In all the hub-bub Thursday about a certain New York Giants wide receiver, remarks from defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo got lost in the shuffle. Let’s circle back and look at the takeaways from his weekly meeting with the media.
Wrist ongoing problem for Vernon
Defensive end Olivier Vernon wore a bulky wrap on his hand Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints and has appeared on the Giants’ injury report each week since with a wrist injury. Spagnuolo indicated Thursday that the issue is affecting Vernon’s play.
“OV is battling with that hand. I don’t think people realize that it is affecting him as much as it is and he battles with it all week and then goes out there and plays,” Spagnuolo said. “He is getting to where he is using it a little more. But in that game he was actually asking to go inside a little bit more because you don’t do as much hand fighting as you do outside, but he is getting there. He doesn’t use it very much during practice, but then when he gets to the game he forgets about it and goes.”
Vernon, JPP playing too much
Vernon, wrist injury or not, has played 94.04 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps. Jason Pierre-Paul has been on the field even more, 98.25 percent of the time. Chris wrote earlier this week about the need for both defensive ends to get more rest. Spagnuolo indicated that the Giants intend to get both guys more rest going forward. Of course, he said the same thing last week and it did not happen.
“It is hard to take guys of that quality off the field,” Spagnuolo said. “They don’t want to come off the field either. I wish like heck and it still goes back to third down, I will segway to that because it needs to get better – I wish we weren’t playing as many plays as we have and if we were better on third down in just a couple of instances, I think that we could cut down about 12-15 plays and that would help with what you are talking about. But, I talked to a couple of guys this week about their numbers because I look at the overall for four weeks and some of them are a little too high, so we are going to start to play a few more guys.
“We do need to that. As these games go, it's going to pile up. There's other guys who's numbers are piling up. But, I still think a lot it goes back to third down. We could help ourselves all the way across the board if we could be better.”
Reserve defensive ends Owamagbe Odighizuwa (14.91 percent of defensive snaps) and Romeo Okwara (17.54 percent) have played mostly on passing downs. Kerry Wynn has been virtually forgotten, playing just 19 snaps (6.67 percent) in four games.
About those third downs
Per the NFL’s official stats, the Giants are 28th in the league on third down, surrendering first downs 45.16 percent of the time.
“I can’t put a finger on it. But every time I go through, it frustrates me more than anything – when I end up looking at it, it is usually one or two of them. Our goal is 35 percent or less than 36,” Spagnuolo said. “I will say this, we have done far better on the third and shorter down and distances, the one and two and threes, certainly than we did last year and those are hard downs to win. Why we aren’t winning some of the third-and-sevens and third-and-eights, that is frustrating, but we will figure it out.”
The Giants have faced seven third down of three yards or less and given up first down on four of those. They have gone 21-of-46 (45.6 percent) on third downs between four and 15 yards.
The cornerback situation
Neither Eli Apple nor Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played Monday. Both have practiced some this week, but how much or if they play Sunday night is still up in the air.
“Well, we are getting a little bit of work out of some of them right now. DRC got a little work and Eli (Apple) is working off to the side right now, but we are hopeful that we can get one and a half, three quarters, yeah, we need them back. We miss them,” Spagnuolo said. “Look, I thought that [Trevin Wade] battled his butt off. I told him after the game, ‘Just keep fighting.’ All that we can ask from him is to play his best football and fight and that is what he did. There were a couple plays there where they got him, he feels bad about it, but it is a team game and we play it as a team, so we will keep at it.”
On facing Aaron Rodgers
“He can extend the down and look, he is not going to change. He is a great football player; he is a Hall of Famer. We need to affect the other 10. That is what we are talking about,” Spagnuolo said. “If we can do that, then we can have some success, but if you let all those guys do what they are capable of doing then Aaron is going to find them and it is going to be a long day.”