Defensive deficienciesI've never liked Fewell as a coach. With the talent he has to work with, Giants should be near the top of the league all the time. Last year they only played well in the playoffs and while I know that some key guys came back from injury, they still should not have been at the absolute bottom of the league all season. Let me highlight a few strategic and tactical mistakes that he made in the opener against Dallas.
Dallas is supposed to have a weak OL, especially on the interior at G and C. To take advantage of this, JPP often lined up in the middle of the field playing DT. This is a complete waste of his ability. Giants tried it in his rookie year when Tuck and Osi were firmly implanted as the starting DEs, so they used him often at DT to get him used to the game. He was invisible and it probably retarded his growth and progress. He is a natural - not a studied, cerebral player. He plays all on instinct and even though he has improved and developed some actual moves from the DE position, he is still a newbie when it comes to the general football IQ part of the game. Not everyone can simply shift between DE and DT seamlessly like Justin Tuck can. JPP is an instinctive blend of speed and power. Moving him inside takes away the speed part of his game, makes him one dimensional and takes away what makes him great, which is the blend of speed and power. Part of the problem, as my friend Ray pointed out may have been that the Giants only had 3 natural DTs active, so they needed some snaps at DT from a DE. This should have come from Tuck, not JPP. On such a hot night, when the big guys need a rest, he should have dressed an extra DL-man. My friend Ray also pointed out that the DTs, especially Joseph wore down in the heat making the Dallas OL more effective against Giants DL as the game wore on.
Furthermore on a few plays, to fool the other team, Giants had Tuck standing up and roving as LB. Another stupid move by Fewell. Tuck is an amazing athlete and can drop into coverage on occasional zone blitz. But when he is standing up before the play, it takes away the element of surprise and just makes the defense weaker both at the DL as well as the LB position. Zone blitzes have gone out of style for the reason that the offenses are not surprised by them anymore and without that surprise element, it just takes players out of their best position. Doesn't stop Fewell from using these zone blitzes.
At times Cowboys used quick drops to avoid Giants pass rush. But there were plenty of times in 2nd half where Romo had plenty of time to throw and Giants DL got no rush at all. When you're confident you can beat the DB, you can keep an extra guy in to block, and even though you have one less guy in a pass route for the defense to cover, you can still get someone open.
On several plays, after the Cowboys offense came to the line, Giants shifted from a 2-S formation to single S high in the middle of the field. Again, they telegraphed this and allowed Romo to take advantage. With one S in the middle of the field, he has more distance to cover to give help on the otuside - he's got 1/2 the field to cover instead of just 1/4 of it to get to the sideline. On the Cowboys long passing plays, the S was late getting over and giving help, largely because he had twice as much distance to cover. During the off season, Phillips and Fewell both said that now that Phillips has completely regained his speed, he will be moved closer to the line of scrimmage to make some plays. I think this is the opposite of what I want my S to do. With all the passing in the game, I want my S to be a safety, i.e. safely prevent the long balls. Not every S can play near the line like Polamalu and still get back to defend deep balls. Another strategic mistake by Fewell.
When the Giants CBs play off the WR in crucial medium yardage situations and allow easy slants to be completed in front of them for first downs, are they bad CBs? Or maybe they're being coached to give a cushion so they don't give up the big play. That strategy can be argued with, but at least it can be defended over the course of the game. But when the other team needs 9 yards for a 1st down to close the game, what's the logic behind giving a cushion. There was a TO before the play, ample time for the DC to tell the defense what he wanted and to remind them of down, distance and clock left in the game. Perhaps it was bad CB play, but it was definitely bad coaching.
Last year Giants were the worst defense in the league until game 15. Giants played defensively great in the playoffs largely because a few key guys came back from injury. But with the talent they have on this team, they shouldn't have been the worst defense in the league even without Tuck and Osi playing well. They were letting deep plays go over their heads all season long. They weren't just bad, they were awful and that was more coaching than the players. Near the end of the year, Coughlin brought in some business/military consultants to help get everyone on the same page. It was effective, but Giants/Fewell should never have been so bad up until then. He is not a good coach and Giants did well down the stretch last year despite him. They have so much talent on defense, even he couldn't screw it up.