OK, so we don't have to debate whether or not the 0-2 Giants defense has been atrocious for two games. It has. The 80 points allowed is all the evidence you need to see that.
There are really only two questions at this point.
1. How did the Giants defense get into this mess?
2. Can they do anything to fix it?
The Giants hired Steve Spagnuolo to change the team's defensive style. Tim Lewis' passive scheme wasn't working, and his critical demeanor grated on the players.
Spagnuolo came from Philadelphia, where he learned an aggressive, pressing style from Jim Johnson. That is what Tom Coughlin hired him to bring to New York.
The results on the field tell you that -- whatever it is Spagnuolo is trying to accomplish -- so far it isn't getting done.
Our good friend Jason, who writes the fine Bleeding Green Nation blog covering the Eagles checked in Monday with the following thoughts about Spagnuolo.
The Eagles system starts with the secondary. They've drafted early and often in the secondary and spent big money back there. In 2004 they had 3 of the 4 starters make the pro bowl. Last year they had 2 of the 4. They've had nickel corners like Al Harris and Rod Hood go elsewhere to become starters and pro bowlers. Jim Johnson routinely leaves those guys out an island with his blitz packages. Without that kind of secondary you simply can not run the system Jim Johnson runs. Just look at what the Eagles have done personnel wise. They haven't spent big money on linebackers, they have spent money on defensive ends but frankly their best ends who get the most playing time are basically a 5th round pick in Trent Cole and a undrafted free agent in Juqua Thomas. The last few years they've drafted high on the defensive line, but that's only because they've had their secondary set. The Giants are built the opposite way.
So on one hand you can clearly blame Spagnuolo. He's trying to run a system that he knows he doesn't have the personnel to run. That said, how much can you blame him if they hired him to run a certain system and didn't give him the guys he needs to run it?
That's an interesting question, and we thank Jason for checking in and offering some perspective.
Fact is, the Giants defense couldn't defend the pass, only rarely pressured the quarterback and couldn't tackle when Lewis was the coordinator. It still can't do those things.
The personnel just isn't that good, which goes back to draft mistakes like William Joseph and Corey Webster. Other than Osi Umenyiora, when he's healthy, they don't have any real playmakers.
Let's break down what Spagnuolo and the Giants do have to work with, and see what options are available to fix this situation.
As Coughlin told Giants.com, however, "The players that we have are the players that we have."
In other words, don't expect miracles.
Anyway, let's look at the different units and see what can be done.
Umenyiora will be fine as long as he is healthy, and Justin Tuck has played well. Michael Strahan doesn't seem to have much in the tank, though that might not be fair since he is still playing his way into shape.
Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins are OK against the run, along with Manny Wright, but aren't helping the pass rush much.
How to help? More Tuck, and probably less Strahan, is about the only change the Giants can make on the line. The Giants don't have time to let Strahan play his way into shape.
Antonio Pierce is a good, but not great middle linebacker. Mathias Kiwanuka is a work in progress at one outside spot, and the Giants have given no indication they will give up on this move and swithc him back to defensive end. On the other side Kawika Mitchell has also struggled, particularly in pass coverage.
My guess is it will be Mitchell, who played the middle in Kansas City, who loses playing time when Gerris Wilkinson is healthy. Aside from that, the Giants just have to hope that Mitchell and Kiwanuka get better in pass coverage.
This is where the biggest problem is, and where the biggest changes might occur. First-round pick Aaron Ross has played fairly well, and the Giants have to get him on the field more. Webster can't cover or tackle, Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters are old and Kevin Dockery is hurt. More playing time for Ross is the only current option.
Obviously, it's not a pretty picture. It's hard to play an aggressive scheme when you can't cover, tackle or rush the passer but that's where the Giants are.
Unless Strahan finds the fountain of youth, Kiwanuka suddenly figures out how to be a linebacker and Ross develops quickly I don't know how much improvement can be expected this season.