Change, please

Ask any Giants fan what area needs to be improved the most for the Giants to become a legitimate contender and we are certain most would say the defense. A few, no doubt, would want the offense to be more consistent, but we would be on the side that says fix the defense. On the Pro Golf Tour there is a saying that pro golfers drive for show and putt for dough. That's remarkably similar to the NFL. The offense is for show. The defense is like putting. If you are going to win you must have it.

Teams can't "out-drive" their opponents every week. Just look at the San Diego and Dallas losses. So far, it's been the pass defense that has let them down. They have been respectable against the run. With the trading deadline having already passed, there isn't a whole lot they can do in the way of bringing in new players to upgrade the unit. Most of what is out there in the field of street free agents is no better than what they have now. Don't forget, with a new player there is a learning curve required to get them up to speed.

Every defensive unit needs to play better. The job of the defensive coordinator is to put them in the right schemes so the defenders have a chance to win each battle (play). So far, that doesn't look like it is happening. So many times we've seen coaches try to fit the players they have into the schemes they like and are comfortable with. The Giants, under the direction of Tim Lewis, look like they are doing that.

So what can a team do to improve the play of the defense? Actually there are a number of things they can try to help make them more effective. This is where the coaches earn their money. Anyone can coach when things are going well. It's similar to putting your car on cruise control when you are on an open highway. But, when things are tough, like bad weather, poor road conditions or heavy traffic, cruise control is not a good idea.

Let's start with the defensive line. Pass defense starts with the pass rush and that's been a problem. Unfortunately, improving the pass rush is easier said than done. We believe they have good-enough players to generate a better pass rush. While sacks are very important, they need a sustained pass rush that creates problems for the quarterback. They need to take him out of his rhythm more often than they do. Michael Strahan looks quicker than ever and still just as good against the run. The problem is he gets chipped too often. Teams give their tackle help from a guard, tight end, back or receiver to help knock him off-stride. Osi Umenyiora needs to pick it up. He's in his third year now and it's time for him to be more consistent in his pass rush. He shows flashes but it's not sustained. We would like to see Justin Tuck get more opportunities. Perhaps he could push Umenyiora. Kendrick Clancy, William Joseph and Fred Robbins have all showed inside pass rush ability, but not often enough.

One thing they should do is move people around on the DL more than they do. Explore weaknesses on the opposing OL and then, once found, exploit them. Make it difficult for the offense to constantly double-team Strahan. Last year, they stood Strahan up and moved him around. The idea was to hide where he was coming from, but that didn't really work. Many times, he was still moving at the snap and that didn't work well.

The obvious thing they can do to help the DL is send more guys. We would think Reggie Torbor would excel in this role. They can work harder at DL stunts and twists. Give them different rush looks. They need to identify their one-on-one guys, the guys who can beat a single block. Strahan is obviously one, Osi needs to become one. Once you have these guys, they need to work on ways to get them against single blocks. When the Giants send four, they are outnumbered; by sending more it opens things up to single blocks. Of course, the coverage has to be with it hand and glove.

Another thing they need to do is have the DTs push the pocket more. Nothing bothers a QB more than to feel the pressure coming in front of them where they can see it. Collapsing the pocket also helps the outside rush. Again, the problem is if the DBs are playing too soft, the QB will get the ball out before they can get there. Sometimes, more of a 3-4 look could cause some offensive confusion. It's about getting guys free for the easy sack or pressure. It's not always about trying to get your own players to play harder. A carpenter can't do a good job without proper tools. It's called giving the players a chance to make a play.

The trouble with the linebackers is that they are not a good coverage group. Did you notice how Dallas defended the Giants? They jammed Burress and many times they put a corner, Terrence Newman, on Shockey. They didn't want their LBs following Shockey since that would have been a mismatch. It worked most of the day until offensive schemes got Shockey free. The best coverage LB they have is Barrett Green and he hasn't been playing. Antonio Pierce did well covering RBs and TEs last year in Washington. Carlos Emmons should come off the field in obvious passing downs. Reggie Torbor is very inexperienced covering backs and tight ends. Nick Greisen looks like he may have some short area coverage skills.

The biggest thing they can do to help the linebackers is play more nickel coverage. Shaun Williams would be ideal as a nickel or dime linebacker. While Williams struggles covering wide receivers, he should be able to handle backs or tight ends when they release. Of course they have to watch that he is stout enough to play the draw and runs, which we believe he would be.

They miss Will Peterson in the secondary and Will Allen is killing them. We can't remember a corner with worse ball skills than Allen. He has trouble knocking a pass down, much less catching it. They really need Corey Webster to step up quickly. Curtis Deloatch gives a lot of cushion, but he is still learning on the job. Gibril Wilson has not had as big a year as we all thought he would have based on his play last season. Brent Alexander has been very ordinary and he cost them big in the Dallas game. They need to upgrade here next year.

The biggest thing they can do to help the secondary is to change the look. Giants' corners usually give a cushion. By having them disguise their coverage they may create some confusion for the offense. Have them come up and make it look like press coverage and then bail out into zone. The key to playing off and giving cushion is that they must react quickly and tackle consistently. There is a fine line here. Play too soft and they catch all the underneath stuff. Play too tight and they get by the corner too easily. Athletic corners can do this well. Pre-snap movement most times is good. It doesn't allow the QB to focus on the defense. Most of all, what would help the pass coverage the most is tape study. It is essential for DBs to be able to read routes and that comes with preparation.

One more thing. Get more defensive players. The upcoming draft and free agency period should be strongly focused on adding defensive players who can make a difference.

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