Can The Giants Defense Adapt To The New Wave Of Mobile QBs?
Everything is cyclical, and the NFL is no exception. The last few seasons has seen the league begin to shift in a new direction as far as the quarterback position is concerned. It's not a dramatic shift; not one that has redefined how the game is played (at least not yet), but it's certainly noticeable. The rise of the mobile quarterback has been seen before. The 90s saw the likes of Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Kordell Stewart: quarterbacks who could hurt you with their arms (well, not so much Kordell Stewart, but you get it) and burn you with their legs.
Over the last few seasons we've seen a big wave of mobile quarterbacks enter the league and make waves: namely Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and even Andrew Luck, who can get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet from time to time. Although the league still mostly belongs to conventional pocket passers, there's no question that the tides are changing, especially with Geno Smith entering the league this season and Johnny Manziel likely entering next season.
The Giants have had a lot of difficulty containing mobile quarterbacks in recent years. They had trouble with RGIII twice last season, and routinely ran into problems with trying to contain other mobile quarterbacks in the past such as McNabb, Michael Vick and Vince Young. If the Giants defense hopes to adapt to a changing league, they're going to have to adjust their defensive scheme to compensate for the fact that they are easily burned by quarterbacks who can escape the pocket and make plays with their legs.
While the league is still predominantly a passing league, the Giants have had a lot of trouble stopping the run, no matter who is carrying the ball for the other team, and it's a problem that has plagued Perry Fewell's defense and hurt them in the most critical of times. There isn't simply one solution to the problems that the Giants defense has been having with stopping the run, but the team's base 4-3 defense isn't getting the job done and their linebackers simply aren't quick enough to fill the gaps.
Furthermore, when a quick and mobile quarterback gets out of the pocket against the Giants defense, it's been way too easy for them to break containment, and the linebackers are often little help once the quarterback able to get beyond the first level and into the open field.
One possible way to cover up this vulnerability in the defense would be to work in more 3-4 sets against teams with a mobile quarterback or a speedy running back that has a history of shredding the Giants defense (McCoy). Switching into a 3-4 will put an extra linebacker in that weak part of the field where the defense tends to collapse most frequently. That extra body can act as a QB spy and work on containing a quarterback that breaks the pocket and limit the damage. With the big bodies of Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins anchoring the line along with Justin Tuck, they could slide Kiwanuka back as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker or even roll JPP into that spot once he's healthy.
This season the Giants will face six mobile quarterbacks in Griffin (twice), Vick (twice, if he's named the starter), Wilson and Newton. Beyond that, the Giants will also face several of the top running backs in the league as well, going up against Kansas City's Jamaal Charles in Week 4 and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in Week 7. Along with the running backs the Giants have to face in their own division (Dallas' DeMarco Murray, Washington's Alfred Morris and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy) who already give the defense fits twice a year, it's clear that the Giants need to be able to stop the run this season to be successful.