Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giants: players or coaches?

Coming into the Eagles game I said that one of the keys was for the Giants DL to contain the Eagles running game without having to resort to extraordinary measures to do so - without having to sell out to stop the run and compromise the pass defense. But the DL also needed to generate a pass rush because sitting back in a zone, the Eagles would be able to attack the middle of the field, with crossing routes to the WRs and occasional passes to the TE.

The Giants really did neither particularly well. Thye did stop the run, but they were very often in their 3-S look, dropping a S to the line of scrimmage. Giants were effective at stopping the run, mostly with the DL and LBs, but the extra S down in the box doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If you're playing the run, you'd rather have a bigger body than a S in there. If you're playing the pass, you'd rather have a 3rd CB on the field who is a better pass defender, especially at this point in S Grant's career. The 3-S alignment was a smart change last year. It caught the opposing offense off guard and Grant was playing very well against the pass. With Ross hurt much of last year, this kept the best 5 DBs on the field. But - the league has adjusted to it by now and Grant has lost a step in pass defense, notwithstanding the one INT he has against Brady and the Pats, so this defense has lost its aura. Still OK for a change once in a while, but Fewell calls it all the time and it's not really effective anymore. But the big failure of the defense and the DL was the lack of a pass rush. I don't just mean no sacks.... I mean absolutely no pressure at all. Sacks can be a slightly misleading stat for a defense. If you get 3 sacks in a game but allow ample opportunity for the QB to throw on all his other pass attempts, you have not done well as a defense disrupting the passing game. On the other hand, if the pocket closes at some point and the QB has to get rid of the ball early on most of his throws, the defense has done better regardless of the actual number of sacks they get. In this game the Giants did neither - they got neither pressure nor sacks. And when I say they got no pressure, I don't even mean that they needed to force him to get rid of the ball in 3 seconds or less. I mean he was standing back there as long as he wanted, released the ball and even then was not hit. Official statistics were: 1 sack, 1 hit, 0 hurries. That's pathetic, especially when so much of the defensive philosophy is based on the pass rush.

Fewell had apparently decided that Young was too hard to catch and that he did not throw the ball well or make good decisions in the pocket. Consequently, the plan was not to blitz much, not to come after him with a wide pass rush which might give him lanes to escape, but rather bull rush very conservatively, drop guys into coverage and flood the zones, hoping he would make a mistake. I don't think that is a terrible plan, but when, after 3 quarters, you saw it wasn't working, Fewell should have dialed up a different plan to try to generate some pressure on the QB. I said this in my first blog post on this game - wondering why Young wasn't blitzed at all, since the Giants blitzed Vick often in previous games. Apparently many Giants players felt the same way. Take a look at what I copy/pasted below from today's NY Post:

Defense doesn’t turn up heat
Three prominent defense players — Antrel Rolle, Chris Canty and Justin Tuck — independently made sure to mention the coaching staff when assessing what went down against the Eagles. Tom Coughlin labeled the inept running game as “pathetic,’’ and he also could have included the lame defensive pressure. How is it possible that the Giants had one sack and only one quarterback hit (both from Jason Pierre-Paul) on Vince Young?
“They’re doing some things giving us some challenges, we have to be able to match up to that and adjust to that,’’ Canty said. “That falls on both players and coaches.’’
Tuck added, “Sometimes I think we over-think things.’’
This was one of those times. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell used four and at times only three-man fronts to get to Young, with no success. There were very few attempts to bring pressure and give Young different looks, which was a mistake, considering he had thrown one pass all season and most likely could have been confused, if only the Giants tried to confuse him.
“We certainly did not upset his rhythm at all,’’ Coughlin said. “He was able to sit there.’’
Asked if the problem was physical or scheme related, Coughlin said “Some of both.’’

I said in my last post that I hate it when the coaches blame every loss on execution by the players. That's saying: our game plan was perfect, if only the darned players had done what we told them, we would have won. That's not building unity between players and coaches; in fact quite the opposite - it is creating a big brick wall between them, where the players don't think the coaches have their backs. Take a look at the quote from the Post above and you'll see this sentiment expressed by the player's words. I think Coughlin is a good football man and a good football coach, but he has some weaknesses and this is one of them. He's a little too old school and his philosophy  - coaches should never be questioned and players should just do what they tell them - is outdated. That's just not how it works anymore.

It's hard to fathom, but I think Fewell's performance has elevated Gilbride (relatively, anyway) so that he is no longer the worst coordinator on the team. Fewell is simply in over his head. He may come up with a good game plan and strategy, but he does not react and change up based on what the opposing offense may be doing or how the game is flowing. 

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