The New York Giants finished an embarrassing 31st in the NFL in yards allowed per game a season ago, giving up 383.4. They could not consistently stop the run. They couldn't cover when they needed to. There were too many long passes allowed, often because of communication miscues in the secondary. They did not rush the passer as well as they have in previous seasons.
There are many changes in personnel on the defense entering the 2013 season. With training camp just days away let's look at five questions facing defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and his group as preparation for the season gets underway.
Will JPP Be Ready To Start The Season?
Jason Pierre-Paul is targeting the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys to return following his off-season back surgery. Can he make it back that quickly? How close to being 100 percent will he be if he does? How will the Giants manage without their best defensive player if he doesn't?
Can The Giants Fix The Pass Rush?
Really, this is Part 2 of the first question. First and foremost, they need something from Pierre-Paul approximating the 16.5 sacks he had during his All-Pro season in 2011, not the 6.5 sacks he had in 2012. The Giants as a team had just 33 sacks in 2012 after finishing second in the league with 48 in 2011. With Osi Umenyiora now a member of the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants have little chance of getting back to being a dominant pass-rushing team with Pierre-Paul limited.
A resurgent year from Justin Tuck is needed, as is quality play from Mathias Kiwanuka. A solid contribution from rookie third-round pick Damontre Moore or any of the other young defensive ends on the roster -- like Adrian Tracy or Adewale Ojomo -- would also help.
Who Plays Linebacker?
Will it be Mark Herzlich or Dan Connor in the middle? Jacquian Williams or Spencer Paysinger on the weak side? Keith Rivers, Aaron Curry or any available healthy body on the strong side? I am not sure the Giants know the answer to any of these questions as training camp opens.
Can The Giants Cover Anybody?
Veteran Corey Webster was terrible in 2012. Can he bounce back and be at least adequate? Can Prince Amukamara, entering his third season, become the No. 1 cornerback the Giants need him to be? Can Jayron Hosley improve after a rough rookie season? Can Aaron Ross, back after a year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, help? Can Terrell Thomas stay healthy? If he can, does he have anything left? Can some combination of these guys play well enough to keep Antrel Rolle out of the slot and allow him to play safety, where he belongs? Can the Giants get the communication between defensive backs, an issue all of last season, right?
Can The Giants Improve vs. The Run?
The Giants gave up 4.6 yards per rushing attempt (28th) a season ago. They can't repeat that type of performance if they want to get back to the playoffs, because if they can't stop the run they can't turn those pass-rushing defensive ends loose.
The Giants drafted defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the second round, and added free agents Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Frank Okam. They also have Shaun Rogers back in camp.
The linebacking unit is also completely revamped, largely with players the Giants hope will be better in run defense.