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Twitter mailbag: Thoughts on the defense

9/12/2014

Thanks to all of you who keep coming up with New York Giants questions and sending them in via Twitter with the #nygmail tag. This weekly feature would, quite literally, not be possible without you.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Giants safety Stevie Brown was one of several culprits on Calvin Johnson's 67-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter Monday Night in Detroit, as he collided with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and allowed Johnson to come wide open to receive the pass from Matthew Stafford. From what I could see on the play, it looked as though Rodgers-Cromartie let Johnson go anticipating the safety help from Brown, but Brown was coming up to play the quarterback scramble because it looked as though Stafford was going to try to run after he had eluded the Damontre Moore pass rush. If this is the case, it was a bad decision by Brown, as a run by Stafford in that situation is a far less damaging event than allowing Johnson to get open. Someone surely would have tackled Stafford if Brown didn't come up to do it. But once he let Johnson go by him, there was no one to stop the league's best receiver from going the distance. Brown in general was hit-and-miss in coverage in his breakout, eight-interception 2012 season. But he has looked more reliable as an all-around safety in camp and in the preseason. He can come up and play the run, and he can handle himself in coverage. I think he's going to be fine back there, but the breakdown on that play in particular was inexcusable.

@DanGrazianoESPN: You could make that case, but the Giants' defensive line wasn't happy with its own performance. The pass-rushers aren't satisfied with getting to the quarterback and hurrying him. They want to sack him. After collecting just 34 sacks last season, the Giants' pass rush is focused on bringing that number up, and they are not happy they only had one sack Monday Night. Jason Pierre-Paul was very good against the run, as were Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins on the interior of the line. But Pierre-Paul isn't satisfied with playing the run well. He wants sacks, and he wants Moore, Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers to get sacks, too. So if you want to say the defensive line was the Giants' strongest unit in the opener, I think I can agree with that. But I also think it's important to remember that (a) that's not necessarily a compliment, considering the way the other units looked and (b) the defensive line isn't going to be happy with its own performance unless the sack totals improve.

@DanGrazianoESPN: If the Giants stick to their plan of having Rodgers-Cromartie shadow the opponent's top wide receiver, he is going to go with the Cardinals' Michael Floyd this week. Floyd plays on the outside, and the Cardinals have been using Larry Fitzgerald in the slot. Floyd is, at this point, a bigger, faster, scarier threat than Fitzgerald, who is likely to draw Walter Thurmond if he stays in the slot. I'm more intrigued by the rookie, Arizona's John Brown, who plays on the side opposite Floyd. He is super-fast, and Prince Amukamara could have a hard time staying with him. Amukamara has looked fantastic through camp and the preseason, and I thought he looked good Monday. I wrote something in camp about how he feels faster this year because of new, lighter cleats he's wearing. So it's possible he can handle the speedy rookie. But the coverage situation will surely be worth watching, as Arizona runs a lot of four-wide and five-wide sets with empty backfields. You're likely to see a lot of nickel and dime packages from the Giants on Sunday, with Trumaine McBride coming in as a fourth cornerback in a lot of situations.

@DanGrazianoESPN: This question about linebacker Jacquian Williams obviously rises from the fact that Williams had a rough game Monday. But his case is an interesting one, as he did not come off the field for any of the team's 68 defensive snaps. Williams used to be a linebacker the Giants used on the weak side in their nickel package. But they believe he developed this offseason as a guy they could use on all three downs, and they backed that up Monday by playing him every play. His strength is supposed to be as a coverage linebacker because of his speed, and though he did struggle Monday, they are not giving up on him just yet. Expect him to stay on the field for much if not all of the game Sunday, especially because Arizona will use tight ends in the passing game and they believe Williams is among their best bets for coverage against tight ends..

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday.