- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before they can rush the passer, the Giants need to stop the run.
Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn said his stable of pass-rushers need to do a better job of creating opportunities to get to the quarterback, which stems from being better against the run. While The Giants are tied for ninth with 25 sacks, that would put them on pace for eight fewer sacks than 2011.
"(We need to improve) as far as creating situations, playing the run better, being more sound against the run," Nunn said. "Nobody in the league is going to rush the passer on 2nd-and-3. We want to create down-and-distances. Like 2nd-and-8, 2nd-and-9, 3rd-and-long, 3rd-and-7-plus, that's when your pass rush will show up more and hit the quarterback and get more disruptions."
While sacks are the statistic that garners the most attention, Nunn said his unit still is disrupting the quarterback at about the same pace as in 2011. Disruptions include pressuring a quarterback, which is perhaps a better indicator of a defensive line's success, as well as batting balls down at the line. Nunn said the Giants have been as good as anybody in the league doing that the past three years.
Creating better situations for the pass rush involves putting opponents in harder down-and-distance situations. By being more effective on first and second down, the Giants can put their opponents into pure passing situations, which allows the line to pin its ears back. The Giants are in the middle of the pack in the NFL by allowing 113.8 rushing yards per game. A better run defense would help pass-rushers like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul.
"Have they been getting to the quarterback? No, not as much as we want to," Nunn said. "I don't think they are rushing any different than they have in the past. That haven't had the opportunities, in which we created them in the past, and that's the thing we have to do a better job of ... creating those opportunities to get them to the quarterback."
In Sunday's loss to Cincinnati, the Giants didn't record a sack, struggling to get close to quarterback Andy Dalton. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said there was a lack of production up front and while the Bengals had some tactics to counter the rush, the team expects its front four to get there.
The Giants tried to create some opportunities Sunday with some new personnel, as they used Adrian Tracy and Mathias Kiwaunuka more in their packages.
Whenever the pass rush struggles, though, the focus will always be on the trio of Tuck, Umenyiora and Pierre-Paul. The threesome has a combined 13 1/2 sacks on the year, which is currently fewer than Pierre-Paul registered by himself last year.
Nunn said Tuck has had a few games where the defensive end didn't play as well as he wanted to, but he thinks the veteran is close to getting to that level. He added that Umenyiora has been solid and his pressures have been there, and Pierre-Paul has been solid against the run.
"They are going to get all the focus, that's the position they have put themselves in," Nunn said. "We have to go make improvements in areas that we can make improvements in and control the things that we can control."
2dDan Graziano and Adam Caplan