New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham does not talk much.
“This is about as much talking as I do all week,” Graham said in his weekly press conference with the media Thursday. “I’m not really a talkative person. Before the game I’m barely talking to our guys. I’m not one to chat with the players, that’s not me. I’m not going to talk smack, that’s not me.”
Quiet or not, Graham knows that his defense has to make some noise if it is going to be successful in Sunday’s matchup against Russell Wilson’s 8-3 Seattle Seahawks.
Through 11 games, Wilson has 278 completions out of 393 attempts for 3,216 yards and 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 3,216 yards are ranked third in the league overall and his 31 touchdowns are second in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers. Wilson is particularly successful with the long ball, ranking second in the league with 10 passes of 40 yards or more.
“I assume it’s from years of practice, timing with the receivers, giving them a chance to get underneath the ball,” Graham said. “They’re all pretty fast, and he has the arm strength to get it down the field. The O-line is doing a good job of blocking for him and giving him time to get it out there. I would assume it’s something to do with the trajectory helps out with it.”
Because of Wilson’s success, there is justification for using a spy on him throughout the game. Graham would not specify whether he plans on using a spy to shadow the six-time Pro Bowler. Instead, he said that he has seen both successful and unsuccessful uses of a spy.
“Sometimes you might get specific and have a particular person spy on him,” Graham said. “What you’re looking for is somebody who can tackle, somebody that has the speed to stay with him. They have to have some savviness about him too. Sometimes when you talk to a player about what spy is, they just sit back there and now you just gave the quarterback more space.
“In terms of just talking football, as the line of scrimmage changes, certain people have the philosophy that the spy or mirror player has to close the line of scrimmage. To me, you have to pick your poison. Are you going to have more space so he can have vision, or do you want to close so he can get to him quicker when it declares? Those are some of things you have to look at when you’re going through it.”
The Seattle offensive line doesn’t do Wilson any favors. Wilson is second in the league behind Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz with 35 sacks on the season and he is fourth overall in sack yards lost with 204.
Defensive end Leonard Williams, who has six sacks on the season and is on pace to finish the year with a career-high, will be crucial in the Giants’ plans to stop Wilson at the line of scrimmage.
“The thing that stands out for me with Leo is his personality is infectious,” Graham said. “The energy, the way he attacks it. He’s taking the coaching to heart that Spence (Sean Spencer) gives him, that Joe (Judge) gives him. He’s just really being a sponge in terms of trying to learn football. Trying to perfect his craft, trying to become the best NFL defensive linemen he can be. Part of that is if you want to be the best, you have to realize that you’re not there yet. No matter what year you’re in in your career. He’s attacking it like that I believe.”
Another Seahawks player that Graham has to focus on in preparation for Sunday’s matchup is star wide receiver DK Metcalf. Metcalf leads the league with 1,039 receiving yards on the season and is fifth in the NFL with nine touchdowns. He is ranked third overall with an average of 17.9 receiving yards per play.
Though cornerback James Bradberry is New York’s strongest weapon in the secondary, relying on him alone to cover Metcalf will not guarantee the Giants success because the Seahawks have many offensive weapons.
“The backs (Carlos) Hyde and (Chris) Carson these guys are scary,” Graham said. “They have so many weapons from the receiver spots, 83 (David Moore), 16 (Tyler Lockett), 14 (Metcalf), they are all making plays. We’re going to try to figure it out. See what we can do to try to limit their effectiveness. We’re going to need more than just James. We’re going to need everybody, all hands-on deck for this one.”
Rookie safety Xavier McKinney will be one of the players that need to step up in what will be just the second game of his professional career after coming off of IR last week.
“We’ll see if the role increases,” Graham said. “The young man is doing a good job of studying. He’s practicing well. The one thing that stands out for me is his ability to tackle and go through the tackling drills and really execute that. That’s something I told him that even though without that time, you’re doing a good job working on that.”
Defensive end Niko Lalos demonstrated his ability to embrace a next-man-up mentality when he was elevated to the active roster last week, took his first eight NFL snaps and then hauled in a crucial interception in the third quarter to stop the Bengals’ drive down the field.
Graham said that the difference maker for Lalos has been his work ethic off the field.
“He’s around here because he listened to what the head coach told him,” Graham said. “Yeah, did he change his body in the weight room and nutrition and all that stuff as he worked hard with his skill set. Absolutely. The head coach said the more you can do the better off you’ll be. Provided value and the chance to stick around. When you have a head coach, you have to listen to the head coach. Make his job easier and try to do what’s best for the team, that’s what he did.”