Things are quiet at the Quest Diagnostic Training facility as the Giants are taking advantage of their bye week, and both players and coaches have gone into the wind until they re-emerge next week begin practicing for the Indianapolis Colts. Giants360 continues to go through interviews with the assistant coaches and being you tidbits of information, insight, and analysis to enjoy during this down period in the Big Blue calendar.
“LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray were the number one issue,” says defensive line coach Robert Nunn, when asked why the Giants run defense looked weaker in the last two games after being rather stout in the first five. Delving deeper into the nuts and bolts of the situation, he says there have been a few missed tackles and blown gap assignments by the defensive lineman, but that’s true of the entire defense. “Everyone has to do their part,” add Nunn, “Pass rush opportunities won’t be there unless we stop the run.”
The Giants appear ready to unleash Damontre Moore in pass rush situations over the less effective Mathias Kiwanuka after the bye week. Kiwanuka has the lowest rating of any defensive player according the Profootballfocus, and has been a liability in both run stopping and pass rushing this season. While Moore’s ratings are not spectacular, he represents an improvement over the struggling Kiwanuka and as a second year player, has a much higher ceiling than 9 year veteran Kiwanuka, who is on the down side of his career.
The bye week couldn’t come at a better time for Robert Ayers, who was the Giants most effective lineman, playing both tackle and end, through the first five games, however, since waking up with a stiff neck before the Eagles game, his play has dropped off significantly. The week off will give him a chance to work out the issue with his neck and gain back his early season dominant form.
Linebackers coach Jim Hermann echoes Nunn’s sentiments about playing the run better, pointing out that, “In this league, if you can’t stop the run, you’re going to have a hard time.” One player who has worked hard on his run defense is Jacquian Williams, who dedicated himself to becoming a three down player by studying this off season to improve his run defense. Hermann said he set that goal and worked hard to make it happen, but avoided a question about Williams consistency.
During training camp, rookie Devon Kennard was making at least one highlight tackle per day, but suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener. “That set him back a few weeks,” said Hermann, adding that Kennard has been able to play on special teams and got some defensive snaps against Dallas on Sunday. “That’s important for a young linebacker,” pointed out Hermann, “He has to learn the pace of the game and who he’s playing against.” Hermann sees Kennard as a player who wants to be great and will work hard to get there.
Playing without Jon Beason is something the linebacker corps has had to do often this season, and something Hermann won’t complain about, “It’s a physical game,” said Hermann. With each player knowing their primary and backup assignments, when Beason came out on Sunday after just 17 snaps, the other players knew exactly what was expected of them. In a NFL governed by the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, with limited on field practice time, Hermann knows that it’s impossible to get every player practice at every position. “You have to rely on them paying attention in the meeting room and in film session to know what’s expected of them.”
The Giants have not released any information about the results of Beason’s trip to North Carolina to see Dr. Robert Anderson early this week. Beason had announced on New York radio station that he was “50/50” on having season ending surgery on his injured toe.
Slot cornerback has been a position in flux for the Giants this season, with Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride both going down with season ending injuries after playing well in this critical position. Safeties coach Dave Merritt explains that this position is so challenging because it covers more of the field from a 3 yard distance from the line of scrimmage than the typical safety is required to cover when lining up 12 yards off the ball. Opponents often put their number one receiver in the slot to attempt to get a free release at the snap.
Jayron Hosley is will be the Giants slot cornerback until Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is fully recovered from is variety of nagging injuries and Zack Bowman can return there permanently. Merritt praised Hosley’s effort against Dallas and said the third year cornerback did everything that was asked of him in the game. He sees Hosley’s ceiling as unlimited with his talent, but want his confidence to improve.
The nickel cornerback needs to view himself as a starter given the frequency with which offenses play three receiver sets, adds Merritt, and Hosley does just that, studying and preparing as if he were a starting cornerback.
Prince Amukamara has grown tremendously since his first year, says Merritt, and he’s become an aggressive cornerback not afraid to play press coverage against the NFL’s top receivers. So much so, that the coaches have talked to him about not playing as aggressively against a super aggressive player like Dez Bryant. Amukamara has also learned to vary his playing style against different opponents, as each receiver runs his routes slightly differently.
Cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta sees Amukamara growth as a matter of availability to practice and improve. Having been healthy, he’s worked hard on the practice field to improve. Giunta also gave insight into the Giants weekly routine, saying that Monday they secondary coaches review the game film and identify issues. “Sometimes it’s technique, sometimes it’s a missed assignment, and sometimes they hit a void in the zone.” It’s long been an adage in the NFL that the best players in the secondary have a short memory, and Giunta echoes that saying that the team makes corrections and moves on.
Stopping the run seems to be at the top of the bye week corrections list. With the Giants next for opponents, Indianapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Dallas all in the top half of the league in rushing offense, failure to stop the run will lead to disaster in short order. Run defense was a major issue in 2012, and has again risen high on the issues list for the team. With Cullen Jenkins expected to miss at least one game with a strained calf, Mike Patterson will will be called upon to start and Markus Kuhn and rookie Jay Bromley to provide relief and help hold opponent run games in check.
Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty added to his comments from earlier in the week, and doesn’t believe lack of playing time is an issue any longer for the Giants line, “We fought through the preseason with different lineup changes, but we’ve settled in… It’s not a matter of working together, we’ve had enough time together.” Calling the last two games “Bumps in the road that we need to work out,” Flaherty wants more consistent practices, better execution, and just plain better football to be played.
Admitting that he’s a tough man to satisfy, Flaherty stated that no man in the offensive line meeting room is satisfied with how they’ve played in the past few weeks. He knows the linemen are working hard, but that’s not translated into better play.
Of rookie Weston Richburg, Flaherty said, “Each day and play in a game is a new experience for him. He plays with the toughness and meanness expected from a New York Giants lineman.” Flaherty expect Richburg to develop into a good lineman for the team.
One of the biggest questions on fantasy football players minds over the past few weeks, it’s what happened to Larry Donnell’s production. Tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride attributes the drop off to changing coverage, not to anything Donnell has changed in his quality of play. “It’s a result of schematic changes by the defenses faced. Coverage dictated that we throw the ball to other receivers.” With Odell Beckham catching two touchdown passes against Dallas, it may be time for Donnell to see less coverage again.
Run blocking remains a challenge for Donnell and the unit as a whole. Gilbride says that while there have been spots where the run blocking has been good, the tight ends can improve in conjunction with the offensive line. He also sees opportunities for the tight ends to contribute more in the passing game, despite their already catching 8 touchdown passes this season, 4 by Donnell, and 4 by Daniel Fells.
Speaking about Fells, Gilbride praised the leadership, and how the younger players will often go to him for advice on how to play certain situation in games. Fells veteran presence has aided the development of both Donnell and Adrien Robinson.
Superfan Corner: Our superfan corner for today comes from the Southern Hemisphere, proving that while some strive to simply be America’s team, the New York Giants are Earth’s team. Pedro Migao admitted that English is not his strongest language, and I know very little Portuguese, but this Brasilian Giants fan and I were able to hold a conversation about the team and his trip to Metlife Stadium last year to see the Giants play the Oakland Raiders, a game they won 24-20. His story can be seen here, but warning, it’s in Portuguese, however there are several pictures that transcend language barriers.
Pedro hopes to return to New Jersey in 2015 for another New York Giants game, in the meantime, he enjoys watching them on Brasilian ESPN. Brasil now has an amateur football league and American football is on track to become an Olympic sport, America’s game, and Earth’s team’s popularity are on the rise south of the equator. Pedro taught me that “Orbrigado” means “Thank you” in Portuguese, and Giants360 says orbrigado to Pedro for sharing his story and being today’s Giants superfan.
Giants360 likes to feature die hard Giants fans in the Superfan Corner on Friday and game day Sunday. We want to hear your stories, see your pictures in Giants gear, or team themed setup, Giants artwork, or pets dressed up in Giants colors. DM our Twitter account, @giants360 or mention them with the hashtag #superfancorner. You must be following the Twitter account in order to be featured in the Superfan Corner.