The Giants are running short on linebackers, and autumn hasn’t even started yet. Both Jon Beason and Devon Kennard have been declared out of Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans, giving additional playing time to Jameel McClain and Spencer Paysinger. McClain has a lot of practice at middle linebacker, having manned the position during Beason’s recovery during training camp, but Paysinger’s notorious struggles against the run will be an issue against the Texans, who favor the ground attack.
Perry Fewell agrees, saying that the Texans have been taking a smart approach to football, but that playing while they are ahead has helped. Houston has been running the ball, throwing short passes, and taking shots down the field when they want. Fewell points out that this has allowed Houston to “Dictate how they want to play ball.”
Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien is a student of Bill Belichick, having been his offensive coordinator before leaving to take the Penn State Head Coach job. Fewell sees similarities between New England’s offense and Houston’s, especially in short yardage situations, and attributes it to O’Brien’s “Roots.”
It should come as no surprise that the Giants defensive game plan will focus on stopping the run. Fewell complimented Texan’s lead runner Arian Foster, calling him “One of the best in the league” and saying he has “Great vision, sees the small creases, has great acceleration through those creases, and moves the chains.” Foster is questionable for the game with a knee injury.
Not creating turnovers is a source of great frustration for the Giants defense, especially because they are what Fewell calls, “A turnover conscious group.” Pointing out that turnovers are consistently generated in practice, and were frequent in the preseason games, Fewell says that “Luck of the draw” plays a role on their lack of presence in the first two games. He notes that Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle both has their hands on the ball against Arizona, but couldn’t pull it down, and that the Giants “Haven’t made their breaks.” That is expected to change.
Another area that Fewell calls frustrating is the penalties and plays for conversion that have allowed opponents to escape third and long situations. He will “Coach from the practice field, and coach from the game film” to ensure that when the defense has an opponent in a favorable football situation, they are able to capitalize.
Trumaine McBride will be first up in the nickel cornerback slot to replace the injured Walter Thurmond. Fewell says that McBride has made some “Clinic plays” from the inside, or nickel corner position and is excited for the opportunity. He also said that McBride plays “Bigger” than on the field than he is and matches up against taller receivers. McBride is 5’9″, Thurmond is 5’11”. Fewell also said that Quintin Demps will play some nickel corner backing up McBride.
There has been a lot of discussion of defensive ends playing tight end since the Texan’s J.J. Watt caught a one yard touchdown pass in last week’s game against the Raiders. Fewell said that he also blocked effectively. Preparing for Watt the tight end will be a point of emphasis for the Giants, first to stop the Texans from getting into the red zone, and, if they do penetrate, knowing where Watt is, and what do to to defend him.
A defensive end playing for Fewell has never played tight end, but he believes Jason Pierre-Paul is capable. However, he’d prefer to keep his best defensive lineman exclusively on defense, and jokingly asked reporters to not fill Pierre-Paul’s head with thoughts of playing offense.
Ben McAdoo also spoke about defensive linemen playing on offense and has seen it, most recently in Green Bay with B.J. Raji. He points out that given the size and athletic ability of these men, it’s easy to see why offensive coaches want them to put some time in on the goal line, but knows that “Their plates are full.” It doesn’t appear that the Giants will be rolling out a defensive end tight end package any time soon, unless this is a calculated smoke screen.
Preventing turnovers is something that McAdoo is “Teaching, coaching, and making sure that things are done the right way” at every opportunity. He review the plays and makes corrections with the players, both on the play where the turnover occurred, and on those leading up to it that put them in a position to turn the ball over. McAdoo refused to call Rashad Jennings’ fumble, “Just one of those things,” and said there are steps he went through with the Giants starting running back to prevent it from happening again. He also said that several players have opportunities to make corrections on Eli Manning’s first interception.
Scheming for J.J. Watt will not be easy, as the Texans move him around to prevent it, cautions McAdoo, but praised rookie left guard Weston Richburg, who will likely see a lot of Watt on Sunday. He said that Richburg had several good days of practice, and has been steadily improving over the course of the seven games he’s played. This week will be a big test for the rookie. If he can hold his ground against one of the top defensive players in the NFL, it will show a lot in his development.
McAdoo is not counting on anything from Odell Beckham any time soon. He believes there is enough pressure on the injured rookie and given his “Special talent,” when it comes, it will be a bonus. For now, he trusts Preston Parker to get open and make plays in the place of Jerrell Jernigan.
Larry Donnell is a special athlete, according to McAdoo, who said it’s nice to have a guy who can go down the middle of the field and win. He cautions that Donnell needs to continue to improve as a blocker.
Tom Coughlin answered questions about Jon Beason coyly, why knowing that he is out for Sunday’s game. Beason went to North Carolina today to see foot Specialist Dr. James Andrews. While Beason attended meeting and studied game film, his missed practice time, and the uncertainly regarding the extent of his injury will prevent him from suiting up against the Texans.
To make corrections and turn the season around, Coughlin quoted former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who is a frequent source of inspiration for the Giants Head Coach. “Focus on your team,” said Coughlin, channeling Wooden. That’s where you spend your time trying to win. Coughlin said the players are listening, talking among themselves, but it needs to translate onto the field. He says that everything the team does, each year, is geared towards starting the season fast, something they have failed to do recently and that he expects to win every game the Giants play.
In order to cut down on the costly penalties, Coughlin has invited officials to practice and asked them to be strict in their calls. He also said the team, “Talks about it, shows it, looks at it, and brings the players updates on a weekly basis.” While not specifically saying it, Coughlin pointed out the inconsistency that has been problematic. He said that in one game there are an incredible number of penalties called, and in another very few. The number called against the Giants against Arizona was especially concerning given their relative few in the season opener against Detroit. You can bet your mortgage that he has a similar conversation with NFL officiating supervisor Dean Blandino.
The crew for Sunday’s game against Houston will be refereed by Terry McCauley. This crew called 21 penalties in week 1 in the San Francisco Forty Niners at Dallas Cowboys game and 15 last Monday night in the Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts game. Of the 36 penalties, ten were called on the defensive backfield. Expect a lot of penalties on Sunday, but not necessarily illegal contact, defensive holding, and defensive pass interference calls.
In addition to Beason and Kennard, Odell Beckham is out on Sunday. James Brewer, Charles Brown, and Steve Weatherford are questionable. Markus Kuhn is probable and will make his season debut, if active. It will be a major surprise if Weatherford doesn’t punt this week, after he was effective last week and hasn’t had a setback reported.
Tomorrow, Giants360 picks week 3, we will have our picks up in the early afternoon. On Sunday morning, look for our keys to the game. And on game day, we will be live tweeting the game from @giants360. If you’re not following along, you’re missing out on all the fun.
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