3-4? 4-3? Lewis says best front 7 will play

During the season the Giants defense suffered a rash of injuries and still finished a respectable 13th in total defense. Which for New York fans is the equivalent of losing the 2012 Olympics bid to a bunch of snooty tea and crumpet-eating Englanders. Worse, the D limped to 28th against the run, which feels as uplifting as if they lost the bid to the French.

So it's understandable that the first thing Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis uttered to the media this spring was, "It's nice to have some healthy bodies out there."

Then, he eclipsed the reverie with cold reality: "We have to stop the run better than we did last year."

To do that the Giants signed tackle Kendrick Clancy, a kid who played for Lewis at Pittsburgh, and Antonio Pierce, the coveted free agent linebacker who enjoyed a breakout season last year.

With strength at linebacker, but a bevy of young, unproven interior linemen trying to clog the middle, there's been speculation the Giants are considering a switch to the 3-4. Not so, says Lewis. He intends to keep the same defensive scheme from last year.

"We're really not a 3-4; we're not a 4-3. It's kind of a hybrid defense," Lewis said. "The bottom line is the seven best guys on the front will play."

Among that seven, the Giants expect Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan to make a complete recovery from a torn pec muscle, while his counterpart, budding star Osi Umenyiora (58 tackles, 7 sacks, 4 fumble recoveries), should continue to make strides.

Another area of concern is interceptions. The team was tied for 22nd in the league with just 14 picks. Lewis believes improving upon this is all about contesting the pass.

"First you've got to be close enough to the ball to contest it," he said. "We've got to get these guys to be close enough, to understand angles, leverage, how to judge and play the ball in the air."

The Giants top pick Corey Webster is one positive step in that direction. He'll push for playing time, first as a nickel back and then as a possible starter for Will Allen, who's entering the walk year of his contract.

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