Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Secondary now primary for Giants?
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
The New York Giants are pass rush, and pass rush is the New York Giants. So we have been told for decades, since the days of L.T. and Bill Parcells. When the Giants win, it's because they pressure quarterbacks. Pass rush is acknowledged as the single biggest reason the Giants have won four Super Bowls and the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots have only won three. Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul ... these are the fearsome edge rushers who have delivered for the Giants in their greatest seasons.
And yet, this offseason has been about the smaller, faster guys who play on the back end of the defense. The Giants let 2013 sack leader Tuck leave via free agency and have not replaced him, instead signing three new cornerbacks and re-signing one of their own cornerbacks and their own safety. If you didn't know any better, you'd think some sort of broad organizational philosophy shift was in the works.
I doubt that's it, because the Giants aren't big into sudden, broad organizational philosophy shifts. But it's entirely possible that the commitment to a secondary that didn't seem to be one of the most pressing needs when the offseason began has something to do with the way offenses are trending in the NFL in general and in the NFC East in particular. The Chip Kelly Eagles get the ball out of their quarterback's hands before a pass rush can get there. Tony Romo is elusive and was picking apart the Giants with short, quick passes in two games last season. And while he didn't look it in that Dec. 1 game last year, Robert Griffin III was a nightmare for Giants pass-rushers the year before when healthy.
If the trend is toward mobile quarterbacks and up-tempo, quick-release passing games, it's entirely possible that devoting more resources to covering receivers is a smart way to go. I still think the best way to disrupt a passing offense is to pressure the quarterback into throwing (or not throwing) the ball. But if you're running a defense these days and you see the way offenses are trending, it's possible to come to the conclusion that you're just not going to be able to dictate that the way you used to. And if that's the case, locking things down on the back end and maybe trying to buy your pass-rushers some extra time that way is a reasonable counter-move.
John Mara said last week that the reason the Giants ended up devoting so many of their free-agent resources to defensive backs was because that's the way the market fell for them, and I believe him. The Giants were a team with many needs, and if the players they liked best for the prices all happened to play defensive back, there's no reason they shouldn't have leaned that way. But I'm interested to see whether beefing up on the back end of the defense rather than the front end is a formula that can work for a team that has, for so long, believed in doing things the other way.