Is The Giants' Defense Still Capable Of Carrying The Team?
Recently, the New York Giants' newly revitalized defensive end and defensive captain, Justin Tuck, remarked to the media that he hopes the defense is still capable of carrying the team. Those are big words coming from the man who has taken on a de facto leadership role on the team, and they're words that light up the ears of Giants fans everywhere.
The defense as a whole has struggled mightily in the past few years, and the team has won despite the unit's best efforts and not because of them, as it used to be in Giants Nation. Ranked 31st in the league in total defense last season, making the jump from "bottom of the barrel" to "carrying the team" might seem like a bit of a stretch for many. It may seem that way, until you consider the talent that the Giants are equipped with on the defensive side of the ball. The Giants are not exactly heading into the 2013 season with a rag-tag group of scrubs and has-beens on defense, which is more than a lot of teams can say. In fact, when everyone is healthy, their defensive line should be considered among the best in the league on paper.
But being the best on paper and being the best on Sundays are two completely different animals. Along the same lines, saying that you hope the defense is still capable of carrying the team and actually seeing to it that the defense can carry the team are also two completely different things. It's not hard to be optimistic, and positivity seems to be the law of the land for all 32 teams as we approach the beginning of training camp. Every team is staring at a blank slate and a fresh start, and that shiny new 0-0 record in Week 1 means that anything is possible. The thing is the Giants’ defense is trying to reverse a downward trend that has seen the unit regress steadily over the last few seasons. They're not simply trying to bounce back from a rough year plagued with injuries and bad breaks. The point is that the Giants’ defense has a long way to go before they can be considered capable of carrying the team.
Right now, the team belongs to Eli Manning. Until the defense can prove that it can win ballgames instead of merely holding the fort, the team belongs to the offense. It belongs to Victor Cruz, who just inked a five-year contract extension, and it belongs to the high-powered aerial attack that has proven to be capable enough of putting points on the board when it needs to. As opposed to the defense, which hasn't quite proven yet that it is capable of keeping points off the board.
The Giants’ defense has a few glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed before they can be considered capable of carrying the team. The linebacker position and the secondary are still major question marks heading into the season, and if these two key areas of the defense — two admittedly major areas — aren't at least somewhat improved from what they were last year, then you can't expect too much out of the unit as a whole. While it certainly won't be difficult to improve on last year's overall ranking of 31, depending on them to carry the team may be too much to ask — at least right away.