New York Giants: Perry Fewell

Jason Pierre-Paul continually proclaims himself fully healthy for the first time in nearly two years and says he's ready to do incredible things at defensive end for the New York Giants this year. Their hope and belief is that he's right, and as long as he is they'll stick him at right defensive end and assign him the task of whipping left tackles and making life miserable for quarterbacks.

But what about the other defensive end spot? The one Justin Tuck used to play? Tuck is an Oakland Raider now, and the competition for the starting spot opposite Pierre-Paul is wide open. The candidates are veteran Mathias Kiwanuka, free-agent signee Robert Ayers and 2013 third-round pick Damontre Moore.

If the goal is to find the most dynamic pass-rusher possible on that side, Moore is the guy they'd like to see step forward and claim it. To this point, it does not sound as though they're assuming he will.

"I think preseason games will be the measuring stick," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said last week. "We think he's made a lot of progress from where he was a year ago. He's grown a lot, and if he takes that next step in the next month on his own, progressing even more, then when he comes back in the fall we'll have another measuring stick of where we need to go with him.'

Translation: Moore is still a developmental guy, and if he develops quickly enough to help out the pass rush this year, great. If he doesn't, the Giants have other options while he wreaks havoc on special teams and learns the defensive playbook. Last year, the Giants didn't trust Moore to stay onsides or know the plays, because he was a rookie who was set back by a training camp injury. This year, they'll look for more education and development, and play him more as he shows he can handle it.

Meantime, Kiwanuka and Ayers are both decent run-stopping defensive ends who aren't going to strike fear in the hearts of quarterbacks but can fill the role if deployed strategically. Ayers was a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2009 and has never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season. The good news is that season was last season, and it's possible he's a pass-rusher on the rise. They know what they have in Kiwanuka, who's been in their program for eight years and will do anything they need. High floor, low ceiling -- not a guy who's going to hurt you, but not a guy who's going to do what a healthy and driven Pierre-Paul can do as a pass-rusher.

So that's a training camp battle to watch -- that run-stopping defensive end position. The Giants hope they have enough talent there that something great will emerge from the group.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was the main attraction at Giants camp Thursday, but defensive coordinator Perry Fewell took questions from the media as well.

Fewell is entering his fourth season on the job, but had several new players to incorporate this spring, including at least a couple starters.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will play cornerback opposite Prince Amukamara, with Walter Thurmond seeing plenty of action as well as the team's nickel corner. Jameel McClain will almost certainly start at linebacker -- in the middle until Jon Beason is healthy, and then alongside Beason after that. Then there are the other free-agent acquisitions, plus the team's draft class.

Fewell likes the new "tools" at his disposal. "I definitely think those tools allow us to do a lot more different things than we've done in the past," he said. "I was very excited about what we were able to install [this spring], some of the things we were able to do, the information they retained, and executed at a high level."

The most attention-grabbing additions the Giants made this offseason, defensively, were in the secondary. But the team lost 50 percent of its starting D-line with the departures of Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck, both of whom played well in 2013.

The Giants do have veteran replacements for each in Mike Patterson and Mathias Kiwanuka, to plug in with Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul. But both Fewell and defensive line coach Robert Nunn singled out young defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn in particular on Thursday.

"I've been extremely impressed with both those guys," Fewell said. "Technique-wise they have accomplished a lot in Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the offseason program. And then just their knowledge of the game -- I think they've done a really, really nice job."

Hankins, a second-round draft pick in 2013, played in 11 games last season, with 16 tackles. Kuhn, a seventh-round pick in 2012, tore an ACL late in his rookie year, but was able to play in five games late last season.

"We've got a very healthy situation there at defensive tackle," Nunn said. "We've got two veterans (Jenkins and Patterson) that have had an outstanding offseason. And we've got two young players that have come in here -- it was every day that one of those two, Hankins or Kuhn, either myself or Perry was pointing out positive things that they did, every single day."

So the Giants feel good about what they have up front. They're expecting Beason to return from his injured foot early in the season, if not by Week 1, and aren't too concerned about his absence in the meantime.

"We install, we go as we need to go, and we go with it with the intent that Jon will be ready when he's ready," Fewell said. "Just him being in the meeting room, being there, hearing his voice is enough for us. So we proceed as follows."

Fewell also spoke very highly of rookie linebacker Devon Kennard, a fifth-round pick who got some reps with the first team during minicamp this week. "He blew us away," Fewell said, of the USC product's football knowledge.

