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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Five Giant issues: Corey Webster

By Ohm Youngmisuk

There were plenty of things that went wrong in the New York Giants’ title defense in 2012.

This week we are taking a look at five reasons why the Giants weren’t able to make it back to the playoffs one season after winning it all.

Monday was the Giants’ pass rush and what went wrong. Today we explore what happened to Corey Webster.

The numbers: Webster had 58 tackles with 13 passes defensed (down from 17 in 2011) and four interceptions (down from six the season before).

The reasons: Webster has been considered the Giants’ top cornerback for the past few years, but he struggled this season. His inconsistent play was just one of many reasons why the Giants were so up and down.

He played in all 16 games, including a few early on with a broken bone in his hand. Webster, though, got off to a rough start in the opening game when he surrendered a 40-yard touchdown to Kevin Ogletree in a loss to the Cowboys.

Webster wasn’t the only corner that struggled. That 40-yard touchdown was one of 12 receiving touchdowns the Giants surrendered this season of 26 yards or longer.

Perry Fewell’s defense was victimized on the big play repeatedly this season and opponents did not shy away from his most established corner.

According to Profootballfocus.com, Webster allowed a 62.0% completion rate, 973 yards, and eight touchdowns against him entering the season finale against Philadelphia. Profootballfocus.com points out that Webster allowed a 54.6% completion rate, 895 yards, and five touchdowns in 20 games during 2011.

The one game that will stick out the most for Webster this past season was the Ravens game when he struggled badly during the 33-14 loss at Baltimore. He was targeted heavily and successfully by Joe Flacco, who finished 309 yards and two touchdowns in a game that pretty much killed the Giants' playoff hopes.

During that game, Webster looked like a corner with little confidence when the Giants needed to be at their best. He had difficulty even finding the ball at times.

The pass rush’s struggles to get pressure on quarterbacks and the defense’s inability to stop the run all season did not help Webster's cause. But the Giants needed Webster, who matched up with the team’s opposing best receiver for the majority of the season, to play much better, especially with all the injuries around him to the other cornerbacks.

“Corey got targeted some days,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “A cornerback has some bad days. It was a bad game and I think Corey expects himself to play better. We expect him to play better.”

How to improve: Webster’s struggles highlight the fact that the Giants need to improve at cornerback.

Webster was supposed to have Terrell Thomas on the opposite side from him but Thomas injured his knee in training camp. Prince Amukamara stepped up and played well when healthy. But the team needs more depth at corner.

Third-round pick Jayron Hosley was forced to play some significant snaps this season and he struggled at times as expected for a rookie. That experience should help Hosley entering next season.

Webster’s struggles were eye-opening considering his experience and how well he played at times during the Giants' Super Bowl run in 2011. He may not be a lockdown corner but he also wasn’t supposed to struggle like he did this past season.

Looking ahead, Webster, 30, is entering the final year of his deal worth $7 million in base salary. That is a steep price but the Giants don’t have much else at corner.

Besides Amukamara and Hosley, they have Thomas, who will be coming off a third ACL injury. The Giants will likely exercise an option to get out of Thomas’ contract but perhaps they could bring him back at a cheap short-term deal if the cornerback attempts another comeback. Reese said last week that maybe Thomas might be best served returning as a safety.

Amukamara is slotted in as a starter. But I think Hosley is not ready just yet to be a full-time starting corner and should be the team's third corner next season and continue to gain experience.

So Reese will be in the market for more corners either through free agency and/or the draft. I'd be surprised if the Giants shelled out serious money in free agency on a big-name corner. Drafting a corner, though, is a good idea.

Reese sounded as if Webster will be back since the Giants need a veteran corner. Reese said last week that he believes defensive veterans like Justin Tuck and Webster –- both of whom struggled this past season –- will play better next season.

“Both of these guys are grizzled veteran pros,” Reese said last week during an interview on WFAN. “We will see what the evaluation process does moving forward with them. I do think both of those guys will bounce back and be good players.”

Tell us what you thought of Corey Webster's season and what do you want to see the Giants do with Webster and their cornerbacks below.