From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE
NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: Still Panning Around In Fewell's Gold. Jerry Reese and Defense May Need a New Direction.
The Giants allowed 129 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked 25th in all the NFL. The 254 passing yards they allowed per game ranked 28th in the league. The 383 total yards they allowed opponents per game ranked 31st, second to last in the NFL and ahead of only New Orleans. Yet, they only allowed 21.5 points per game, which rated them 13th best in the league. Which also says, they give up an awful lot of yardage, but quite often held their opponents to field goals.
Somehow related to that is the fact Big Blue led the entire NFL in tackles made - like I said, somehow. On that note, Chase Blackburn, Antrel Rolle and Michael Boley led the team in tackles, but only one of them is returning this season. And while I'm at it, regarding their supposed forte' - they ranked 22nd last season with only thirty-three QB sacks. To combat these numbers somewhat, the Giants ranked fourth in fumbles recovered and third in interceptions, but don't be misled. Panning through the Giants 2012 regular season, time and again only turns up (Perry) Fewell's Gold.
The Defensive Line:
The strength of the defense is still the front four, but they are evolving, or devolving. Whether for better or worse is still to be determined. At one point this squad had so much depth, they needed an unwelcomed, coach imposed rotation. Of course that was by design, but the days of Osi Umenyiora, JPP, and Justin Tuck going full tilt together are done. As per the contentious gentleman's agreement reached between Jerry Reese and Osi last year, Umenyiora chose to leave New York to spread his remaining feathers in Atlanta for one last big contract. Meanwhile back in the land of Giants, Jason Pierre Paul is still on the mend after back surgery. The Giants and fans are praying to their respective football deities and offering them sacrifices of burnt buffalo wings in hopes JPP can return to his rookie season form. Even if he plays Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, his performance will still be a questionable proposition. Until JPP is fully healthy again, Mathias Kiwanuka is once again entering a season as the x-factor. He will be moved back on the defensive line this season. That leads us to Justin Tuck, who is entering his tenth season with a lot to prove. He is coming off two injurious and rather sub-par seasons. If the Giants are to get back to the playoffs this season, Justin needs to become not just a major component towards that effort, but a feared force in the NFL once again. Bottom line is Tuck needs to play an elite defensive end this season. There is just no getting around that.
At defensive tackle and entering his fifth season, Linval Joseph has a fan in me, while former Eagle and eleven year veteran Cullen Jenkins was brought in to round-out and solidify the line. He is a respectable acquisition. Jerry Reese used his second pick in April's draft to select Jonathan Hankins, a DT from Ohio State, and he used his third selection to take DE-Demontre Moore out of Texas A&M. It would stand to reason then, the defensive line was of obvious concern to Reese. That said, in the new NFL, having a formidable defensive line has served the Giants well.
The Giants lost two of their top three leading tacklers from a year ago, both linebackers. Michael Boley was released after failing to impress. That's not to say he wasn't a solid player. But he was expensive, and that factored into the decision. Most of all, Michael just didn't have the presence in the middle that was expected of him. Chase Blackburn parlayed his commendable play last season into a contract with Carolina, that the Giants had no intentions of matching. Good luck to him.
Linebacker is by far the thinnest, most untalented, and questionable squad of the entire Giants defense. These are the guys charged with stuffing the run, covering tight ends and wandering mischievous fourth receivers, spearheading the blitz, and setting the overall defense. Right.... Jerry Reese failed to select a linebacker with his first seven picks, and somehow continues to stick it out with Keith Rivers. That situation is getting a little frustrating for me. Entering his fourth season, Spencer Paysinger now gets to be a starter, while Dan Conner, formerly of Dallas and Carolina, suddenly finds himself in a starting role as well. Jacquian Williams is entering his fourth season, and it would be nice if he too started making more of an impact. That's the line-backing corps, and boy aren't they most unintimidating and yawn inspiring.
After Blackburn and Boley, safety Antrel Rolle was the team's leading tackler, and he continues to be an important team leader. I never thought so before, but he has proven that out over his years here. For those of us who fretted when Kenny Phillips left for the Eagles..., they cut him. Tyler Sash played surprisingly well last season. Can he do it again? I'm still scratching my head over the Giants 2013 fourth round pick (a QB), but with their fifth pick, they selected a safety, Cooper Taylor out of Richmond. He is 6'4" and 228 pounds - I like his size at safety. He is big with speed which can take a measure of pressure off the linebackers forced into covering tight ends. Who's Ryan Mundy? He's a fourth year free-safety formerly of the Steelers who managed to start just five games for Pittsburgh in four seasons. Suddenly, he is forced into a starting role here - it's ponderous actually.
The Giants finally may be the strongest they've been at corner in a few years now. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are reunited but will likely not be the starting corners together. Prince Amukamara looks to have finally graduated to full time starter. Jayron Hosely turned a lot of heads last season and garnered a lot of attention with his play. Lastly, Terrell Thomas is determined to not be forgotten about.
The Defensive Coordinator:
Quite simply, he needs to get it together - and he needs to do it aggressively. His read-and-react schemes are a 31st rate failure. The Giants gave up an obscene number of huge yardage plays last season, both via the air and ground, and the year before for that matter. Not because they lacked talent, but due to Fewell making his secondary reads too layered, and an overall inability to stop the run. When there isn't a Giant player within fifteen yards of a receiver, something went terribly wrong, and that happened to them far too often.
When speaking of Perry Fewell's blitz packages, one is always forced into asking - what blitz packages? There aren't many stunts going on within the front four either. He puts it on his front line to play straight up, win individual battles and stay disciplined to their lanes. Perry calls for safety blitzes with the frequency of a lunar eclipse. Overall, there isn't much deception you're going to encounter playing against Perry Fewell's defensive game plan.
The defensive personnel was always capable of that shut-down, dominant performance. They still have it in them. I just think sometimes their coaching gets in the way of better defensive results and overall performances. With this linebacking unit, I admit Perry Fewell has his work cut out for him. I'd suggest more aggression and deception, and less reading and reacting.