And regarding the secondary, beyond the new additions, Fewell sounds very pleased to have safety Stevie Brown back, after Brown missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

"He looked pretty good this spring," Fewell said. "Obviously he hasn't tackled, he hasn't hit anyone, but Stevie is -- we'll use the term, on point. He's on point to returning to that form where he was when he left off."

It's easy to be optimistic in mid-June, with the regular-season opener nearly three months away. We'll learn a lot more starting July 21, when the Giants reconvene here for training camp.

This was Fewell's answer when asked about second-year defensive end Damontre Moore's progress, but it applies across the board:

"I would really like to give you a set answer. [But] I think preseason games will be the measuring stick," Fewell said. "We all look pretty good when we're running around in underwear, shorts. But when you get hit in the mouth and that person reacts, that's when you can measure and find out where you really are."
On the hunt for a new offensive coordinator, the New York Giants will interview Mike Sullivan this week, and The Star-Ledger report. Sullivan was on the Giants' staff a couple of years ago before leaving to become Greg Schiano's offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. As everyone expected he would, Schiano lasted only a short time with the Bucs, and he and everyone else were fired last week, so Sullivan is a free agent who knows Tom Coughlin's offense. Leading candidate? Sure, you could call him that, but I'm told the Giants plan to interview others as well.

The thing to consider here, as I wrote last week when Kevin Gilbride retired/resigned/got fired/whatever, is the extent to which the Giants plan to change their offense. Again, it's really Coughlin's offense, and with the organization committed to Coughlin, it's likely they will be looking for some continuity in the wake of Gilbride's departure. Sullivan, who knows the terminology and the plays, would bring that. Though he might have some ideas for tweaks that would be welcomed, the principles would remain the same. It's possible ownership and the front office would prefer a more radical change, and to bring in a new coordinator with an entirely new philosophy. But if that were the case, I'd think they would have to get rid of Coughlin as well, and it does not appear as thought that is the plan. Which is why Sullivan makes sense.

Our man Ed Werder reports that the Giants plan to interview Dowell Loggains for the position on Wednesday. Loggains had been on the Tennessee Titans' staff since 2008 and was their offensive coordinator for the past two seasons under head coach Mike Munchak, who was fired late last week. Loggains ascended to the offensive coordinator post after former Giants assistant Chris Palmer was fired during the 2012 season.

As for the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell had his interview Monday with the Washington Redskins, who are looking for a head coach. Fewell is one of about 7 billion candidates to whom the Redskins are talking for the job, so statistically his odds are long. But if he were to leave, the Giants would obviously be looking for a new defensive coordinator.

One name to watch for that is Jim Haslett, who gave the Giants fits as Mike Shanahan's defensive coordinator with the Redskins for the past four seasons. Coughlin tried to hire Haslett as defensive coordinator in 2006, only to see him join Scott Linehan's staff with the Rams instead. Coughlin reached out to Haslett about the position again in 2010, but Haslett decided to go to Washington with Shanahan.
Good morning and welcome to Week 2 of the New York Giants' offseason. Here's a look at some of the things we'll be monitoring this week:

The Giants are on the hunt for a new offensive coordinator following the resignation last week of Kevin Gilbride, but they also could be looking for a new defensive coordinator. Perry Fewell is interviewing Monday for the vacant head coaching position of the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are casting a wide net and looking at a lot of current NFL assistants, but I'd caution against assuming that Fewell is a Rooney-Rule token interview candidate. He's well regarded and well liked, and his defense performed very well against two different Redskins quarterbacks in 2013. Also, Fewell's been through that wringer before and likely wouldn't be bothered if he weren't convinced he was being taken seriously. I still think it's going to be tough for defensive coaches on the current market (Lovie Smith to Tampa notwithstanding), given the emphasis on offense and the 2013 success of fresh-offensive-idea rookie coaches like Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and Mike McCoy in San Diego. And anyone who's going to hire Fewell as a head coach is going to want to know (and be impressed with) his choice for offensive coordinator ahead of time. But there's no reason to think Fewell, who has a bit of head coaching experience from his time in Buffalo, isn't a real candidate in Washington. Could leave Tom Coughlin searching for two new top lieutenants.

At the end of last week, word around the Giants was that we shouldn't assume Gilbride would end up being the only coach to leave. Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn would seem to be in at least some trouble, given the way his unit performed this year. Coughlin has expressed support for his staff, but that didn't save Gilbride, and this week should offer a better sense of what other coaches may end up needing to be replaced.

