Blitz? New York Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell doesn't know what the word 'blitz' means, does he? At least that is what you would believe if you listened to the constant moaning and groaning from Giants' fans who have long seen Fewell as too conservative in his defensive play-calling.
From what the Giants displayed in the preseason, and from what Fewell said on Thursday, it sounds like the blitz might be a bigger part of the Giants' defensive arsenal this season.
"We have some good blitzers on the edge. We believe that not only just the guys up front, but our guys at linebacker can help us improve on those (sack) numbers. We’re not just putting that on the front guys. We’re putting that on the whole defense to improve those numbers," Fewell said. "We just want to be aggressive. We want to take the fight to our opponent and we'll use all the weapons we can possibly use in order to be an aggressive defense."
The impression has long been that Fewell prefers to rush four and uses the blitz only as a last resort. Do the numbers back that up? The Giants rushed four 68 percent of the time in 2012, according to the Football Outsiders Almanac. There were 11 NFL teams who did so more often, but that is still a high percentage of the time. They rushed three 5.7 percent of the time, meaning they blitzed only 26.3 percent of the time.
The Giants fell to 33 sacks (22nd in the league) in 2012 after registering 48 sacks (3rd in the league) in 2011. Overall, the Giants -- usually one of the better defensive teams in the league -- placed an embarrassing 31st in yardage allowed last season.
Fewell admitted that last season gnaws at him.
"It never goes out of my mind. You never want to be ranked last or near last in anything you compete at and as a professional, you want to improve each and every year. We're very motivated to erase that number and be a top defense in the league," Fewell said. "We feel like we can definitely improve on that and we will improve on that."
An intent to be more aggressive appears to be part of the plan to make that happen. There are also the changes at linebacker, where there will be three new starters -- Dan Connor, Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers.
There are also massive changes at defensive tackle, which the Giants hope will lead to improved run defense. Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Marvin Austin are out. Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, Mike Patterson and Johnathan Hankins are in. That led to this classic quote from Fewell.
"We've got bigger butts. Shaun Rogers is in there. Cullen Jenkins ... The butts are a lot bigger," Fewell said. "I think it's a huge factor in helping us be a better run defense. The mass, the size, the strength is noticeably different for us."
The secondary lost Stevie Brown to injury, but has gained veterans Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas. There is also veteran Ryan Mundy, signed as a free agent, who will take Brown's spot. Thomas will play the nickel spot, allowing Antrel Rolle to play a true safety position.
"We think he's ready," said Fewell in regards to Thomas, who has missed two season with knee injuries. "We're not going to shy away from putting him on the field. We believe that he's going to go out and prove himself and we like the way he's looked in practice as well as the preseason games."
The development of third-year man Prince Amukamara, a 2011 first-round pick, could also be instrumental in helping the defense.
"We really believe that he has benefitted from going through an OTA and being healthy during the OTAs and going through an offseason and going through training camp taking a lot of reps and not missing any practices and we've seen him improve more and more every day," Fewell said. "We've seen his confidence get better and better every day. We think in the preseason games he's responded extremely well, so we just look for him to keep growing and developing into the player that he can be."
There were positive signs during the preseason. The Giants allowed 85 points (21.25 per game) and had a +26.0 rating from Pro Football Focus, 10th overall.
We begin to find out on Sunday if Fewell's promises, the changes in personnel, and the preseason success translate into a better 2013 performance.
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