Rebuilding Giants defense

The woes of the Giants' anemic offense have been well documented. The offense has been so bad that we tend to forget that there are major problems on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Their defense had a tough time stopping anyone. There is some good news here however. Truthfully it won't take a whole lot to fix the defense. With only four draft picks remaining it is unrealistic to think that the Giants will get much defensive help from the draft. Free agency is a different story. They have a chance, with a few key signings, to turn things around. By the way, we don't buy into the Giants not being able to sign free agents because of Coach Coughlin. Money still talks in this league. Here's what we would do:

The first thing we would do is convert to a 3-4 base defense. The Giants of the ‘90s were very successful using this defense. If a team can't stop the run then it is unlikely they will win. Run defense is the first thing that needs to be fixed and the 3-4 will help.

It makes sense on several fronts for the Giants to make the switch. The first is that defensive coordinator Tim Lewis knows the 3-4 defense. He was in charge of Pittsburgh's defense before he was let go as a scapegoat by Bill Cowher. The problem was not with Lewis' schemes; the problem was he didn't have the proper talent in the secondary. Does that sound familiar? No matter how good their front seven was, and it was and is very good, the Steelers secondary couldn't cover anyone.

The Giants have to make some changes in their secondary, but not as many as you may think. Hopefully, Will Allen and Will Peterson would be a lot better if this team generated a consistent and reliable pass rush. We believe the 3-4 would give them a much better pass rush and the two Wills should benefit greatly. Gibril Wilson looks like he will be a star at safety. That means they need to add one good safety to the mix.

There are three safeties scheduled to become UFAs who should be of interest to them. None would come cheap, but they would cement the secondary. Donovin Darius, from Jacksonville, is the best available. He runs well and has better range than some think. He is a hard hitter who can play the run and cover as well. Idrees Bashir, from Indianapolis, is a very good prospect that is just now coming into his own. He's tall and athletic. He will play both strong and free. He has good field awareness and most importantly he is an improving player. Kenoy Kennedy from Denver is big and physical. Even though he is a big safety, he can run. He would provide a very physical presence at strong safety.

What we like best about the 3-4 defense is that it gives a team many options they would not necessarily have with a standard 4-3. The successful 3-4 teams all have the same formula. Everyone is able to play square rather than laterally like they do in a standard 4-3. They have three big guys who are anchors. They play the run first and foremost. They also have four linebackers who can run around and make plays. 3-4 teams are difficult to prepare for. When the Giants employed the 3-4 in the ‘90s they were basically vanilla. That is no longer the case with everyone running stunts and blitzes as well as zone blitzes. Look at the Steelers in particular; they throw all kinds of different things at an offense. All of the successful 3-4 teams are aggressive. They will all employ an eight-man front at times. They have so many more combinations of things they can do.

Let's take a look at some of the successful 3-4 teams. New England has three DLs that are all big and strong and can all anchor. They have Keith Traylor at NT and Richard Seymour and Ty Warren at DE. Vince Wilfork is waiting in the wings to replace Traylor.

Pittsburgh has Casey Hampton at NT with Aaron Smith and Kimo von Oelhoffen at DE. Smith is a good pass rusher but all are tough against the run. San Diego switched to a 3-4 this season and the results have been remarkable. Jamal Williams at NT has been phenomenal. He has had a tremendous year. Rookie DE Igor Olshansky has been tremendous as well; he is so tough to move. Jacques Cesaire plays the other DE efficiently.

Baltimore has successfully used a 3-4 for some time. They have always had big guys on the line to keep blockers away from the backers. Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams were unmovable. Now they have Kelly Gregg at NT with Anthony Weaver and Marques Douglas at the DE spots. They are still tough. Oakland switched to a 3-4 and the results were not good. They put Warren Sapp at DE and he was out of position. He is much better suited to being a 4-3 DT. Just as with every defense, you have to have the right players to make it work.

Let's look at the linebackers. 3-4 LBs have to be bigger and stronger than normal. Every successful 3-4 team has a banger and a cleanup guy who fill the inside spots. This is essential. The New England ILBs are Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi. Johnson is their banger. He is a hitting machine. Bruschi is the cleanup guy. He runs around and makes plays. In Baltimore, Ed Hartwell is the banger and Ray Lewis cleans up. In Pittsburgh, Kendrell Bell is the banger and James Farrior cleans up. In San Diego Randall Godfrey will hit and Donnie Edwards is the playmaker. Remember who the Giants ILBs were in the glory days? It was Harry Carson and Gary Reasons. They were a perfect pair for that defense.

Here's how we think this could work for the Giants. The DL is the key. They need unselfish players who are willing to do the dirty work. If you want a perfect example of the type of player that is needed on the D-Line think back to Jim Burt. He was the ultimate blue-collar player. He never got a lot of the glory, but his contribution was unselfish and vitally important. With the Giants, we believe the pieces are in place. Our 3-4 DL would be Michael Strahan at end, Norman Hand at NT and Fred Robbins at the other end. All are big and strong and all play the run well. We would put Robbins outside instead of Hand because he is a little more athletic.

What about Strahan? This alignment would be a big change for him for sure. He might even grumble about the change, but it should work out well for him. There are other 3-4 DEs, like Aaron Smith in Pittsburgh, who can still rush the passer and get sacks. We also believe that this alignment will give Strahan more opportunities. Opposing offenses will no longer be so capable of taking him out of the game.

There would be some work required at linebacker. They would have to add a free agent inside banger like Kendrell Bell from Pittsburgh or Ed Hartwell from Baltimore. Here's how the LB lineup would look. Carlos Emmons would be one OLB. He has played in a 3-4 before and is well suited for it. The other OLB will be a combination of Reggie Torbor and Osi Umenyiora. Torbor would be great coming off the edge and they would be able to move Umenyiora around when he is in there. Nick Greisen would be one of the stacked ILBs with either Bell or Hartwell, as the banger next to him. We believe Greisen would excel in this role. Think of the possibilities. Baltimore is so tough because they have Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs on the outside. They are both rush threats because offenses don't know which one or if both are coming. The combination of Emmons, Torbor and Umenyiora from the outside would be just as effective and difficult to deal with.

We wish they would be able to count on Shaun Williams, but it doesn't look that way. They will have to sign a safety. Any of the three we mentioned earlier, Darius, Kennedy or Bashir would do the job. We are totally convinced that with this front seven they will be able to make the secondary look a whole lot better.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and we believe this change would help improve the Giants' defense significantly.


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