Who's to blame for awful defense?

Paul Schwartz and Ken Palmer discuss who is to blame for the Giants' defense and the issue they have had over the first two games of the season.

Paul Schwartz: So now we start hearing about how no one wanted to come work for Tom Coughlin because of his shaky job security, which is why the only person he could convince to become the Giants defensive coordinator was Steve Spagnuolo, who had never before called the shots as the man in charge. Where was this theory back in the summer, when the players were singing the praises of the new guy and falling over themselves to laud the new-and-improved aggressive scheme he imported from the Eagles? No one had any problem with Spagnuolo until the games kicked off and his defense stunk, allowing a ghastly 80 points in the first two games. Sure, no one knows for sure if Spagnuolo is going to develop into a first-rate coordinator but nothing I've seen indicates he's in over his head or doesn't know what he's doing. He seems to be sound in his approach but he learned quickly enough that blitzes and pressure sound great but mean nothing without the necessary personnel to put the strategy into action. If you want to point the finger at Spagnuolo, go ahead, but make sure you save a digit for the front office that put this limited defense together.

Ken Palmer: Congrats, Paul, you're on a one-topic run of accuracy – finally. I can think of countless folks that are to blame before we get to Steve Spagnuolo. His theories are sound – and might work with the players from my high school defense. However, unfortunately for him, he's been saddled with this Giants defense, which might not be as talented as me and my high school buddies were back in the day. After Michael Strahan's holdout, the pass rush is worse than ever. All three linebackers are playing out of position – and it shows. And the secondary, which was awful last season, only improved by one player – Aaron Ross – and the coaches have been slow to let him play. Perhaps that's Spags' only mistake so far – not just throwing Ross out there. Heaven knows, he can't be any worse. With even decent players with some semblance of discipline Spagnuolo's aggressive defense would work – and likely very well. But with this cast of characters that he inherited, give him credit for simplifying things as much as possible, thereby giving the defense its best – and only – true opportunity to succeed. Like any good coach, Spagnuolo is going to take it all on his shoulders. If only his players were so honorable.

PS: We certainly are getting off to a cheery start, aren't we? While we've done nothing to cure the Giants fans depression, let's keep on hammering by trying to figure out what the biggest early disappointment is on this team. Hmm, kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet – there's so much to choose from. It's got to be something on the defensive end; I've got to go with the lack of a pass rush. I didn't expect much from the secondary and I had no great hopes for the linebackers but I figured some of those deficiencies could be soothed by the big guys up front harassing the opposing quarterback. With Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan (as rusty as he clearly is), Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka (when he's turned loose as opposed to dropping back) there is no excuse for not applying at least some semblance of pressure. I mean, Brett Favre hasn't looked as calm and cool in the pocket in five years. He looked like he was working in a darn seven-on-seven passing drill, completely unafraid that anyone wearing a Giants uniform would invade his personal space. Few sacks, few hurries and far too much comfort in the opposing pocket is the most disappointing aspect of the early stage of the Giants season.

KP: There goes your one-topic run – up in flames. And boy, you sure do like to reference those all-you-can-eat buffets, now don't you? Anyway, as bad as the pass pressure has been, it's the secondary that has been most offensive. Corey Webster is finally healthy and no one could have imagined he'd be as bad as he's been through the first couple games. A total lack of cover ability and tackling form leads to a seat on the bench sooner rather than later for Webster. But that's the problem, there is no bench. The Giants – about two weeks too late – are finally working in Aaron Ross. It's still way too early to tell if he can play or not. But enough time has already passed to know for certain that he's better than anyone else they have back there. R.W. McQuarters? Last year, he was their best cover guy. This year? Not so much. Actually, the most consistent corner through two games has been Sam Madison, which just shows you how low the bar has been dropped. And the safeties have been just as bad. Gibril Wilson was supposed to benefit from his switch to free safety. He has posted a pair of INTs, but his in-game decision-making has been awful. And maybe James Butler is headed to be a player in this league. But so far, all he's shown is that the Giants made a terrible mistake in letting go of Will Demps.

PS: If we keep this up, Kenny, the loyal readers of this fine publication are going to cancel their subscription and swear off the Giants for good. We've got to lighten the mood. Surely something positive had to come out of the first two games of the season. It's clear that of all the positions that comprise the roster, the Giants have done the best job putting together their offensive line. What a unit. David Diehl looks as if he's making a successful transition to left tackle and Rich Seubert looks all the way back from that terrible fractured leg that nearly cost him his career. There's smarts and experience everywhere, with Kareem McKenzie, Chris Snee and Shaun O'Hara combining with Seubert and Diehl to form a cohesive and talented group. Eli Manning couldn't have looked as improved as he does – and had the confidence to shake off a bruised right shoulder – if not for his guys up front getting the job done in such consistent fashion. Derrick Ward couldn't have emerged as a pleasant surprise filling in for injured Brandon Jacobs without the line paving the way in the ground game. There's not much in the way of depth, but as long as this five-man line stays healthy, the Giants will be fine up front on offense.

KP: Yeah, who would have thought early in training camp that the Giants would have had a boatload of problems, but that David Diehl playing left tackle would not be among them? Chris Snee gave TGI a playful I-told-you-so when said topic was addressed. Anyway, as good as the line has been – and they have been – most of these guys were around last year, and played very well in the process. We all already knew that McKenzie, Snee and O'Hara would be just fine, and despite the concern regarding Diehl, he was good everywhere else he played on the line. Richie Seubert? He's obviously at least all the way back from the broken leg and is as good as any of them. The real surprise is Derrick Ward. This is a guy that Paul had not even making the team in place of Ryan Grant, who was traded to Green Bay during final cuts… or was that me? Ha Ha. Regardless, Ward has been superb during the first few weeks and, as long as he can stay healthy, certainly should steal some of Brandon Jacobs' carries when Jacobs returns from his knee injury. Ward told me during training camp that he was good enough to start. Sure wish I had listened.


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