This is, by far, the deepest and most talented unit of the Giants defense. They lost a great deal of production without right end Osi Umenyiora last season, but Umenyiora is back and has picked up where he left off, recording a sack last week against the Panthers. Justin Tuck on the left side gives New York a potent pass rushing duo that is very similar to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
While Steve Spagnuolo was their defensive coordinator, the Giants blitzed frequently, but they have recently relied on their front four to generate pressure. On passing downs, Mathias Kiwanuka slides inside in order to take advantage of less athletic guards that are not able to get back as quickly in pass protection. He will most likely be lined up across from Jamey Richard, who struggled getting out of his set in Week 1.
Tackles Barry Coefield and Chris Canty are longer, leaner tackles, but they still fortify well against the run. For a smaller defensive line, this group is a collection of tremendous two-way defenders. They held a potent Panthers rushing attack to 89 yards on 24 carries in Week 1. They preach penetration and gap discipline on the defensive line and they practice what they preach.
Still, the best way to slow down the pass rush and wear down the defensive line over the course of the game is going to be to run right at them. Ryan Diem needs to go to work on the much smaller Tuck. Charlie Johnson needs to push Umenyora up the field on draw plays, since Umenyora is still more of a pass rusher than a run defender. Jeff Saturday, Richard, and Mike Pollak need to get their hands on Coefield and Canty and keep their pad levels low in order to keep the two tackles from disrupting the flow of the play.
Above all, the Colts need to show more of a commitment to the running game than they showed last week and in all of 2009. If Peyton Manning attempts 57 passes again this week versus only ten running plays, he is going to get mauled.
Richard can be partially forgiven for giving away the snap count in a loud environment, but the issue with him is that no one is completely sure if he botched the silent count or if that's how he prepares for every snap. Homefield advantage or no homefield advantage, Richard cannot give the defensive line — especially one as fast and talented as this one — the edge of being able to time the snap of the ball. If he does, this defensive line will tee off on whoever has the ball.
The linebacking corps for the Giants weakens the front seven in general. Since the defensive line is so active, they make a lot of the plays and the linebackers are left with cleanup duty. As an example, middle linebacker Jonathan Goff had two tackles last week.
Outside linebackers Clint Sintim and Michael Boley are average players and are not mobile enough to chase after the ball carrier. They will make a play if it comes to them, but they are not playmakers.
New York will most likely open up in a nickel package in response to a three receiver or two tight end set by the Colts, which also leaves the Giants with one fewer liability on defense. If Dallas Clark is allowed to match up against Sintim or Boley without safety help, he will eat them alive. Clark will most likely be covered by third cornerback Aaron Ross, but Manning needs to be aware of when Clark has a one-on-one matchup with a linebacker and exploit that matchup.
If Joseph Addai and Donald Brown can break through the initial surge of the defensive line and square up against one of these linebackers, they should be able to make that linebacker miss and get to the next level. Brown has better long speed, so he would be a better candidate for draws and delays that would allow him to isolate on a linebacker, juke the linebacker, and try to outrun the secondary to the end zone.
In addition, getting Brown and Addai the ball in space in the passing game, either through a screen pass, a checkdown, or a wheel route, creates another very favorable matchup for Indianapolis. Expect a lot of activity for the running backs in the passing game if the linebackers are prominently involved.
Reggie Wayne holds an advantage over Terrell Thomas and Pierre Garcon holds an advantage over Corey Webster, provided he can catch the ball. Webster is a very aggressive cornerback who prefers man coverage and likes to jump routes. This makes him susceptible to double moves, play action, and deep passes.
The issue there is that Manning will need enough time in the pocket for the play to develop and Garcon to get behind Webster. He may not have that time if the defensive line gets to him before Garcon clears coverage.
The best plan of attack will be to work the ball to Garcon and Wayne in the short-to-intermediate routes early and go for the big play late. Safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are intelligent players that know their place in the defensive scheme. They are supposed to be "the hero" that breaks up the play if the receiver gets behind Thomas or Webster. They will not be drawn in by underneath routes, but they will hesitate for a moment on pump fakes and play action.
Again, those strategies take time, which Manning will only have behind a hobbled offensive line against a ferocious pass rush if the Giants defense is not thinking pass first at all times.
Aside from Ross, New York may include safety Deon Grant in their nickel and dime packages. Grant is a veteran that has a great deal of experience in this league, but he cannot handle Austin Collie or Dallas Clark in man coverage. If Manning sees that matchup in a passing set, he needs to exploit it.
In order to keep Manning upright and keep the defense off the field, the Colts need to sustain drives. They can do that with precision passing, running the ball, and taking the wind out of New York's sails by getting chunks of yardage in the deep passing game when opportunities present themselves. If Indianapolis is able to be efficient and methodical on offense, they can eventually make this defense flinch. It will be a battle, but they will ultimately win that battle if they maintain their focus.
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