On the DL

This week we will look at the defensive line and complete the trifecta of a defense that during the last few years has evolved into mush. The once proud unit that symbolized the glory days of the Giants is now a laughable bunch that can't stop anyone.

Perhaps this is a short term-thing. We hope they will improve, but we wouldn't bet on it. It looks like it's going to be a long season. There is nothing more discouraging than having no hope the defense can stop even the feeblest offense.

There really is just one goal for any defense and that is to stop the opponent from scoring. That goal is accomplished by a number of factors. Those factors include a pass rush, good run stopping, good tackling, and competent pass coverage. At this writing, the Giants defense exhibits none of these factors. We have written about the shoddy coverage and tackling by the linebackers and secondary. Those two units do not stand alone. The defensive line must share an equal amount of criticism and even ridicule.

Every time we see TEs running totally free in the middle of the field, or we see a Brett Favre pick them apart with short, quick release passes the one thing that is blatantly missing is a pass rush. What is so galling is that the pass rush was supposed to be a strength of this team. Perhaps it's time to move Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end, where he showed promise as a pass rusher. Right now he comes off the field on third downs. We have yet to see the wisdom in that. He should be rushing the passer.

The run defense has looked good in spots, but there haven't been enough of those spots. Several times they have stopped the run on the first two downs only to see the porous pass defense and anemic pass rush continue to give up first downs. Let's go through the cast of characters on the defensive line.

Michael Strahan has done us all a great service. For those of us who have wondered how important four preseason games and five to six weeks of training camp are, we now know they are very important. Strahan, with the exception of a few plays, has been virtually invisible. He is supposed to be one of their prime pass rushers. What we got is someone who looks over the hill. He still does well defending the run, but the pass rush has deserted him so far.

Osi Umenyiora is the other DE who was supposed to terrorize enemy quarterbacks and that hasn't happened either. While in contrast to Strahan, Osi still has some moves and he has come close a number of times. In his defense he has had nagging injuries and he too is returning from an injury last year. At some point he needs to return to being the Pro Bowl DE who was among the league leaders in sacks two years ago.

Who would have thought that after two games Justin Tuck would be their sack leader? Yet with two sacks, he has the only sacks the team has managed to muster. He is the one and only player on the D-line who has exceed expectations, yet he is the third DE. They just don't have a place for him behind Strahan and Osi. On obvious passing downs he can play the DT spot and rush from the inside.

Reserve DE Adrian Awasom was placed on IR with a back injury. His injury leaves them very short on depth at DE. This may be the move that forces them to move Kiwanuka back to DE.

The DTs continue to struggle stopping the run, but their problems have been masked by the other concerns like the lack of a pass rush and the inability of the LBs and DBs to cover. Fred Robbins is coming off a solid year, but this year he has been average at best. They used to be able to count on him to make a few big plays, but not so far this year. He also provided a good inside pass rush, but we haven't seen much of that yet either. He never was very strong against the run.

Last year Barry Cofield started strong before he hit the rookie wall at the end of the season. This year he has been pushed around a lot and he has been largely ineffective. If they had someone to challenge him, he might not be a starter much longer.

The one guy who could perhaps push Cofield is Manny Wright. So far he has looked decent in limited playing time. He is a talented DT who needed to mature; we are seeing signs that he has. He is the big body they need inside to stop the run. We have seen him get good penetration at times. They have to be hopeful they found a gem on the waiver wire. He deserves more of an opportunity.

Rookie Jay Alford is raw and he needs a lot of seasoning. We haven't seen much of him so far, but he has not done anything to catch our eye yet. We would not count on him having much of an impact this year. His strength is his ability to inside rush. He showed some good moves at Penn State, but the level of competition he is facing here is significantly better.

They recently added 32-year-old veteran DT Russell Davis. He is another big body DT who was probably the best available street free agent they could find at this time of the year. Hopefully, at the very least he can help in the DT rotation.

It looks like we have seen the last of William Joseph. Ol' Willie Joe was placed on IR and in all likelihood they will reach an injury settlement with him and he will be gone. It's too bad the former first-round draft pick never lived up to advance billing. He was a talented guy who never was able to put it together.

There is no other way to say it but the entire defense is a mess. They need to make changes, but they are somewhat limited. We would like to see Aaron Ross become a starting CB. Michael Johnson should get a chance to show what he can do at safety. If they move Kiwi back to DE, then Reggie Torbor deserves a shot on the strong side. We wouldn't mind seeing Gerris Wilkinson replace Kawika Mitchell.

On the DL they should find a way to get more playing time for Justin Tuck and Manny Wright. They need to find a way to get Strahan, Osi, Tuck and Kiwi on the field at the same time and involved in the pass rush. Maybe some personnel changes will spark the defense.

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