the defense," said Kennard, who recorded 61 combined tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while playing all 16 games last season. "Having such a strong nucleus of guys who have a good understanding of this defense, we are able to tweak some things that we did last year, we are able to add some different wrinkles to what we were doing and I think it is going to pay off."
New York, which plays its preseason opener Friday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, held opponents under 20 points eight times last season, finishing 2016 strong by allowing 10 or fewer points in three of their final four regular-season games. The Giants allowed the third-fewest rushing yards per game (88.6), however ranked 23rd in the league in passing defense, surrendering 251.1 passing yards per game.
Pierre-Paul said earlier this offseason he thinks the Giants have the talent to go undefeated, and Kennard thinks this year's team has a strong amount of potential.
"I think we have a special group coming up on the defensive side of the ball and I am excited," Kennard said. "I think it starts with us. We are the ones that are calling the calls, we are the ones that are getting everyone lined up and I think if we play at a high level, then everyone else is going to follow suit."