Oh, how the mighty seem to have fallen.
The New York Giants, last year’s 10th overall defense, a brick wall to the end zone and a force against the run, have lost their identity, according to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who added that opponents “don’t fear” the Giants defense the way they might have last year.
“Me personally, I don’t think other teams when they play the New York Giants, I don’t think they fear us,” Pierre-Paul Thursday. “What we put on film is what we put on film and the only way to change that is going out and winning the game.”
For the Giants, that’s been easier said than done. While the offense and special teams have contributed to the struggles of the team’s 0-4 start, the last two weeks have seen the defense fail to come up with a stop when they needed it.
There are many reasons for the defense’s struggles, starting with the tackling. Per information obtained from Pro Football Focus, the Giants have missed 37 tackles in four games this season.
“A little bit of a disease,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said of the uncharacteristically high number of missed tackles. “I was very, very disappointed in our tackling this past game and it’s been like that the last three.
“The guys know that I’m not a believer in block tackling when you try to get a guy on the ground by just blocking him. We believe in wrap tackling. You see us every day. It’s called the tackle ring and it makes you wrap and that’s the reason for it and when you don’t go out there and do that, that’s disappointing to me. …We have to find a way to make sure that we tackle better or the defense won’t change.”
The other glaring decline of the Giants defense has been against the run. Last year, New York finished tied third against the run, allowing 88.6 yards per game.
This year, the Giants run defense has fallen to 28th in the league, having allowed four straight games of 100 yards to opponents for a 142.8 yards per game average and causing some to wonder if the Giants’ inability to retain defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins was a mistake.
“It can’t be one player,” Spagnuolo said.” Hank’s a good football player, but I mean, one player doesn’t make or break a run defense.
“It’s 11 guys, in my opinion. It begins up front. In our situation, it’s four because we’re a four-down front. Three linebackers behind or two depending on what we’re in and it has to start there. Everybody else has to make plays on the back end.”
Spagnuolo pointed to the big plays allowed on defense—16 of which have gone for 10 or more yards with five of those going for 20 or more yards—as being the underlying cause of the Giants’ poor numbers.
“The ones that skew things a lot and it’s always this way when you start looking at stats is the explosive plays and it only takes one or two explosive runs to all the sudden make the stats look as crappy as they look right now. There are still plenty of good run defensive plays, but in this league, you give up explosive plays, it ends up turning into points and we can’t afford to be giving up points.”
The question facing the Giants is how they will go about fixing the issues that have plagued them.
Pierre-Paul believes that once they clean up the repetitive issues, they’ll regain any respect they might have lost.
“Obviously, we’re both 0-4, but it is what it is. You just got to go out there and put what we need to put on film and starting this week,” he said.
“I think everybody is in the right frame of mind that we need to go out there and we are desperate for a win. Once we win that game, everything will start rolling around because when you’re winning, you feel good. You feel good, you look good, you play good. That’s just a part of winning. I just think those wins will come in bunches, they’ll come in bunches.
“Right now, nobody is panicking in this locker room. We’re still capable of winning games and going out and playing our best ball. That’s what we’re going to do Sunday and we’re going to go out and play our best ball. Leave it all on the table.”