The Giants Tampa 2 defense seems to get a bit more porous with each passing week. For whatever reason, this team's personnel is not built for zone coverage. Whether it be through constantly biting on play action fakes or just sheer inability to adjust and react, the Giants' back seven continues to look lost in zone. Game after game we see linebackers at the second level allowing receivers to cross right in front of their face for easy completions in the ten yard range.
Even worse are the 15-20 yard dig routes that have become a favorite for opposing offensive coordinators, an enticing play against the soft zone and weak tackling of the back seven. It has become routine to see our T2 coverage allow multiple completions of this route per game. Why? Our linebackers have proven time and time again that they have the inability to read and react quickly enough. Too often they are caught recovering after biting on a play fake or standing flat-footed as a receiver crosses through their zone. Our safeties also seem to have the inability to adjust in zone coverage as it has become commonplace to see them continuing their drops even as passes are completed right in front of them.
It's one thing when a quarterback like Rodgers shreds your zone (why the Giants would spend a good portion of a game against Aaron Rodgers is a different question).
Drew Brees, same thing.
Tony Romo, that's fine.
REX GROSSMAN? Unacceptable.
Time and time again Sunday the Giants defense, a group that once made a living off of their aggression, sat back and let Grossman make easy completions all afternoon long. Here are a few examples of the Giants zone that allowed the Redskins passing attack to come up with some easy completions throughout the game.
14:15 1st Quarter 1st and 10: R.Grossman pass short middle to J.Gaffney to WAS 45 for 15 yards (C.Blackburn, K.Phillips).
-The Redskins opened their second drive of the game with a simple play action fake to Helu that got easy bites out of the Giants LBs. Withboth passing options running short and intermediate routes, the Giants safeties continued to drop deeper and allowed Grossmanto easily find Gaffney, who had cut across a 15-yard gap in the Giants zone. Gaffney was brought down by Phillips, whose break on the ball came too late thanks to how deep KP has allowed himself to get.
11:26 1st Quarter 3rd and 12: R.Grossman pass deep right to D.Stallworth to NYG 20 for 19 yards (K.Phillips).
-Needing 12 yards the Redskins were in an obvious passing situation here and Grossman had lined up in the shotgun with Helu to his right. Right off the snap the Giants had created a huge window in their zone, with their LBs sitting at four yards and the safeties at nearly 15 yards (and dropped back another 10 at the snap!). At the snap Webster, who was responsible for the deep quarter, had run off with Gaffney on a fly route. Facing only a four man rush Grossman was able to sit back andfind Stallworth. Stallworth's dig route took him in front of the face of Amukamura and Phillips, who continued to drop deeper despite no deep routes on that side of the field. Easy completion. Huge 3rd and long conversion. Drive continues.
2:09 3rd Quarter 3rd and 17: R.Grossman pass short left to D.Stallworth pushed ob at NYG 41 for 16 yards (M.Boley).
-Sure the Giants probably should have been up 7-3 here after Nicks' drop on an easy TD catch. But they weren't. And in a season where Eli and the offense have carried this sorry unit, the defense had a chance to make an easy stop and give the offense the ball back only trailing by one score. The Giants rushed three (a puzzling yet predictable decision) as Grossman hit Donte Stallworth just three yards downfield. With the Giants defense in a prevent of sorts, Stallworth was able to take advantage of poor tackling from Rolle and Boley. While there is no excuse for missed tackles, the Giants have shown no interest in gang tackling and getting "11 hats to the football" this season. The play gained 16 yards and put the Redskins in a 4th and1 situation that they would go on to convert. The drive also ended in seven points. The defense MUST find a way to close the door there. The best way to do that is to man-up andsend heat at a quarterback like Grossman!
3:29 3rd Quarter 2nd and 6: R.Grossman pass short right to J.Gaffney to NYG 34 for 17 yards (A.Rolle).
