Aside from Eli Manning's health, let's talk about the thing that has me most concerned in the wake of the New York Giants' 35-14 loss to Cleveland Monday night.
The Giants defense.
There are some issues on the defensive side of the ball, and coach Tom Coughlin knows it. He hinted Tuesday that Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will need to come up with some new wrinkles.
I really don’t think for the last two weeks we have had much pressure on the quarterback. I think there has to be a lot of self-analysis there in terms of not only how we are going about our business but exactly who is doing what. I think we need to look hard at that and we are talking about that.
Even after giving up 455 yards Monday the Giants are sixth in the league defensively, giving up 279.6 yards per game. The Giants have 15 quarterbacks sacks, third in the league among teams who have played just five games.
The numbers are misleading.
Against both Cincinnati and Cleveland the Giants generated little to no pass rush. If I could find stats on quarterback hurries and knockdowns I would think the Giants would not be anywhere near the top of the league in that category thus far this season.
The Giants should also be concerned about a couple of other things defensively -- their run defense and the lack of turnovers generated.
New York is a pedestrian 12th in the league against the run through five games, and Monday the Browns simply ran straight ahead and pushed the Giants around.
As for turnovers, the Giants have just two interceptions and no fumble recoveries thus far, ranking them last in the league in takeaways.
The Bengals and Browns seem to have uncovered a way to attack the Giants. Run directly up the middle, use three-step drops and rolling pockets to defeat the Giants pressure, then go ahead and try to get the ball deep down the field when Spagnuolo plays it straight and rushes just four.
So, what can Spagnuolo and Coughlin do about it?
There is no question Big Blue misses the injured Osi Umenyiora and the retired Michael Strahan. Partially because of his talent, and partially because having Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka allowed Spagnuolo to move players around and create mismatches along the line.
I would like to suggest that -- even with the personnel the Giants have now -- they need to move Tuck and Kiwanuka around a bit to find those mismatches. Use Dave Tollefson or Jerome McDougle at end sometimes and move Tuck inside, or let Kiwi stand up occasionally and rush from an outside linebacker slot -- a little of the hybrid kind of player he was last year.
Spags also like to bring tons of pressure directly up the middle, and teams are now rolling away from it. Maybe some blitzes from the outside linebackers instead of directly up the middle would keep opposing quarterbacks from rolling the pocket.
I know the Giants are hardly a defense in crisis, but they have not been nearly as dominant as they were during last season's championship run.
I also know Spags knows a lot more about defense than I do, and he will make adjustments.