Ok, I don't claim to be any kind of X's and O's guy. But I hardly think it's a slam dunk that Fewell's defensive scheme is to blame for the degradation of the defense's performance over last year. Last year was pretty good, but there were problems with big plays in the air.
I know everyone here knows about the Giants' injuries this year, but I don't think I've seen anyone list them out for the defense in one place. So let's start there:Here are all the guys, by my count, lost for the season by the Giants since training camp. Defensive players in bold:
- Martell Mallett, RB
- Martin Parker, DT
- Bruce Johnson, CB
- Woody Turenne, CB
- Brian Witherspoon, CB
- Terrell Thomas, CB
- Duke Calhoun, WR
- Clint Sintim, OLB
- Marvin Austin, DT
- Sam Giguere, WR
- Sage Rosenfels, QB
- Brian Jackson, S
- Jonathan Goff, MLB
- Domenik Hixon, WR
- [11-1-11 Update, just to keep a running record somewhere] Justin Tryon, CB
- [11-24-11 Update] Michael Coe, CB
- [11-27-11 Update] Michael Clayton, WR
- [11-30-11 Update] Will Beatty, LT
- [12-7-11 Update] Stacey Andrews, OT
Okay, so that's 9 out of 14 defensive players lost for the entire season since the start of training camp. Of those, four were CB's (one starter, two solid second tier depth), one a starting MLB and one a backup SAM/possible starter at OLB. One DT was a high potential rookie to be the 4th DT. Of those nine, at least five would have made the team.
Now let's move on to defensive guys not lost for the season who have missed notable time:
- Justin Tuck, DE, pro bowl player and the team's best defender. Has played in two of the first five games. Questionable/doubtful for week 6.
- Osi Umenyiora, DE, has played in two of the first five games, missed the first three.
- Prince Amukamara, CB, first round rookie regarded by most as ready to contribute well in his rookie season, lost since his first day of training camp until at least week 8.
Okay, so you look at this list and the first thing that jumps out is that any plans Fewell had for the secondary going into training camp were wiped out. So, the team improvised by resigning aging veteran Grant and returning to the three safety nickel set from last year as an emergency measure. That moved Antrel Rolle to nickel CB, where he is not very good but he was better than any obvious off the shelf option, and he at least knows the defense. The defense lost speed in the secondary, and lost run support from the safeties by putting Rolle in the nickel slot in coverage.
The second thing that jumps out is the hit the linebackers took in experience. Goff was a great run stopping MLB who was looking sharper and quicker on his coverage reads in the preseason. Sintim was a big question mark and had already lost his SAM job to Kiwinuka, but he was also depth and he knew the system. So the middle of the field was forced to rely on more inexperienced, albeit talented, rookies in the linebacking corps.
The last thing that jumps out is how the defensive line has not had its awesome DE corps all healthy at once. Without the emergence of beastie Jason Pierre Paul in his second year, the line would also be a real fiasco. The line has still been able to generate pass pressure, but with Tuck's injuries, has been weakened a bit against the run.
Now, if your name was Perry Fewell, a lot of people could forgive you for having a couple of quiet "why me?" moments in around the first week of September.
Conclusion: So, like I said, maybe his scheme is not the best. I myself have no real way of knowing. But the offensive plan in place right now was not the plan going into the season. The Giants adjusted back to the three safety set in response to the decimation of the CB corps. We're already seeing Plan B. And Plan B, as an imperfect option, is so far limiting the team's exposure to the big pass plays that killed the team last year, which the higher ups dinged Fewell for in public during the off season. The defense is hurting now against the run and against passes over the medium middle.
But when you look at all those injuries all together, how many there are, who they are, and at what positions, is that really any kind of surprise? Especially when you're relying on rookies who did not have the full off season to learn due to the lockout?
UPDATE: Fewell has some interesting comments about adjusting to dealing with the opposing offense going no huddle. Just passing along for information, not commenting on the article.