The Giants late season collapses are well documented, but remain a mystery to Tom Coughlin (just listen to any one of his press conferences towards the end of the season), but perhaps finally someone has figured out what ails the Giants at the end of the season. The following block quote comes from the website Footballoutsiders.com which is a statistical football site like Coldhardfacts or profootballfocus.com
[Omitted by me]
(...) the Giants have been noticeably worse by the end of the year. Big Blue have been 30-10 through their first eight games over the past five years, but they're 18-22 over the final eight. That 12-game decline is the largest for any team since the 1996-2000 Steelers, and that team wasn't facing the possibility of an 18-game regular season going forward. So what gives?
One problem is out of their control: Their schedule has been much more difficult in the second half over that timeframe. The average winning percentage of their opponents during the first eight games is 44 percent, equivalent to a 7-9 team. Over the final eight games, that rises to an average winning percentage of 57 percent, or a 9-7 team. Even after adjusting for the quality of opposition by using DVOA, the team declines in every aspect of the game, across the board. The one factor that stands out, though, is pass defense. The Giants' average rank in pass defense DVOA during the first half of the season is sixth; during the second half, it's 20th. This year, they went from first in the league to tenth, with that 45-17 loss to the Packers in Week 16 contributing mightily.
The Giants can only hope to shake out of their second-half doldrums as well as that Steelers did. After going 27-13 in the first half of the season and 16-24 in the second half from 1996 through 2000, Pittsburgh promptly won more games in the second half than they did in the first for each of the next four season
The whole article on the Giants and the entire N.F.C. East is here: http://footballoutsiders.com/four-downs/2011/four-downs-nfc-east
But I just wanted to dissect the viability of this assertion by footballoutsiders.
Do we agree?
I tend to agree with both points. The schedule has been more difficult and the Giants have lived on pounding the weaker teams in the league and being fairly predestrian against the better teams (though that would look a lot different if they could just beat the Eagles).
And I think pass defense is a big part of the problem, but I don't think that's just a early season problem. I think the pass defense has been statistically good earlier in the year because the teams earlier in the year just can't block the Giants pass rush, which makes the secondary look good, but towards the end of the year teams that have decent to good OL (ie teams that win in the N.F.L) can slow down the Giants pass rush which creates a big problem.
I do wonder what it would look like if Footballoutsiders ommited 2009 in their calculations when the Giants were a historically bad defense for the last half of the season (still have nightmares).
But is the problem the secondary or the pass defense as a whole?
A little bit of both to me. The Giants have very solid, good starting cornerbacks, but lack the depth behind those to handle deep dynmaic passing attacks as well as a true shut-down corner, although Webster was just that in 2008 and hasn't been on that level since.
I've used this statistic many times (also from FO) but the Giants were #2 in the league vs #1 WR, #7 vs #2 WR, and 31st vs all other receivers. The Giants really need to add depth to the cornerback position. If Corey Webster got hurt next year with this same roster bad things would happen for the Giants. I think they should also consider adding a dynamic talent at Cornerback early in the draft. I love Brandon Harris, but I'm not sure the Giants will because he lacks ideal size that they prefer in their cornerbacks. Jimmy Smith is that kind of player, but reports are out (draftinsider.net) that Smith interviewed poorly and also was skipping pre-draft workouts, which is a terrible sign if a player is skipping the workouts to the most important interview of their lives.
They might be able to get a player like Aaron Williams in the second round, or another CB might fall into their lap in the third (House, Burton, Johnny Patrick). One other CB I find very interesting for the Giants is Kenrdic Burney, but again he's smaller. What I like about him is he's a ball hawk who is suited perfectly for Fewell's read and react scheme, but I digress.
What's even worse than the cornerbacks are the linebackers in coverage. They are not good coverage linebackers and leave the Giants exposed to teams that have QB who can make quick decisions and get the ball out in space vs the Giants linebackers.
Akeem Ayers is a player that could help the Giants out in pass coverage and is a big long armed man which will appeal to the Giants, but I'm hoping that they will look to add a good linebacker in free agency (I love the guy James Anderson from the Panthers as an all around good linebacker, or Manny Lawson, who is essentially the player Ayers aspires to be because-a solid all around playmaking linebacker, but Lawson who was drafted to be a 3-4 OLB pass rusher has not and will not develop into that kind of player so San Fran will probably not make a push to retain him). Getting back to Ayers, as versatile as Ayers is he lacks, to me, the physicality and nastiness the Giants are already missing at the linebacker spot: The one thing I hope the Giants don't do is draft another late round linebacker prospect...we already have 9 of those, we don't need another one and the only one I hope they consider late is if Mason Foster falls or teams are too afraid to pick up Mark Herzlich early, because Herzlich is not a late round LB prospect, he's a first round LB prospect under unique circumstances.
But we'll see what happens with the C.B.A. Issue and whether or not the Giants will have opportunities to explore free agency before the draft so there not forced to address these issues in the draft and can focus on B.P.A.
The point is: the Giants need to figure out how to handle the second half Blues, if they want to make it into the playoffs next year and the years coming up and I think a big part of that is continuing to improve the pass defense.
Thoughts: is the key to the Giants success as FO suggested improving their pass defense.