DC Sheridan is a newbie
The players seem to give new DC Sheridan high marks for knowing his football, for being very detail oriented and for coaching well. They say that he has a different personality than Spagnuolo, who was fiery and emotional compared to Sheridan's somewhat more understated demeanor. The emotion part on its own may not be an issue: players can get pumped up in other means. But Sheridan's ice water personality, coming as it does after the fiery Spagnuolo might be a problem. Regardless of the way the players approach the game and the fact that they are professionals and need to play at a high level all of the time, the fact is that they simply don't. Players occasionally need a coach to get them riled up and with Spags and Starahan both gone, that absence may be a real detriment to the team.
More important to me, however is the in-game adjustments. Players themselves might not even necessarily even see those adjustments. The most time they spend with the coaches is during the week and their impression of preparation is what happens during practice from Wednesday until game time. If they have a good game plan that they can buy into, they think of the coach as having done a good job. There is so much confusion on the sideline and chaos on the field during the game that even if a play doesn't work, the players will not immediately know why it failed. For nearly every play that doesn't work, there may be a coach that didn't coach right and a player that didn't play right. For example, in last Sunday's game, would the DL say that the coach didn't call enough blitzes and relied on the DL for pass rush, or would they blame themselves and say, regardless of the defenses that was called, we, the DL should have beaten our man 1-on-1 and created the pass rush.
All of which leads me to my next point. Last week, Brees dropped backed to pass 34 times and the way I counted it when I reviewd the game, the Giants sent a blitzer, usually just 1 extra LB, 8 times or a bit less than 25% of the time. I guess that is not such a low percentage, but in retrospect, with the lack of pressure that the Giants were generating, he should have sent more blitzes and sent more people when he did, overloading a side and giving an advantage to the defense. All of that is water under the bridge, but you certainly hope the DC will learn from that and be aware of what is happening in the game and be able to adjust the plan on the fly.
Here's what really concerns me. When some newspaper reporters asked Sheridan if he should have blitzed more last week against the Saints, he sort of admitted guilt and said that in retrospect that might have been a good move. Then, to cover his a$$ a bit, he waffled and said something like "would've, should've, could've" as if to say this is purely hindsight and a second guess. He was asked further if he thought the pass happy Cardinals were licking their chops and were anxious to go after the Giants suddenly-discredited secondary like the Saints did last week. Sheridan said: "I'm sure they are". Then (here's the part that really has me burned) when Sheridan was asked if he would blitz more this week, he said that he would. Why would he say that? Just shut up. If a reporter asks you what the game plan is, you don't let anything out. Not a hint. The response should be something vanilla like: "our game plan always has a mixture of pressure packages included". Why would you give the opponents anything to hang their hat on, anything to analyze anything useful to assist their preparation. I am not sold on Sheridan yet as a DC. He has to prove himself before we accept him as a good hire.
Last week's beating by New Orleans could be a good thing for the Giants, coming early in the season, if they realize that they have to go into a game with healthy respect for their opponents. It could also be a good learning tool for Sheridan who should realize that he has to vary the attack on defense. Even if you are better than the guys lining up across scrimmage from you, there are always schemes to minimize your strengths and let the opponents accentuate their own strength. Even if you don't belive in blitzes and zone blitzes and would rather beat opponents 1-on-1, adding variations or adding unusual blitzes makes the OL uncertain about where you're coming from and gives you an advantage even on a play when you don't blitz.
Cardinals Game Plan
If I were the Cardinals, my game plan would be to use a fair amount of max protection schemes, keeping in a TE and/or RB to protect the QB, and running a bunch of 2 or 3 WR pass routes. With that, you can still run 2 WRs in patterns on one side of the field, and get a match up of Larry Fitzgerald on C. C. Brown. The Giants need to anticipate that the Cardinals will do this, which really should not be that difficult, because the Cardinals are all pass and don't run the ball effectively. Let's see what Sheridan comes up with to combat this. Play a lot of nickel, double team Fitzgerald and have an automatic blitz from the opposite side of the field when there are 2 WR pass routes so Warner does not have time to go deep to Fitzgerald.
Jacobs and Bradshaw were both running well last week and Jacobs particularly looked more in step with his blockers. The Giants WRs are really developing into an excellent unit on the team. The emergence of 3 WRs ahead of Dixon allowed the Giants to get Hixon back as a kick returner, where he excels and where he had a great game last week. This will pay dividends for the Giants down the road. Thinking back to last year's game against the Cardinals in Arizona, I recall that Hixon had a huge game and several long returns that set up some Giants scores.