Entering week 14, the New York Football Giants sit at a 5-7 record and below .500 for the same amount of weeks. The blame game has been played since their opening division competition in Dallas. Both coaching coordinators have had their respective turn at being on the (mostly) fan’s chopping block.
While defensively the Giants have changed for the better this season, there were still times that frustration came out early in the season. Many failed to see that that side of the ball performed their best (against top-ranked teams) for most of those games. Unfortunately, being on the field for most of said games was their pseudo-demise. As they improved (with some help from the up and down offense), they maintain a ranked defense that is currently 12th overall (9th against the run and 13th against the pass).
Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell has also made adjustments more this year, while having a bit more fire from players in certain positions adding to leadership on the gridiron. Safety Antrel Rolle (69 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 interceptions, 10 passes defensed and a forced fumble, so far) and former Miami Hurricane teammate linebacker Jon Beason (57 tackles and an interception in four fewer games) have become the communicative leaders out there. Fewell praised Beason recently.
“Jon has been a great voice for us. On the defense, you don’t think that you need a quarterback, but you need a quarterback,” Fewell said. “You need someone that can go in and command the front and relate to the back row and Jon has been able to do that. He is very good at understanding situations and then being able to talk to all of his defensive players and play the game at a fast tempo. It’s remarkable that he’s been able to come in midway through the season and learn the terminology. We’re not all there yet, we’re still communicating and working. There’s a lot of communication that takes place, but playing at the level he’s playing at, my hat’s off to him.”
Mistakes are still made and coverages are still blown, but not as often as in past years. Adjustments in the offseason made by general manager Jerry Reese to the defensive tackle position has helped too. Former Philadelphia Eagles/Green Bay Packers tackle, Cullen Jenkins, has come up huge and no doubt is working well with 4th year tackle Linval Joseph. There may be only 5.5 sacks between them, but the pressure they’re getting at times into the backfield has aided — on the defending the run game as well.
Last season, Big Blue finished ranked 25th against the run. There’s been a huge change this year to be in the top 10. In 2012, the pass defense finished 28th — vast improvement there too, huh? Time to leave Fewell alone?
As for offensive Kevin Gilbride and his side of the rock, well, while his words after last week’s game versus the Washington Redskins are correct, two years of a roster full of talent falling way short of what it should be has to fall on shoulders that aren’t always quarterback Eli Manning’s.
“You try to respond,” said Gilbride. “You try to overcome where you are. The first play of the game, we took a nine-yard sack. All of a sudden, what you had scheduled for (plays) two and three, throw out with the wind. The next time we started on the minus-1. Change everything. There’s no question the dynamics changed. The good thing was we changed the whole momentum of the game with the next drive. There’s no question that turned the whole game around. The morale of the defense got better, the play of the defense got better, the offense continued to play very well from that point on.”
Shouldn’t a (once) brilliant offense be prepared beyond more than a scripted play card? Once noticeable difference: in the answers about injuries/adjustments. Defensively, the queries have been answered with the “next man up” mentality as well as adjustments by coaching. It doesn’t seem that way when Gilbride answers.
“We always evolve. Every year it’s a different story. We constantly change and it’s not only team to team or season to season, but it’s even within the context of a game,” said Gilbride. “You always try [to get a player to “go”]. You’re always trying to do that and we have. It’s a two-way street. As you call something, you still have to get open, you still have to win, you still have to make the play, the coverage had to accommodate it…there’s a lot of factors that come into play and a lot of it is just good fortune and luck.”
While one of these coaches has won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, that isn’t something that should be a lifetime pass. With Manning and the offensive line clearly struggling in 2013, adjustments needed to be made weeks ago. Perhaps, a closer look will be made in January. Gary Kubiak is now free…
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