How The Giants Can Compensate For Their Suspect Secondary
There's no question that the Giants' defense has been one of the team's biggest weak spots for the past few seasons, especially late in games. The secondary, in particular, has caused a lot of problems for the team by giving up big plays and allowing drives to be extended by giving up third-down conversions through the air. While the team has made some strides to try and improve the defensive unit and the secondary, there are some workarounds that the defense can employ in the upcoming season to compensate for a weak secondary.
When your TV or Internet goes down and you get on the phone with tech support to try and troubleshoot the problem, the first thing they'll usually tell you to do is restart the system or unplug everything and then plug it back in. Since the Giants can't really "unplug" their entire defense and start from scratch, there are some other things they can try to do to make up for the fact that their secondary isn't exactly the defense's strongest component.
First, the defense needs to step up their run-stopping efforts. A quarterback's best friend is a good running game to keep defenses honest, and the truth is that the Giants' run defense hasn't played up to par in the last few years. Giving up big yardage on the ground on first and secnd down have hurt the Giants defense, particularly the secondary. If the Giants can keep opposing offenses from running roughshod over their defense, they can get a lot more mileage out of their secondary.
Another thing that would really help out their secondary is the play of their linebackers. The Giants' linebacker unit has been notoriously inefficient in pass coverage, and just as inefficient at helping to stop opposing running backs. If the linebackers can step up their play this season and lend a hand in pass coverage, they can take a lot of pressure off of the secondary, especially when it comes to covering tight ends — a position that has eaten up the Giants defense quite often in the past.
Beyond that, the pass rush is another aspect of the defense that can take some pressure off of the secondary. The pass rush left a lot to be desired last season, giving opposing quarterbacks far too much time in the pocket to make throws downfield. Whether it's Aaron Rodgers lining up over center or Tim Tebow, if you give an NFL quarterback six or seven seconds to throw the ball every time they drop back, they're probably going to find an open receiver. The Giants' pass rush hasn't done much to help out the secondary, and a newly revitalized pass rush this season will be immediately noticeable and provide some much-needed relief for the secondary.
If the cornerbacks aren't doing their jobs, the safeties are there to provide some support in pass coverage. Last season, Fewell employed a lot of three-safety sets with Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Stevie Brown. It seemed to work well for the defense, especially when their cornerbacks were being exploited. The Giants are hoping that Corey Webster's poor production last season was an anomaly, but if it isn't, look for Fewell to lean strongly towards more of those three-safety looks. The team signed Ryan Mundy in the offseason and drafted Cooper Taylor, so the safety position has a lot of potential going forward. If Stevie Brown continues to play at the same level that he did for much of last season, the safety position can give a major boost to the secondary.
Whichever strategies Fewell and the defense end up employing to take the pressure off their secondary, they'll be put to the test very early on in the season. In the first two weeks, the Giants face Tony Romo and Peyton Manning — two quarterbacks who have had major success through the air against the Giants defense in the past and are both a part of offenses likely to throw the ball upwards of 30 or 40 times during the course of a game. If the Giants can find a way to compensate for the secondary's weaknesses, they can have a lot of success in 2013 — at least on the defensive side of the ball.