Time for this week's 'Friday Five' with Inside Football editor Pat Traina. No 'crystal ball' questions for Pat this week. We talk about Antrel Rolle, the defensive struggles, the resurgence of the running game and more.
Be sure to check Inside Football for my answers to Pat's questions.
Ed: Did you have any issue with any of the comments made by Antrel Rolle this week? I didn't, except that you can make the argument he threw Corey Webster under the bus while defending himself.
Pat: I don't recall Rolle specifically mentioning Webster by name - in fact, as I remember, it was one of the beat writers who by deductive reasoning, mentioned Webster. So no, I have no problems with what Rolle said because when he has screwed up in the past, he's been man enough to own up to his mistakes.
Ed: The issues in the secondary. I know there have been a multitude of injuries, but for the most part these are veteran guys making mistakes. Are they being asked to play too many coverages, or figure out coverage schemes that are too complex? Or do you see something else?
Pat: That could be part of it, yes. Another part could be that they might be trying to compensate for the rookies who aren't where they're supposed to be and hence it looks like the veterans are the ones screwing up. Honestly, without knowing the specific calls, it's hard to put a finger on exactly what the problem is. However, one thing we constantly hear from the players is that they have to go and do a better job regarding communicating. Now whether that means they're not sure of what they're being asked to do on the field as the game unfolds, or they're not quite "getting it" in the classroom, I can't tell for sure. But I can say that at this point in the season, these breakdowns should NOT be happening.
Ed: I wrote this week that the improvement in the running game seems to coincide with the insertion of Mitch Petrus into the lineup and the improved play of Henry Hynoski. Thoughts on the recent play of those two?
Pat: Petrus is a little firecracker - love his enthusiasm and I also love it that he has a bit of a nasty streak in him. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Richie Seubert - a scrappy son of a gun who doesn't take gruff from anyone, yet who plays a controlled game as far as keeping his aggression within the play as opposed to engaging in the extracurricular stuff some guys have been known to pull.
As for Hynoski, I think his problem early on was that he was a little too excited to be out there and that he would often go for the pancake when it wasn't always called for. He's since calmed down a bit and has been paying a smarter, more compact game out there. He's still not blowing people up - I think that will come in time once he adds some additional strength and bulk in the off-season. And how nice is it to have a fullback that can actually catch passes? The kid runs some nice routes and I wouldn't be surprised if maybe next year he sees his role in the offense expand a little bit more to where he's not just out there to block.
I'll add one more thing. I think having Kevin Boothe at center has been huge as well. Boothe is a road grader, and he's healthy and I think he's made a huge difference in the overall protection for both the run and the pass. Not trying to take anything away from David Baas, but Boothe has been in the system since 2007 so he knows that playbook inside and out whereas Baas is still learning on the fly (and the fact that he's been absent due to injury hasn't helped his performance either.)
Ed: You made a sort of impassioned plea this week for people to stop criticizing Perry Fewell. Your thoughts on the job he has done given the injuries the defense has sustained?
Pat: Well, you know I like referring to stats Ed, so let's take a look at the Giants' six losses. In Week 1, they lost by 14 to Washington - this was around the time that Goff was lost for the season and they had to throw in a rookie linebacker into the mix (Greg Jones). Week 5 vs. Seattle, they lost by 11 largely because, I think, they were caught off guard by the no -huddle -=- that's on Fewell.
During their four-game losing streak to the 49ers, Eagles, Saints and Packers, with the exception of the Saints game in which they were blown out by 25 points largely due to a mysterious lackluster effort, the Giants lost their other three games by seven points or less.
Now on the flip side, the defense has gradually been allowing opponents more points per game and the offense has been able to match or better it - see the Cowboys game for instance.
So what does all this mean? The Giants defense, under Fewell, is far from being perfect. However, it's settled down, I think. And if they can just clean up these remaining nagging issues with the communication in the secondary, I think the defense will become that much better.
Ed: Thoughts on Aaron Ross? He played very well at the beginning of the season, but seems to have faded as the year has gone along.
Pat: Truthfully, I've never been able to figure Ross out. Historically he starts out strong and fades and I keep going back to something he said several years ago about his stamina in making it through a 16-game season. I'm not saying that's the case here, but if you watch his play, to my eyes at lest he doesn't seem as energetic and is making some sloppy mistakes out there.