A 38-0 beat-down that leads to an 0-3 start makes it pretty hard to find any silver for Giants fans. Despite the clear shortcomings of the offensive line, lack of pass rush, and all-around absence of any fight through the first three weeks of the 2013 season, there is one unit on the team that deserves some praise: the secondary.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Giants’ pass defense currently ranked 19th in the league. This is pedestrian, however if the Giants abysmal pass rush (31st overall, a far cry from the reputation that this group has carried) is considered, the secondary unit has to be considered a bright spot through three games.
The Giants had the third worst pass defense in the league in 2012. Heading into 2013 most Giants fans would have told you that improving the secondary was one of the biggest keys for the Giants to have success. While it would be stupid to say the defense has found "success" so far this season, the defensive backs on this team have held their end of the bargain.
The unit, which didn’t contain any big name acquisitions heading into the season, had mild expectations. Giants fans knew what they were getting with Antrel Rolle, but with Corey Webster coming off a down year, Stevie Brown going down in the preseason and Prince Amukamara being anything but a sure-thing there was plenty of cause for concern. Through three weeks of the season this group has been one of the very few units who have actually put out a defendable performance. Here’s a break down of that unit through three games.
The most notable player of this group has been Ryan Mundy, who is currently ranked as the sixth best safety in the NFL by PFF.com. Mundy has been great against both the pass and the run, receiving grades of 2.0 and 3.0 respectively through the first three games. Mundy has seven defensive stops (tackles which result in an offensive failure) to go along with his one interception through three games. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t slated to start at the beginning of training camp.
Rolle’s numbers are not as impressive as Mundy’s (0.2 grade which is ranks as the 34th safety in the league) but every Giant fan knows how important his leadership is to this team. Rolle has been a loud voice outside the locker room making noise this week by saying that the Giants will turn their season around. Rolle has been and will continue to be a rock for the G-Men both on the field and in the locker-room.
Prince Amukamara has been solid so far this season. His 0.3 rating currently ranks 46th amongst cornerbacks. He also has four defensive stops through three games, which is an added bonus from your best cover corner. Clearly Amukamara still has room to improve and Giants fans would like for him to develop into the star corner back we all thought he could be coming out of Nebraska, but there are signs that this is coming. If he can stay on the field for the full season and build off his solid start to this year, don’t be surprised if he becomes one of the best players on the Giants by the end of the season.
Corey Webster has as smaller sample size as he missed last week’s debacle versus Carolina, but he has shown some signs of improvement coming off of his awful season last year (100th out of 113 corners graded on PFF.com). Webster has allowed completions on 12 passes thrown his way in the two games he played, an improvement on his 61.5% from just a year ago.
The biggest and most pleasing surprise for the Giants from week three was the comeback performance of Aaron Ross. After a year hiatus in Jacksonville, Ross made his first start since 2011 for the Giants. The former first-round pick did not disappoint. He earned an impressive 2.5 grade from the fine folks over at PFF, the sixth highest of any corner in week three. Yes, he was responsible for allowing two TDs (although one was while the game was in hand) but he was certainly a plus for the Giants. Ross has allowed for only 40% of passes to be completed that were thrown his way, has four passes defended, and an interception. Really, really impressive numbers for a backup cornerback.
The way this secondary has played through three games should give Giants fans some hope as to how strong this defense can become if the dormant pass rush awakens. The Giants have generated close to zero pass rush this season and the secondary has still put together a decent performance. Giants fans know how important the pass rush is to the secondary and vice versa.
This secondary, which was limping into the season, metaphorically and literally, has done a great job considering all variables, including an offense that can’t stay on the field or protect its franchise quarterback and a defensive line that hasn’t gotten a pass rush in what seems like a year now.
Given that the Giants have been able to “fix” their defensive line in the past, Giants fans should take comfort (at least as much as a fan of an 0-3 team can) in the fact that a unit that was considered to be one of the weakest heading into the year has been a strong point.