Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Giants: The defense

Last year was a horror show for the defense, I think we can all agree on that point. I know it's a team game and the entire team finished 8-8, stumbling to a 3-8 finish after the 5-0 start. Blame the entire team if you want, but the offense was decent; the defense was horrible. There certainly is room for improvement on the offense: the running game was not up to its usual standards, either from the RBs or from the OL. The passing game was strong, discovering new weapons in Manningham and an emerging star in Nicks along with the continued performance of Smith who had more than 100 receptions. Eli Manning had his best year statistically.

The defense gave up tons of points and tons of yards. Injuries and unimaginative defensive coaching can account for some of the defensive weakness, but certainly upgrades were required on that side of the ball. Giants recognized this, because there were certainly lots of changes to the defense. The first 4 draft choices were defensive players. Unfortunately, their third round pick, S Chad Jones from LSU was injured in an automobile accident, but the other three players are promising and should contribute this year. Furthermore, the Giants signed two FA safeties, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. They also recently signed Keith Bulluck as MLB, which represents an enormous amount of change from last year. If you consider the promotion of Sintim (apparently) to the OLB spot, the comeback of Alford from injury, the return of Kenny Phillips from injury, then it seems like half the defense is changing.

The heart of this defense is still the DL. There is so much talent there, it is eye catching. There are 4 DEs who should see significant time and be very productive pass rushers: Tuck, Kiwanuka, Ueminyora and draftee Pierre-Paul. Add Hall, recently signed from the Eagles and Tollefson, a holdover from last year and it seems like a strong position. At DT there is Alford, Canty, Cofield, Bernard and rookie Joseph in addition to some lesser known players who probably won't make the team. Canty, Alford and Bernard were all injured last year and barely contributed, but should be healthy and strong this year. The questionable spot is definitely the LB unit, which is why the Bulluck signing was such a good move. Sintim hardly played last year and Boley, largely because of injury did not have a good year. They have to be considered question marks and even though I really like Bryan Kehl and Wilkinson, they haven't shown much on the field. Blackburn will never be more than a backup and Goff might be a player in the future, but with all those question marks, some stability at the LB position had to be found. Bulluck has been a strong player for 10 years with the Titans, making the pro-bowl several times. Even though he is coming off an injury, he should improve that unit.

I reread this post and I realize that it sounds really lame. It reads more like a clipping from the Giants press guide or an article from the web site touting how great the team will be, than it does an honest, critical evaluation of the personnel on the team. That having been said, I don't think it is far wrong. There WERE an enormous number of injuries on defense last year and those players coming back strong is like an influx of talent to the defense. In 2008, the Giants were among the best teams in the league until the Plaxico shooting incident, which means that the base of the team was strong. Last year was a bomb because of injuries and coaching, but the foundation of the team is still strong. The big question is the lack of production at the LB position. But the DL and the DB-field is strong and the Giants defense should be much better than last year.

One interesting player to watch is Sintim. When he was drafted, I was unsure of where he might fit. He might be a 'tweener: he played with his hand on the ground, as a pass rushing DE in college. But he is too light to play DE in the NFL and the Giants shifted him to LB. The question is, obviously, does he have the speed and the instincts to play in space in the NFL. He may be a good run stopper because of his size, but may have trouble tracking TEs and RBs running pass patterns on defense. The Giants may envision him not as a 3-down player, but with all the defenses and offenses so situational nowadays, they may view him as playing on running downs only. This is of course risky, because (if you know the rules of football) offenses are in fact allowed to pass on downs that appear to be running downs. He could be a liability if he cannot play in space. The Giants experimented with Kiwanuka at LB when he was playing behind Tuck and Osi to very mixed results. When Osi got hurt, they pushed Kiwanuka back to DE where he has remained since. Look at the terrible results the Jets got with Vernon Gholston, who was a DE at OSU, was shifted to LB in the Jets 3-4 scheme and has been a complete bust so far in the pros. It will be very interesting to see if Sintim progresses. I always liked Wilkinson and Kehl showed me something last year also, so I would not write them off yet.

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