Changes Make Giants Defense Stingy

The Vikings will be facing a rapidly improving New York Giants defense, and even Tom Coughlin admits that.

In their last two games, the Giants have allowed a total of 263 yards, and yes, that comes to 132.5 per game.

That's not just good, it's great, and even such a rigidly controlled interviewee as coach Tom Coughlin will admit it, however grudgingly.

"I would have to say we have played very well, outstanding, the last two weeks," he said. "We have gotten good play out of our front four. We have been in real good position. I think our (pass) coverage, except for a couple of times, has been better."

Part of the reason is the performance of two lesser-known starters, defensive tackle William Joseph and weakside linebacker Nick Greisen. Joseph was the team's first-round draft pick in 2003 and until the start of this season had been a bust. Greisen was a fourth-round pick in 2002 but hadn't started until this year, when injuries thrust him into the role.

"I think anybody who makes it to an NFL roster," Greisen says, "should be expected to play when called upon. I mean, these are the best players in the world. You would expect them to prove that when the opportunity shows up. That's why we're here. That's why we play the game."

Through eight games, Greisen has 34 tackles (and six special teams tackles) to go along with three forced fumbles (best on the team), two recovered fumbles (best on the team), two passes defensed. "I am just loving this," says the 6-foot-1, 245-pounder from Wisconsin.

Greisen's chance came when veteran Barrett Green failed to fully recover from knee surgery he underwent last year. This summer in training camp it became obvious that Green, signed as a free agent from Detroit in the spring of 2004, just wasn't going to make it.

So Coughlin and defensive coordinator Tim Lewis juggled things around and put strongside starter Carlos Emmons on the weak side, elevated second-year player Reggie Torbor to the strong-side starter and left middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, the team's tackling leader, where he was.

Then Torbor wasn't doing so well, so Emmons went back to the strong side. That opened the door for Greisen. Now Emmons is hurt, and Torbor (who's playing better) is back on the strong side, but Greisen is still on the weak side. Green has been placed on injured reserve, and so the job is Greisen's for the rest of the season.

Joseph, the 6-5, 315-pounder out of the University of Miami, doesn't like to speak much - except when he's talking about his college team's exploits. But he has 15 tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery and has batted down three passes.

"He is playing well," says Coughlin, who is now comfortable with Joseph and Kendrick Clancy as the two starting tackles, with Fred Robbins and Kenderick Allen the backups.

And when the team allows just 132.5 total yards per game, what would he have to be unhappy about?


  • There is still some doubt that strongside linebacker Carlos Emmons will be able to play this week. He has missed the last two games with a partially torn right pectoral muscle, and he hasn't practiced yet this week.

  • Wide recveiver David Tyree (elbow) will practice on a limited basis and might be OK for Sunday against the Vikings.

  • Rookie defensive end Justin Tuck (ankle) also didn't practice and at this point is day-to-day.

  • Weakside linebacker Nick Greisen (ribs) will practice near the end of the week and is expected to play.

  • The Giants have 11 interceptions, and not one of them has been recorded by either of the cornerbacks who opened the season. Right cornerback Will Peterson (lower back) will probably miss the rest of the season. The diagnosis should be confirmed in a week or two after a final medical exam. Left cornerback Will Allen, who hasn't missed a game, has missed several opportunities for interceptions. Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, reserve strong safety Shaun Williams and free safety Brent Alexander have two each.

  • Tight end Sean Berton, signed as a free agent on Sept. 4, was a member of the Vikings the past two years. He believes things are much more comfortable around the Giants.

    "There is more discipline here," he said, "and it's really different how the two organizations are run."

    Berton didn't have much time with the new owner, Zygi Wilf, but he just smiled when asked about the "Love Boat" incident last month. "That was the first time they did that," he said with a laugh, "and probably the last."

  • Wide receiver Amani Toomer, in his 10th (and possibly last) season with the Giants, has just 24 catches for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but he denies any jealousy at the attention paid by quarterback Eli Manning to receiver Plaxico Burress and tight end Jeremy Shockey.

    "The way Eli distributes the ball, it makes things a lot tougher for defenses," Toomer said. "I'll just hope to get my share."

    At least the two touchdowns are an improvement. He didn't catch any last season, nor did the other starting receiver, Ike Hilliard (now in Tampa Bay).

    Manning's 133 completions have been spread around to 10 receivers.

    For his part, Burress is a lot happier with the Giants than he was in Pittsburgh, presumably because Hines Ward got the bulk of the chances there.

    "I know I have a quarterback now," he said, somewhat mysteriously, "so I try to make plays and make him look good."

  • To a man, the Giants refuse to talk about their NFC East showdown with Philadelphia in two weeks.

    "We have had some success so far," left guard David Diehl said, "by focusing on what is in front of us and not getting caught up in any of the other games on our schedule. That way, every game is like a playoff game. We try to think that each game is the last one of the season."

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