After watching film of the New York Giants' run defense the past few weeks, Baltimore Ravens' star running back Ray Rice has to be frothing at the mouth over the opportunity that will be in front of him on Sunday.
Rice, the standout Rutgers grad, has now compiled four consecutive season of more than 1,000 yards rushing. As much as he has to see what other backs have done to the Giants Rice tried to say all the right, complimentary, things when he spoke to the media this week.
What does Rice see on tape from the Giants?
"You see a very physical bunch. Obviously, they have premier pass-rushers, they have smart linebackers and they have physical safeties," Rice said. "I mean, when that team puts it all together, there’s a reason as to why they’re Super Bowl champs. You don’t just become the Super Bowl champs by surprise or by accident. That’s a really good football team over there."
Physical? By their own count, the Giants missed a ridiculous 18 tackles during Sunday's 34-0 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
"I’m sure what they’re saying right now is that we can’t let that happen again next week. I’m sure they’re going to come in here with that being the first thing that they corrected. We were embarrassed and they were embarrassed," Rice said. "The thing for embarrassment is how you bounce back. You want to go out there and put on a great show for the next game. Obviously, they have a lot at stake, we have a lot at stake. We’re trying to clinch the AFC North, and I think they’re in a three-way tie (for the NFC East). There’s going to be playoff atmosphere football on Sunday."
The Giants now surrendered more than 100 yards rushing in four consecutive games, and in six of their last eight. Twice during that eight-game span they have given up more than 200.
"We have to stop the run too, and rush the passer," said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. "Like I say everyday during the season, if we can’t stop the run, then we can never get a chance to get the passer."
Question is, why haven't the Giants been able to stop the run? Is it scheme? Are the Giants playing so much NASCAR and so many two-linebacker sets that they don't have the personnel to defend the run? Or, is it that the personnel is not good enough of consistently physical enough to control the line of scrimmage. Maybe it's a little of both -- I don't claim to be a scout or defensive coordinator. Let's look at what we can, however.
Run defense is, primarily, the responsibility of the defensive line and linebackers.
At defensive tackle the Giants have Linval Joseph, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. All are good players, though none is an All-Pro caliber players. Maybe Shaun Rogers would have helped some, and the organization counted on development from Marvin Austin that simply has not occurred -- as evidenced by his being inactive week after week.
At defensive end, Pierre-Paul is a tremendous run stopper -- he has a +16.1 Pro Football Focus grade vs. the run. Spencer Paysinger (+2.7) is second, but Paysinger has played fewer than 100 defensive snaps. Justin Tuck, despite not being as productive the past couple of seasons as a pass rusher, is still stout against the run. Osi Umenyiora (-4.1) has never been a physical run defender.
At the linebacker level, the Giants have good players. What they don't appear to have is a physical run stopper. Michael Boley is an athletic linebacker with a -2.6 run grade from PFF, and when he is lined up behind Umenyiora that seems like a natural place for teams to run. Chase Blackburn? Smarts and intangibles galore, but not much speed and not a physical presence in the middle. His -10.1 run grade from PFF is an indication that there are plays up the middle that need to be made but are not. Jacquian Williams is +2.3 against the run, but in limited time. Mathias Kiwanuka has not played linebacker for several weeks now.
Does the absence of Kenny Phillips at safety hurt the Giants that much on run defense?
Your thoughts, Giants' fans?