New York Giants defensive coordinator Graham put the defense on blast Thursday, calling the last two weeks “completely unacceptable.”
“In terms of the yardage given up and the loss of the game, it’s unacceptable. Period. It’s unacceptable. We get paid – myself included – we get paid to win games,” Graham said.
Despite everything that has gone wrong so far this year for the Giants — from injuries, to poor offensive play, to missed opportunities — the play of their defense has to be the toughest pill to swallow. The Giants, and their fans, expected their 2021 defense to be as good (if not better than) the 2020 iteration. Instead, the Giants have allowed opposing passers to complete roughly 70 percent of their passes and are coming off of a game in which they allowed the most yards of any Giants’ defense since 2015.
Graham added, “When you give up 500-plus yards in terms of offense, that’s not usually winning football, so it’s completely unacceptable. Completely unacceptable. In terms of that, again, what I have to do and what we have to do collectively as a group is we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we’ve got to figure out what can we do better because, again, as you lead into this week – one of the most explosive offenses in the league, they’ve got players all over the place, the coach is a genius, the quarterback is smart, they can throw the ball, run. It’s everything. It’s a challenge and I talk to you guys about having a challenge and stuff like that after performances like that and now you’ve got the Rams coming in here, I mean we’re going to find out. We’re going to find out. I mean, we’re going to find out. So, it’s time. Again, myself, I’m starting with me first, we’ve got to find out. We’ve got to find out. We’ve got to get up there, we’ve got to stop the run, that’s the goal for Sunday. We’ve got to minimize what they do on offense. We’ve got to find out. We’ve got to find out. To answer your question, it’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable.”
But most distressing is that the players the Giants expect to be the core of their defense — their best players — just aren’t playing well. Perhaps the biggest disappointment has been Leonard Williams, who became one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the NFL this past offseason.
“For Leo in particular, again, because it’s not a lack of effort and the skill set is still there – yeah, would you want more production? But the production is going to come,” Graham said.
Graham shouldered his share of the blame and said that he needs to do a better job of putting his players in the right spots. But he also added that they need their best players to play up to expectations.
“I think one, again, (it starts) with me doing a better job of what I have to do and then really, I think sometimes it comes in waves,” Graham said. “I’m not predicting anything, but because it’s not a lack of effort and will – because, again, you guys talk to Leo, this is a great kid and he’s trying hard. What I don’t want him to start doing is pressing. I don’t want him to do that. I don’t want him to do that, so I think it starts with me and (Defensive Line Coach Sean) Spence (Spencer) getting him in the right spots and then from there hopefully it comes in bunches. Obviously, there’s some technique stuff we could work on. Everybody would say that based on where we’re at right now, but you need your best players to play well. You need that. That’s a true statement.”
Graham said that the first part of turning the page to take on the Los Angeles Rams would be to look in the mirror and see how he can help his players play better.
“Right now, when you do that self-evaluation and you’re leading into the game, you have to start with yourself, Graham said. “That’s what I do and I’m sure that’s what you guys do in your profession, but we’ve got to simplify. How can I make it so we’re playing faster, we’re playing with confidence and everything? To me, the simpler we can make it – I know this, we have good players. We have good players. Let me let them play, does that make sense?”
Last year the Giants see improvements when Graham pared away the facets of his defense that weren’t weren’t working. His players played faster, with more confidence and aggression. This year, the scheme doesn’t seem particularly complex, but it could be a matter of stripping away elements that aren’t being executed well.
But ultimately, the Giants’ defensive play against Dallas, and this year in general, has been unacceptable.
Graham described the feeling in the locker room as a particular sense of urgency. When asked what he saw from the players after the game, he said, “I think they knew we could do better, that we could do better.
“You’re talking about the players? Yeah, they know we could do better, and they need, we had to look in the mirror. We had a talk, we knew we had to do better, but the thing is that I appreciate about these guys and that’s when you know you’re starting to really get them to understand the NFL, they were able to flip the switch and understand we got the Rams next. Regardless of what happened the last (game) – even if we won, was I really going to be happy if we won? Probably not. You guys know my personality, I (would) not. If we gave up whatever many yards and we won, I’d still be upset about that, but I think the guys were able to flip the switch and they understand that we’ve got a good team coming in here and we’re going to have to fight. It’s going to be fun. It’s a challenge, I’m looking forward to it and they’ve got good players, they’ve got a good scheme. Sunday it’ll be time to rock and roll.”