Pass defense

The Giants finished 25th in the league last year against the pass. They also set a franchise low with only 10 interceptions, a ridiculous number considering the talent New York boasts in its secondary. A quartet of Giants led by Will Allen tied for the team high with two picks on the season. With Tom Coughlin and new defensive coordinator Tim Lewis running the show, they're going to want New York's defense to get at least two INTs a game.

Lewis understands that interceptions are not easy to come by – he just wants to see more effort from his troops in an attempt to cause them.

"How do you make a guy throw an interception?" Lewis asked. "You need pressure. The package is designed to A) create pressure and an uneasiness with the quarterback, B) put tight coverage on the receivers, C) give those guys a vision to break to the interception points, and D) we are going to coach effort and energy to get to the ball so that if it is turned over we can capitalize on it. Then you have to hope like hell that the quarterback makes a bad throw." With 21 picks, newcomer Brent Alexander has almost as many career INTs as New York's entire starting quartet from last season combined (26). "It only takes one or two big plays a game to change the game," Alexander said. "Great football players go out and have seven or eight picks in a season; that's a great season. But you play over 1,000 plays each year. You have to realize that picks are special so you have to take advantage of those opportunities."

The Giants believe they'll be in better situations to take advantage of their defensive opportunities due to Lewis' attack-oriented defensive scheme. To say the Giants defense lacked aggression the last two seasons under Johnnie Lynn would be an understatement.

"I know the scheme that I'd like to run, but if it doesn't fit what we can do, then we have to adjust as a staff," Lewis said. "It's very important to fit the scheme to what our players are capable of doing."

"We're going to be an aggressive defense and try to force turnovers and make plays on the ball," Alexander added.

Will Allen said if each player focuses on himself, New York's pass defense will be just fine.

"One of our problems last year was worrying about what everybody else was doing," he said. "As a secondary we have plenty to prove." As if a failure to pick off passes wasn't enough, New York's defense allowed a whopping 59 pass plays of 20 yards and over last season.

"The number one thing is stopping the deep balls," Alexander said. "Any plays over 16/20 yards we have to stop that."

In addition to picking off passes and clamping down on the big plays against, the Giants defense also needs to do a better job of getting off the field. Close to 40 percent of the time in 2003 the Giants defense allowed its opponents to convert a third down.

"The next thing is getting off the field on third down," Alexander continued. "We can't let offenses get in a rhythm and move the ball down the field. Then when you have them in third-and-long situations, you have to be opportunistic. If you have a chance to make a play, make the play."

One of the secondary's best friends is a good pass rush. Obviously Michael Strahan can get the job done in that department. New York is also excited about the potential of RDE Osi Umenyiora and rookie pass rush specialist Reggie Torbor as well.

"I'd like to use him as often as we can," Lewis said of New York's fourth-round pick. "He's very aggressive. He's a tough, strong, physical young guy. He has the tools to work with. We're really excited about trying to get him on the football field."

It also seems that New York's linebacking corps will be more capable of covering receivers than their predecessors, especially SLB Barrett Green, who's as speedy as they come.

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Strength of unit: The corners. The reason that everyone always says the Giants could have one of best corner tandems if they stay healthy is because it's true. Will Allen is a crafty, shifty player who's done a great job on some of the league's better receivers. Will Peterson is more physical and aggressive in shutting down his opposition. They complement each other very well and could very well have breakout seasons under Tim Lewis and his turnover-first defensive philosophy. If, of course, (everyone join in here) they can stay healthy.

Weakness of unit: The depth. The Giants are very thin at one of the key defensive spots – corner. Assuming you need four NFL caliber corners on your roster, the Giants barely have that…and that's counting Frank Walker as an NFL caliber corner, which we're not certain the Giants do. Terry Cousin should be fine as a nickel back, but it would be less than ideal if he were needed in the starting lineup. The impressive rookie Curtis Deloatch would be great as the fourth or fifth corner; not as the nickel back right off the bat.

Key additions: Brent Alexander, Terry Cousin, Barrett Green, Carlos Emmons, Reggie Torbor. Alexander instantly brings credibility to the secondary. The 11-year vet has experience running free safety in a Tim Lewis defense, which should help him immeasurably. Cousin, while no Pro Bowler, is certainly an upgrade over Ralph Brown, the nickel back for most of last season. Green can cover better than anyone New York had at LB last year and Emmons' excellent work on the tight end will help the pass defense out as well. If Torbor picks up the defense fast enough, he could become a rushing terror on passing downs.

Key losses: None, unless you consider Johnnie Harris, Ralph Brown and Kato Serwanga big losses. We don't.

Darkhorse: Ray Green. Green, who was with New York last season, released and is back again, kind of gets lost in the crowd. However, there's a good chance he could still be standing come final roster time. He's made quite a few solid plays during camp this summer, picking off a handful of passes that should catch the coaches' attention. At 6-3, Green has the height most coaches like from their corners as well.

On the hotseat: The safeties. Both Shaun Williams, who is coming off the worst year of his career, and Omar Stoutmire, who is in the battle of his life to retain his starting spot, will be closely watched under the microscope.

Williams was hurt by his misuse in Lynn's defense last year, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Stoutmire puts up big tackle numbers and is seldom out of position, but he rarely makes the play on the ball that Lewis is looking for, as his grand total of one INT in his four years in New York will attest. Lewis is going to be looking for a lot from Williams and Stoutmire this season, regardless of whether Stoutmire is the starter or not.

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