What should we make of the New York Giants' defense in a 10-point loss to the Jets on Saturday night?
In the broadest strokes, it is probably best to say that this is a defense that is still trying to find its way. Between the new scheme and the ever-present injury concerns, the Giants are struggling at times and were gashed for big plays by the Jets.
We'll circle back around to the defense as a whole, but first let's take a look at a few performances of note:
Markus Kuhn - Let me start out by saying that this was probably Kuhn's best game to date. I want to get that out there up front because I hate to feel like I'm piling on to the big German. But that being said, his best still wasn't very good. Kuhn did manage to get some push on a couple plays, but all too often he was either stalemated or pushed out of plays.
Kerry Wynn - Wynn is a high-effort, high-motor player. But in this game he wasn't much of a factor. Too often he failed to hold the edge. He also largely failed to generate pressure off the edge or from the interior.
Jeromy Miles - Miles was in coverage on a few plays that turned into big plays for the Jets. First was an 11-yard pickup by Brandon Marshall. Miles was in zone coverage on Marshall, but didn't react in time to effect the route or potentially keep the ball in Fitzpatrick's hand long enough for pressure to get home. He compounded the mistake by failing to make the tackle, and allowing yards after the catch. Miles was also at least partially to blame for the Jets' first touchdown.
Owa Odighizuwa - Despite what some might believe, it wasn't all bad from the Giants' defense. The rookie defensive end did a very nice job of setting the edge on his side. Owa also showed a great first step, strength, and heavy hands.
Devon Kennard - Kennard made a couple poor reads, but he has remained a force for the Giants. Virtually any running play to his side of the field was either blown up at -- or behind -- the line of scrimmage, or went for minimal gain.
Jayron Hosley - For most of his NFL career Hosley has only occasionally flashed the talent he showed in college. Since his rookie year, he has had far more bad play than anything else. Against the Jets, Hosley got on the field early and often, and his play was depressingly good for those calling for his job. He made a couple errors in reading his run keys, but his coverage was largely solid and he also made some plays coming downhill in the run game, including a tackle for a loss on Chris Ivory.
Jay Bromley & Kenrick Ellis - I'm going to lump these two together because they were often on the field at the same time. When they were, runs between the tackles were effectively off limits to the Jets. Both proved to largely be immovable objects and Bromley managed to penetrate the Jets' line on several occasions.
Cooper Taylor - The Giants' giant-sized athletic freak safety saw his time on the field in the second half, but he made the most of his opportunity. Taylor had no gaffes in coverage and limited any gains to the minimum. He showed a great burst coming downhill in run support, and exploded into the Jets' backfield on a safety blitz for a sack.
I said we'd circle back to the defense's play as a whole, and now we we're back. After all, a team is more than just a collection of players.
After watching the Giants' defensive performance, I believe their problems against the Jets had more to do with mental mistakes than any fatal lack of talent. Even the players who played wellhad bad snaps or were victimized by other players' errors. When the Giants' defense was in position, played true to their assignments, and didn't hand the offense free yards off penalties, the Jets' had trouble moving the ball.
Despite the final score, the Giants' defense held the Jets' offense to just 14 points. The first of those touchdowns came on a well designed and well executed play. Those happen, and while Jeromy Miles and Jayron Hosley might share blame -- its difficult to tell without seeing the coaches' tape -- occasionally even the best defense can be out-designed or out-maneuvered. The second touchdown was a broken play that resulted from mental errors. The good news is that these mistakes are being made in preseason, when they are supposed to be made. The incidence of mental errors should decrease as the players settle into the new playbook, the coaches see what they need to work on, and maybe even get players back from injury.