New York Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell sounded like a man fighting for his job yesterday when he was asked about his unit’s recent lack of production.
Fewell’s frustration comes in several forms for the defending Super Bowl champions: 1. yardage surrendered 2. propensity to give up big plays; 3. lack of forced turnovers.
When meeting with the media yesterday, Fewell surprising conceded that he was frustrated with the defense’s inclination to give up a big play this season.
For example, last week the Giants’ defense gave up a 78-yard run by Ravens’ backup running back Bernard Pierce, as well as a 43-yard pass play from Joe Flacco to Torrie Smith that set up a Flacco touchdown plunge from 1 yard out. And for good measure, Flacco connected with Ray Rice for a 27-yard touchdown late in the 2nd quarter on Sunday.
The combined yardage on these three plays was 148 yards, and to put the damage that these big plays have caused in perspective, keep in mind that the Giants’ offense only gained 186 yards for the entire game
Fewell offered this perspective to the media, which was posted on Giants.com, “You know, when you look at it [the big plays], you can say yes. It’s frustrating for me and for the defense to give up the big play. That’s been our nemesis all year. Have we worked to eliminate the big play? Yes, we have. Have we been able to do that? No, we haven’t. I can’t tell you why, but yeah, that can be a point of frustration?”
In certain cases, defenses can overcome big plays by holding teams to a field goal in the red zone, or by creating turnovers. And after starting out the season by creating turnovers, that well has run dry for the G-men also.
Statistically, the Giants rank 28th in passing yards allowed (257.4 yards per game), and 25th in rushing yards (130.4 yards per game), which is good for the 30th rank in the entire NFL. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New Orleans Saints give up more yards per game than the defending Super Bowl champions.
Clearly when trying to defend a championship, showing up in the bottom of any rankings, does not make for a successful title defense.
But more disconcerting for Giants’ fans is the fact that the defensive coordinator appears to have no strategy for improvement, other than for the players to play better.
To this point, yesterday Fewell said, “They [the defense] just have to make up in their minds…I think they’ve been playing hard, but they have to make up in their mind that we have to make some plays. We have to get a spark from somebody. Somebody has to go through and make a football play and get everybody going, either offensively, defensively or special teams. We need somebody to make a big play for us and get us rolling.”
Unfortunately for coaches, when players stop playing for a coach, then coach is replaced and not the players. Although in this case, the Giants have decisions to make on pending free agents according to Spotrec.com.
According to Spotrec.com, both Osi Umenyiora and Kenny Phillips both have expiring contracts. Umenyiora has had his past difficulties with Giants’ general manager Jerry Reece, and Phillips has not been healthy enough to offer a long term commitment to.
Other defensive players under contract for next season, but who have underperformed this year include: Chris Canty, Michael Boley, Justin Tuck, Corey Webster and Marvin Austin.
Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley have battled injuries, but are sure to be back in 2013, and signing pending free agent middle linebacker Chase Blackburn should be done due to his salary and importance to the team.
In 2013, the defense will almost certainly revolve around Pro Bowl lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, and it would not be surprising to see Mathias Kiwanuka line up exclusively at defensive end. Kiwanuka has been a hybrid linebacker/defensive end over the past several years.