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Big Blue View mailbag, 9/14: Defense, or lack thereof, on everyone’s mind

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The mail’s here!

NFL: AUG 29 Preseason - Giants at Patriots
James Bettcher
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let’s open up the Big Blue View mailbag and get to this week’s questions.

John Neubauer asks: OK. So the Giants still don’t have a pass rush under Bettcher. Dak had time to read all of War and Peace before a Giant got within five feet of him. I have no problem with the 3-4 defense. It made sense when we had LT, Banks, Carson, Reasons, Headen and Pepper Johnson BUT … why go to the 3-4 when we had JPP and OV as the strength of our defense and not a decent linebacker on the team? Nothing against Bettcher but why change your entire defense for one DC? If the Giants stink for the next two years, which I hope isn’t the case and Bettcher is fired, do we change the entire defense once again? I am a believer of coaching to the talent you have on the team, not changing half of your roster to fit a coaches whim. I’m almost 70. My question is will I see another Giants Super Bowl win before we go back to the 4-3?

Ed says: Thanks for the question, John. Listen, whether it’s a 3-4 base or a 4-3 really doesn’t matter. Really study it. The Giants are generally base 3-4 on run downs. When they expect pass they are 4-2-5 or some variant, often times with only two defensive tackles with hands on the ground and everyone else standing.

I know you didn’t go there, but I keep seeing “bring back Stave Spagnuolo” comments. That’s ridiculous. Spags’ Giants’ defenses were atrocious in 2015 and 2017. He’s not a miracle worker or some sort of infallible coach who always has the best defenses in the league. I thought at one time the Giants might keep him when Shurmur was hired, but they made a different choice. James Bettcher was considered a bright, up and coming coach and that’s the decision they made.

The Giants didn’t do that on a whim. They understood that they would have to fit some square pegs into round holes and work to get the right pieces. It’s a big part of why there are so many new faces on this defense.

It’s not an experienced group. It’s going to take time. Dexter Lawrence, DeAndre Baker, Ryan Connelly, Tae Davis, B.J. Hill, Julian Love and Corey Ballentine are all likely to be better in a year or two than they are now.

As for linebackers, when you really think about it a 3-4 only actually uses two traditional linebackers. The other two are EDGE guys who can stand up or rush from a three-point stance.

It’s hard because everyone wants results yesterday, but it’s going to take time and patience to build this defense, and all of the pieces are probably still not in place.

I’m just not buying “oh, we’d be better if we were a 4-3.” For years, many screamed “we should be a 3-4 defense.”

It’s about getting the right players. It’s about the young ones getting experience and filtering out the veterans who can’t do it anymore. It’s about coaching them well.

The Giants have played one game against a very good team which exposed them. Give it time.


Robert J. Simon asks: Honestly, is Bettcher’s defense so complicated to learn that he can only bring in former players that are familiar with it to run it? Have we have passed on better players in order for Bettcher to try and recreate his glory days with the Cardinals defense? What does this say about his coaching ability?

Ed says: Robert, when new bosses take over in any industry they almost always turn to people they know to help get their program, their initiative, their business, up and running. What the Giants have done by bringing in players familiar to the coaching staff and the GM is no different. It will change over time.

The one real mistake the Giants probably made was letting Devon Kennard go and replacing him with Kareem Martin. I understood the move because at the time they looked like equal players, and Martin was a Bettcher guy. Martin hasn’t had an impact, while Kennard has become a better player with the Detroit Lions than he ever was with the Giants. Could he have done that for Bettcher? I think so, but that speculation and we will never know.

Bettcher’s trying to create the best Giants defense he can, and the reality is people coach what they know. I wonder if they tried to be too complicated Sunday, but again that’s just speculation.

I think we’ll know more about Bettcher’s coaching ability when we see if some of the young players get better from now until the end of the season.


Benjamin Singer asks: Where do you see a pass rush coming from on this team’s front seven? We can hope for young ones to rise up, however, nothing from pre or prior season suggest 1st or 2nd stringers are going to “bust loose.” Agree?

Ed says: Benjamin, where the pass rush is going to come from is really the critical question. It’s been the critical question for two years. The Giants — Bettcher, Pat Shurmur, Dave Gettleman, the players — know it. Everybody knows it.

Game 1 was not encouraging. The potential answers, though, are largely the ones they have been for months now.

The Giants think/hope/pray Lorenzo Carter becomes a dominant force. He has shown signs, but we’ll see. They think Markus Golden can be effective. I have my doubts, but they are counting on that. B.J. Hill flashes pass rush ability. The Giants believe Lawrence will give them pass rush impact, though it might take some time for him to figure that part of the game out. They hope Oshane Ximines and newly-acquired Tuzar Skipper can give them something.

They will have to use the blitz effectively and be creative. They tried vs. the Cowboys and didn’t get home.

The Giants absolutely know this is an area they will have to address in the next offseason. For now, let’s see how it develops. There are 15 games yet to be played.


Bruce Frazer asks: After one game I think it can be said that Eli isn’t the problem and Daniel Jones won’t be the cure. Either QB could do their best, and have a great game but until the defense can cover a receiver and rush the passer it doesn’t make any difference who the Giants QB is. Did the Giants miss on their evaluations of Lawrence and Baker? Neither player has come close to the standard of play expected from their high draft position. Did Gettleman choose wisely or might he have been better off drafting Josh Allen with the number six pick, taking a QB with the 17 slot and then finding a corner back in the second round? If Lawrence and Baker don’t pan out the potential of Daniel Jones won’t be realized.

Ed says: Bruce, thanks for the question. “Did the Giants miss on their evaluations of Lawrence and Baker? Neither player has come close to the standard of play expected from their high draft position.”

Wait, how many games have been played? One. After one game you’re saying neither “has come close to the standard of play expected from their high draft position?”

Have a little patience. Give them a chance. You can’t judge a player one game into his NFL career. Lawrence is being asked to do some things he didn’t do at Clemson. I think it’s going to take him some time. Baker missed a couple of weeks of training camp, and missed practice time kills rookies. I think both guys will be good players. Just give them a chance.

As for Jones, geesh, we haven’t seen the kid play yet. I know all about how good Josh Allen could be, but I also don’t care what argument anyone tries to give — quarterback is more important than any other position on the football field. It’s probably the most important position in sports.

Let’s see what happens when the kid’s time comes before we start wondering if Dave Gettleman made a wise choice at No. 6.


Marcus Mewborn asks: Obviously the defense as a whole in the first game was not good at all. Although it’s early, which level (d-line, linebackers, DBs) worries you the most going forward?

Ed says: Marcus, it’s pass rush. James Bettcher said the other day that no matter what they call — blitz, no blitz — players have to win 1-on-1 matchups. I’m just not sure the Giants have enough guys who can do that consistently.