There has been a lot of chatter this week about the big plays being surrendered by the New York Giants' secondary. In two games, the Giants have already surrendered three plays of 40 yards or more. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, victimized for plays of 80 and 50 yards by the Giants on Sunday, have given up more. The Bucs have surrendered four.
We know the Giants are struggling at the right corner with Prince Amukamara missing the first two games with a high ankle sprain. Michael Coe has been OK, but has been limited by a hamstring injury. Justin Tryon has played only 30 snaps, been targeted eight times and surrendered two touchdowns.
With Amukamara hurt and Terrell Thomas out for the season, struggles on that side can't be considered unexpected. The alarming thing has been that the Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys have not been afraid to challenge Corey Webster on the other side, and both teams have been successful doing it.
On Sunday, Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson caught five passes for 128 yards, much of that against Webster, and ran by him on another potential big play where Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman misfired.
Through two games, Webster is the 131st ranked cornerback out of 135 graded by Pro Football Focus. Webster has surrendered eight completions and his average of 25.1 yards per pass completed against him is the worst in the league among full-time players.
So, what is up with Webster?
The veteran cornerback thinks the Giants have been playing too soft at the line of scrimmage.
"We're known for putting my hands on receivers and trying to change up the timing between them at the line of scrimmage and I don't think we did a great job of getting our hands on some of the time yesterday," Webster said on Monday. "I think if we can be cognizant of where the playmakers are and put our hands on them and just not let them run free of the line of scrimmage, that eliminates a lot of that problem that we did in giving up the big plays."
"If it's up to me, I would always line up and try to test out the receivers and battle them, putting hands on them, but it's not my call. We kind of just go in the scheme of things and try to put it together as we were being taught and how the game is being called."
Below, courtesy of SB Nation's animation crew, are some examples of what Webster is talking about.
This is early in the game, the first time Tampa Bay had the ball. A short, easy completion to Mike Williams with Webster playing 5 yards off and backing up at the snap.
This is the 41-yard completion to Jackson in the first quarter. You see that Webster is lined up as though he is in press coverage here, but Jackson's release doesn't allow Webster to re-direct him at all. Jackson just runs right by.
This third play is late in the first quarter and finds Webster in a soft coverage and backpedaling before the ball is even snapped. Yet, with no re-route Jackson blows right by Webster. The Giants were fortunate here that Josh Freeman did not put this ball on target.
This play is a third-quarter completion to Jackson, but appears to be much better work from Webster. He is in press coverage, re-routes Jackson and is beaten here only by an excellent, really indefensible back-shoulder throw. The coverage appears to be the one Webster really would prefer to play more often.
Webster's comment might be taken as a shot at defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Webster indicated that he thought Fewell adjusted during the game, although the Giants still gave up a 41-yard touchdown pass (over Tryon) in the fourth quarter.
On Tuesday Fewell seemed to indicate that Webster might be right that the Giants need to be more physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage.
"Well that's something that we've seen early this year. Quarterbacks are really getting the ball out fast, quick three-step or quick five-step. They haven't allowed us to rush them like we did in the past," Fewell said. "We have to change our approach a little bit based on what the team's doing. We'll make adjustments based on what the offense is giving us right now."
It will be interesting to see what adjustments the Giants make against quarterback Cam Newton, wide receiver Steve Smith and the rest of the Panthers. Will they press more at the line of scrimmage? That seems to be what Webster wants. We will see if he gets his wish.