New Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has his work cut out for him. Fewell inherits an abysmal defensive unit which allowed 427 points.
According to giants.com, it is the third highest total in the NFL behind Detroit and St.Louis as they allowed 40 or more points five times. Therefore, cleaning up this train wreck left from his predecessor Bill Sheridan is going to be an arduous task. What will Fewell do to turn things around? During his first press conference, Fewell was asked this question.
Q. Have you had the chance to look over your personnel yet with the Giants and have an idea of what kind of scheme you may run there? I gather you were a Tampa-2 guy when you were in Buffalo, is that something you would consider here?
Perry Fewell: I am currently evaluating that, just looking at our players, just trying to get what they do best in my mind and what I can bring to the table to help them do better. Scheme-wise, I am still in the process of formulating that.
Fewell was short on specifics. Needless to say, he has to be concerned about the entire unit especially the pass defense. In 2009, the Giants defense surrendered 31 touchdown passes. This ignominious statistic is an eye sore. In order for the Giants to be successful in 2010, the Giants have to upgrade the safety and cornerback positions. Tuesday's news about safety Kenny Phillips being ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation following knee surgery, clearly, must have put a smile on Fewell's face. Besides having a healthy Phillips, the Giants need to add another quality safety to their team.
The NFL has become a passing league. CBS analyst and former Steelers' head coach Bill Cowher believes, "The game has changed, the rules have changed," he said. "I think right now, I hate to say this, but the running game is a complement. It's not the foundation that it once was. You look at the last three AFC teams that were in the Super Bowl, that's Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis. They're all passing teams. The running game is a complement." And ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski thinks, "As we've watched the evolution of the NFL there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is a passing league," said Jaworski, who played quarterback in the NFL from 1973-89. "What's going to give you your best chance of winning a world championship? Right now, I believe that it is with the passing game and we're seeing that play out." Indeed, Cowher and Jaworski make astute comments. Both teams playing in Super Bowl XLIV were passing teams. The Colts ranked second in passing while the Saints were ranked fourth. The New Orleans Saints won a Super Bowl title because of their impressive short controlled passing game. Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees' longest pass was a 27 yard completion to WR Marques Colston. In order to match up well against these sophisticated passing offenses, defenses have to have quality defensive backs. Former Patriots scout and now Atlanta Falcons GM Tom Dimitroff has stated, "Ideally, we'd like to get to a situation where you have interchangeable safeties. Maybe one guy is the strong safety, but you can flip it. Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, those guys are great football players who set the benchmark. It's not easy to find those guys year in and year out, but those are the type of guys that we are ultimately looking for at the safety position." Dimitroff is talking about dual role safeties. Having two dual role safeties on a defense means both can play the run and pass equally well. With two dual role safeties, teams can better disguise their schemes. More offenses also are using three- and four-receiver sets on first and second downs, forcing defenses to play nickel packages or leave themselves exposed to potential mismatches with strong safeties and/or outside linebackers. If a defense can mask schemes, blitzes and coverages by moving around one safety or the other or by playing two-deep coverage, pre-snap reads are tougher for quarterbacks to make. Having safeties with similar skills makes executing the defense that much easier. For instance, when Phillips season ended because of injury, coaches like the Saints' Sean Payton knew how to exploit the Giants defense. With Phillips out, the Giants did not have any quality safeties on their roster. Hence, Sean Payton was able to find favorable matchups. Even Giants radio voice Bop Papa admitted "makes me wistful what could have been if Phillips was healthy." In addition to adding another quality safety to their 2010 roster, the Giants have to add another cornerback. Right now, it appears Corey Webster will be one of the Giants starting cornerbacks while Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross will compete for the other starting position. Is Aaron Ross the answer at safety? No. Having Aaron Ross at safety was out of necessity. The thinking behind using Ross was to have a quality defensive back on the field. Please remember Ross is getting up in age. Although he has been in the league since 2007, Ross will turn 28 in September.
In today's NFL, having quality and quantity in the defensive backfield is tantamount to having an excellent defense. If the Giants can add talented defensive backs to their existing roster, they will improve their defense.