Eye on the Prize – Midseason Update: Defense

Before the season, TGI took an in-depth look at what it was going to take for Big Blue to reach the playoffs and contend for a title. Now that the season's halfway over – and with the big Bears showdown on the horizon – we're sizing up where the Giants are as the second half of the season unfolds. Here is a look at the defense:

Defensive Line

Looking back: Remember when the DTs were the biggest question mark during training camp? Yeah, so do we. So we obviously didn't envision that the DTs would carry this line through the season's first half, not the Pro Bowl ends. Fred Robbins has been absolutely fantastic and Barry Cofield has given them more than they could have ever dreamed of from a fourth-round rookie.

Looking ahead: New York can't expect to do too much damage with Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora on the sideline, but Mathias Kiwanuka played very well in his first start. Besides that, if the rest of the line keeps on keeping on the Giants should be just fine here.

Best sight: Seeing Barry Cofield handle himself like a 10-year veteran. The way Cofield carries himself both on and off the field makes you wonder how he possibly lasted until the second day of the draft. Wise beyond his years, Cofield has picked things up extremely quickly and it's translated into excellent play.

Worst sight: As usual, William Joseph making only an occasional play. The Giants have to be disappointed that they haven't gotten more than they have from the former first-round pick. This is two years running that Joseph was handed a starting job and handed it right back.

Eye opener: Not even Fred Robbins could have predicted this perfect a first half for himself. He's been phenomenal. With 3.5 sacks and two interceptions, it seems that Robbins is always the one making the big play. He certainly leads this defense in jumpshooting percentage, that's for sure. I stand by my Double Coverage opinion that Robbins is headed to Honolulu.

Linebackers

Looking back: After a slow start, one of the team's strongest units has rounded itself into shape. Antonio Pierce is a beast in the middle, Carlos Emmons is back on the strong side where he belongs and the Giants were sure lucky to have signed Brandon Short, who filled in extremely well for Emmons. Tim Lewis' decision to go back to the basics appears to have benefited the linebackers as much as anyone.

Looking ahead: If they can continue to field three solid LBs every week, they should be fine. Picking up Chris Claiborne was a great move, if for no other reason than the guy knows how to play football. New York needs to stay healthy here, as the depth is not exactly proven.

Best sight: Seeing LaVar Arrington crash through the line of scrimmage and drop Drew Bledsoe for a safety in Dallas had everyone thinking that Arrington had arrived after a slow start to the season. His play that first quarter in Dallas was the best of his brief Giants career.

Worst sight: With that said, seeing Arrington laying on the Texas Stadium turf only minutes later with a ruptured Achilles' tendon was tough to take. Pierce and Arrington are close friends and while he hasn't said anything too emotional publicly, you can bet Pierce has kicked it into even a higher gear with his buddy on the shelf.

Eye opener: We all knew Brandon Short could play. Heck, he started on New York's last team that went to the Super Bowl. But to see him be the best player on defense for three consecutive weeks after he was inactive the first three weeks of the season makes you think the defensive staff needed its collective heads examined.

Defensive Backs

Looking back: A year after only picking off a dozen passes all season, including none from starting corner Will Allen, the Giants secondary already had six picks through seven games, including a pair each from offseason signees Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters. That's quite impressive. There's no question that the front office went out and tried to find players that can catch the ball. They succeeded. Instead of the usual dropped passes and missed opportunities these guys get their hands on the ball and hold onto it – what a novel idea.

Looking ahead: The sky's the limit for this defense. Will Demps started slow and took the blame on his shoulders, saying he wasn't yet fully comfortable with where everybody should be and what everyone should be doing. No more.

Best sight: New York has already returned two INTs for scores this year, a seemingly unfathomable thought heading into the season. Even though they both came in garbage time, they still count all the same. R.W. McQuarters ran one back in Seattle and rookie Kevin Dockery turned the trick to salt away the win in Dallas.

Worst sight: Again, we reference the Seattle game. Never before has a secondary so freely allowed opposing receivers to run free, especially in the red zone and end zone. However, things changed after that despicable performance and it's basically been smooth sailing ever since.

Eye opener: Jason Bell wasn't even a lock to make the team, yet there he was starting for Gibril Wilson during the key conference clash in Atlanta. The Giants defense hardly missed a beat after inserting Bell, who suffered a concussion but not before posting three solo stops and a special teams tackle.


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