Busted Gut: Giants Must Stop The Run
For a long time, the New York Giants were known as a team built primarily around a tough-as-nails, aggressive defense that was able to render the opposing team's running game virtually ineffective. However, they've been trending in the complete opposite direction over the last few years. Despite winning two Super Bowl titles over the last five seasons and making playoff runs largely spurred by an aggressive pass rush and staunch defense, the Giants run defense has gotten progressively worse over the last three seasons.
In 2010, the Giants ranked eighth in the league in total run defense, but the last two seasons have seen a major drop-off and an exponential rise in the number of remote controls thrown through flat-screen TVs because DeMarco Murray or LeSean McCoy just scampered untouched for a 14-yard pick-up on a third-and-11. The run defense has, to put it lightly, been rather infuriating for Giants fans over the last few years, and it needs to improve (and fast) if the Giants want to avoid another disappointing season in 2013.
Beginning with the Super Bowl title season of 2011, the Giants have significantly dropped in overall team run defense, falling to 19th in the league that season and an inexcusable 25th in the league last season. Only seven teams gave up more yards on the ground than the Giants last season, including disasters like the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills — in other words, teams that couldn't get out of their own way.
The fact that the Giants only narrowly missed the playoffs last season and none of the teams below them even sniffed the postseason was more a testament to the fact that their offense is so adept at bailing out the defense and putting points on the board when they most needed it. However, the defense can't expect to be bailed out by a 70-yard Manning-to-Cruz bomb every Sunday. The run defense never seemed to be able to get the big stop when they had to, and there was a stretch where it seemed like just about anyone could run for over 100 yards on the Giants defense.
However, it doesn't just stop there. The lack of run defense hasn't exactly helped the Giants' already struggling pass defense. With teams able to run on the Giants almost at will, it also opened up the passing lanes for opposing quarterbacks, leading to a lot of big plays — especially plays of 20+ yards. These back-breaking big plays are what hurt the Giants defense the most last season, and shoring up the run defense can go a long way in helping out the secondary.
Luckily, the Giants defense can't get too much worse if you're going by rankings. At 25th in the league last season, they have plenty of room for improvement, and that's exactly what they're going to need next season if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight year. Signing Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson should help, but the Giants are going to need a lot more help from the linebacker position as well.