-Another play action called and another example of the Giants LBs completely getting sucked in andtaking themselves out of any opportunity to defend the pass. Kenny Phillips, who was positioned near the line of scrimmage (somewhere we rarely see him), committed to neither the run nor the pass but rather stood near the line of scrimmage. A coach of mine used to tell me that if you're going to make a mistake (as KP did there) you better make it at 110 mph. Kind of how I feel about Phillips' season on the whole. Grossman found Gaffney who easily broke off a dig route 15 yards down the field as Ross and Rolle continued to drop (another head scratcher seeing that the Skins only sent out two wide recivers on the play) and Grossman found his man for the easy completion when the Giants were desperate for a stop.
2:13 3rd Quarter 2nd and 7: R.Grossman pass deep right to J.Gaffney to NYG 14 for 17 yards (A.Ross).
-Another great example of the dig route that has killed the Giants all season. Grossman used play action to draw the attention of Williams, who left Boleyas the only defender at the second level. Gaffney, who to his credit is an excellent route runner, was able to easily cut across the 15-20 yard level of the Giants zone and make the easy catch. Grossman once again had a huge window to throw thanks to excessively deep drops from Phillips and Ross when it was clear that Gaffney was the only threat to them. Stallworth had run a deep flag and was covered by Webster while Santana Moss was in the left flat. Just a perfect example of the Giants' inability to be quick in their zone coverage (quick to drop, quick to react, quick to break and make a play on the ball) and the reason why...
THE GIANTS MUST FEATURE A HEAVY DOSE OF MAN DEFENSE FROM HERE ON OUT!
The Jets can be the perfect confidence booster for a Giants defense that will take anything. Fewell needs to come out on Christmas Eve with a game plan that features a heavy dose of pressure (BLITZ!) and man coverage forcing Sanchez into quick and hopefully bad decisions. If he beats you this way, so be it. But the Giants CANNOT sit back as they did against Grossman and let a struggling quarterback beat them. Not with the season on the line. A group that has nothing left to lose should play like just that. Andwhile there is no doubt that changes must be made both on staff and personnel wise in the off-season, any signs of life from this defense may allow the Giants to finish their up and down season with a fight.
Yes, agreed, of course, even Garafalo seems to have caught on about this. What makes watching this defense all the more frustrating is they occasionally CAN put it together, coordinator and players alike. Shutting out Brady for a half? Last year's game and 3/4 against a red-hot Vick?--when Fewell really puts his mind into it and gets it right, it can be great. But then games like last week abound as well. As in your post to Mara, the blame goes all around--a coach that can't keep his team consistent, a GM that blatantly ignores key parts of his defense while hiring a DC who employs a scheme that depends on the play of that ignored unit. It's such a shame to have this beauty of a year by Eli relatively wasted. Hope he can put it together again if/when the rest of the team (coaches/GM) can get their act together.
Outstanding piece -- helped me understand exactly what's going on back there. I think the average fan would prefer that if the Giants are going to lose, better because of lack of the talent to play man to man than lack of the brains to play Fewell's brand of zone.
Vacchiano wrote in a Giants vs. Jets article this morning than Fewell wasn't going anywhere, not even posting conditions like "if they make it the playoffs" or whatnot.
He also said a couple of weeks back that Coughlin would be back no matter what. Mara (or Tish) also had a word for Coughlin after the Cowboys game, saying a win like this has lots to do with the coaches.
Sure. But so do the 7/8/9 losses !
The more I think about it the more I believe that aside from a 2-14 season, Coughlin will not be fired. Ever. He'll get to retire when he chooses.
Great article, Rich. Good analysis.
I'm trying to imagine what is said in the coaches meetings. Does Coughlin say to Fewell, "Perry, I've got your back, but what is going on out there? This is not working. You either need to fix this or we will all be out of a job". If we see these problems, they MUST see the same problems and then some, right? I just can't figure out how this zone/tampa defense is allowed to continue week after week when it is obviously not working. It must be becoming a joke among rival offensive coordinators. Maybe they feel, with the players available, they have no choice but to go this route. But its not working. The Giants have been known for their defense. This is an embarrassment.
Nice work there Rich. Who are you btw, I don't think I read your name before.
As you say, this soft zone defense isn't working, we need to try something else.
If blitzes and press don't work, at least they would have tried to change and keep fighting.