Let's begin this week with a Big Blue View Mailbag. I asked for questions over the weekend and received a few good ones. So, here are my thoughts on what you want to know.
With the lack of depth at the linebacker position, any chance we see a starting crew of Kiwi at the strong side, Connor up the middle and Williams on the weak side with a second string of Rivers on the strong side, Herzlich up the middle and Cooper Taylor make the full time transition to weakside linebacker? He has the height and if he puts on a few pounds, he seems like he would be the ideal cover-linebacker along with Williams in nickel situations. Also seems better than Paysinger, who at this point, looks like a life time special teamer/third string linebacker.
Ed says: I think you're missing the boat on a few things here. First, it sounds like Mathias Kiwanuka is going to play more defensive end than linebacker. He barely played any linebacker the second half of last season, so while the Giants might not be giving up on that completely the expectation is that they will move away from it.
Second, you are getting way ahead of yourself if you are plugging Cooper Taylor into a key role in the defense. Let's get the guy into rookie mini-camp first. And the Giants didn't draft him to convert him into a linebacker. They drafted him because today's NFL game requires those 'hybrid' defensive players who can drop down in place of a linebacker to play the run and cover the tight end, and then go back and play some center field as a traditional safety. They think Taylor might develop into that kind of player -- eventually. Will Hill is ahead of him in that role right now -- and Ryan Mundy might be, as well.
Finally, I think you are discounting Paysinger too easily. He can play either outside linebacker spot, and considering the injury history of both Rivers and Williams there is a chance he plays a lot of defensive snaps in 2012.
The likely alignment if they had to play a game this Sunday would be Rivers-Connor-Williams. We'll see if it stays that way once they get to training camp.
Seems like Fewell has been stuck in his "my front 4 will beat your 6" approach far too long. The Giants rarely blitz and, in my view, are way too predictable on first and 3rd and long scenarios. Do you think Fewell will wake up to the reality that front 4 haven't been getting it done?
Also, with all emphasis on stopping run in free agency and draft, won't teams just play action to death when we have run stop package in? Will Fewell have any answers?
Ed says: There seems to be a notion around Big Blue View that Perry Fewell is a clueless football coach. Let's dispense with that. He is a good football coach and a smart guy who is going to be a head coach someday -- maybe even in New York with the Giants. He knows what he's doing and what he wants to do and he's been successful in the past. That said, I know -- and I'm sure he knows -- the way the Giants played defense last season is not nearly good enough.
I have one general complaint with Fewell that goes to Vincent's point. I believe Fewell is sometimes not aggressive enough, especially with a team built to rush the passer and corners who like to press. In his defense I will say that EVERY defensive coordinator in the NFL wants to get to the quarterback with a four-man rush if possible and with the players the Giants had last season they should have gotten there more often. That's on Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Kiwanuka -- not on Fewell. One other thing to remember is that when you have injuries in your secondary and you are constantly changing the personnel, which the Giants were, it makes it difficult to blitz because you are hanging guys out to dry if you don't get home to the quarterback.
As for the play-action stuff there is always a chess game between the offense and defense. Teams will always try to get into a play they think will work based on the defense presented to them, and passing vs. run defense and running vs. pass defense is part of that. The fact is, though, that even with the NFL being a passing league now offenses still have to run the football so teams don't just destroy their quarterbacks.
The Giants, for example, are convinced that the most difficult play to stop in the Washington Redskins arsenal is the dive play, the simple hand-off up the middle to Alfred Morris that sets up everything else the Redskins want to do. Defense still comes down to trying to make the offense one-dimensional, and that is what all the emphasis on improving the run defense is about. If you can't stop the run you can't put teams in second- and third-and-long, the situations where you can be aggressive with your pass rush.
When the Giants are in 3rd and 2 or one, why do they not give the ball to Hynoski? An accomplished runner in High School, big body and weighs about the same as Branden [sic] Jacobs. Seems he would be a good choice for a few tough yards, but, he doesn't seem to get the ball. Was wondering why?
Ed says: I love Hynoski and his mom will probably want to wring my neck for this, but let's get beyond the fact that he was a great high school running back. He was, but the NFL is not high school. I would like to see Hynoski get the ball a little bit more often myself -- he carried just five times last season -- since he does show enough ability running the ball to make the defense play honestly. One thing to remember about those short-yardage carries, though, is that if you give the ball to the fullback you lose a blocker since the tailback will be lined up behind him. So you give the defense one more free runner. The Giants just like the idea of giving the ball to big back like Andre Brown in short yardage with Hynoski, a bruising blocker, leading the way. I can't really blame them.