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With pass rush missing, Giants could use a new plan

The Giants have rarely blitzed thus far in 2013, and have also rarely put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Ron Antonelli

Before the 2013 NFL season began New York Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said he wanted his group to be more aggressive than it was in 2012, when it placed 31st in the league. Specifically, Fewell said he planned to blitz more to rejuvenate a pass rush that generated only 33 sacks last season.

Here is exactly what Fewell said.

"We have some good blitzers on the edge. We believe that not only just the guys up front, but our guys at linebacker can help us improve on those (sack) numbers. We’re not just putting that on the front guys. We’re putting that on the whole defense to improve those numbers," Fewell said. "We just want to be aggressive. We want to take the fight to our opponent and we'll use all the weapons we can possibly use in order to be an aggressive defense."

The Giants have not, however, generated much pass rush through the first two games. The Giants never sacked Peyton Manning in Sunday's 41-23 loss, and hit him only twice as he threw 43 times. In Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys the Giants sacked Tony Romo twice in 49 pass attempts.

Has Fewell used all of his weapons? The Giants have played 151 defensive snaps. According to Pro Football Focus linebackers and defensive backs have rushed 36 times, about 23 percent percent. If you consider that some of those were likely six-man rushes, the Giants have probably dialed up the blitz on about 20 percent of their defensive snaps. They blitzed 26.3 percent of the time in 2012. [Yes, these numbers have been corrected from the original post]

There was some talk that the Giants wanted to keep Romo in the pocket, so they backed off the blitz through much of the game. Peyton Manning, of course, is as good at reading a defense's intentions as any quarterback who has ever played. Still, the Giants allowed both of these quarterback to be far too comfortable in the pocket. Manning picked the Giants apart Sunday with a short passing game, waiting as long as he needed to in order to allow receivers to find holes in the Giants' coverage.

Defensive end Justin Tuck was right Tuesday when he called for the Giants to abandon the conservative defensive philosophy.

"It's getting to the point where we might have to take a few more chances," Tuck said. "Because we have to find a way to get to (Newton) and get to every quarterback we play. And not necessarily playing it on the safe side."

ESPN Stats & Info provided data that supports Tuck, showing that the Giants are getting to the quarterback only 2.9 percent of the time when sending four or fewer rushers. ESPN pointed out that the Giants got sacks sending no more than four rushers 7.3 percent of the time in the 2011 Super Bowl season.

Antrel Rolle said earlier this week "there's no level of excitement" on the defense. Hearing that, Newsday's Tom Rock wrote:

That spark the Giants have been looking for should be coming from the top. Nothing excites defensive players like an aggressive game plan, and while the first two weeks of strategies have had their merits, they have not been thrillers. They have not captured the imagination of the players. ... The way to excite the players is to allow them to play. Let it all hang out. Let them take chances and cash in when they hit big.

Maybe the pass rush will improve when Jason Pierre-Paul finds himself again as he navigates his way into form following back surgery. Maybe rookie Damontre Moore can help if he is able to show the coaching staff he is up to speed after missing more than a month with a shoulder injury.

Fact is, though, the Giants' defense is predicated on making quarterbacks uncomfortable. Whatever it takes -- exotic blitzes, gambling, sending six or even seven rushers on occasion -- the Giants need to do that.

Fewell is a smart coach, but he doesn't seem to always grasp this central fact about his group. Aggression, not technical perfection, is what this group is built for. What it needs. What it thrives on. The only chance this defense has of being something other than ordinary -- or worse -- is to start making quarterbacks fear them again. No matter what that takes.

C'mon, Perry. The Giants are 0-2. The defense hasn't been awful, but has surrendered 77 points in two games. Offenses don't fear the defense, and right now there is absolutely nothing special about it. The players are restless. The season is close to spiraling out of control. The time for caution, and paying lip service to being more aggressive, has passed. Release the Kraken!


Kraken (via Javier Taibo)

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