While focus is on the coaching staff right now, the Giants can negotiate with their own free agents in advance of the start of the new league year. Part of the point of the organizational meetings they're having is to decide how to proceed with those free agents -- set priorities and desired prices, etc. My sense is that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Terrell Thomas will want to test the open market while Justin Tuck likely just wants a deal that keeps him in New York. But we should have a better idea about those situations within the coming weeks as well.

Big Blue Morning: Tough talks

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
The New York Giants today will begin their offseason meetings, which aren't going to be a lot of fun. Everyone is being evaluated, as coach Tom Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese like to say, and the feeling around the organization is that Coughlin will be asked to make changes to his coaching staff. Specifically, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is in danger of losing his job.

History suggests that Giants ownership won't order Coughlin to fire Gilbride. But if John Mara makes it clear that he wants Gilbride out and Coughlin pushes back, the dispute that arises could change the dynamic between Coughlin and the Giants a bit. Coughlin has said he wants to be back as head coach. Mara has said he wants Coughlin back as head coach. Coughlin has one year left on his contract. The most likely outcome is that Coughlin returns for 2014, but there's no way to predict what's going to happen in these meetings, what Coughlin will be asked to do in terms of his coaching staff, or the length of his deal and how he'll react if and when he's asked to do something he doesn't want to do.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, meanwhile, is thought to be safe, but is drawing interest from the Washington Redskins for their vacant head coaching position, as Josina Anderson reported Wednesday. The Giants will grant the Redskins permission to talk to Fewell, and if he were to get that job, they would need to hunt for a new defensive coordinator.

So we'll keep an eye and an ear out on all of this stuff and keep you posted as we get information here in the coming days. We also have a bunch of end-of-season wrap-up stuff running today, so enjoy that while you wait.
The Washington Redskins have asked the New York Giants for permission to interview defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for their vacant head-coaching position, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.

It's not a surprise, given that Fewell used to be a popular interview candidate prior to the last two offseasons and the Giants' defense just finished the season ranked No. 8 in the NFL. The Redskins are casting a wide net in the wake of the firing of Mike Shanahan on Monday, but Fewell is an interesting candidate due to his strong reputation and the bit of head-coaching experience he got as an interim head coach with the Buffalo Bills in 2009.

Much of the focus in the wake of the Giants' disappointing 7-9 season has been on whether offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will be retained by the team. Due to the strong second-half performance of the Giants' defense, it's been assumed that Fewell's job was safe. But it's been a couple of years since Fewell made the interview circuit, and so no one had really raised the issue of whether he'd leave on his own. If he does, the Giants could be in for a full coaching staff rebuild under Tom Coughlin, who has said he wants to return as head coach and has been told by team ownership that it wants him back as well.

Twitter mailbag: Looking only ahead

December, 21, 2013
To those of you who continue to send in your questions every week, with the #nygmail hashtag, to help with this feature: I hope you get everything you want this holiday season.

To the rest of you: Well, you're probably not reading the Giants Twitter mailbag anyway.


Thanks for the questions, everybody. Enjoy your Saturday.

Damontre Moore earns more playing time

December, 5, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants rookie defensive end Damontre Moore played 17 snaps on defense in Sunday's victory over the Redskins -- "some good, some bad," according to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. But with Jason Pierre-Paul still sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Moore can expect his workload to increase a bit Sunday in San Diego.

"We'll try to increase him a little bit more," Fewell said Thursday.

Moore was the Giants' third-round draft pick this year, and when they picked him they believed he was the kind of player who could contribute to the pass rush as a rookie. But while he's certainly made his mark on special teams as a blocker of punts, Moore has had trouble cracking the lineup on defense. A shoulder injury during training camp set back his progress, but the team is still high on him, and not just as a situational pass-rusher.

"He's a complete football player," Fewell said. "He's got to be able to play the run and the pass. So we'll use him as both."

It seemed Sunday as though the role Moore played was as a third-down pass-rusher, with Justin Tuck moving inside to defensive tackle. Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka each played every defensive snap, and it's likely the Giants' coaching staff would want to be able to get the veterans more rest than that in the final four games of the season. More work for Moore seems like the only way to do that.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The thing about the season opener, even though it was a 36-31 loss, is that the New York Giants' defense didn't think it played all that badly. The defensive players wouldn't come right out and say it for fear of making the offense look bad, but two of the Cowboys' four touchdowns in that game were scored by Dallas defensive players off turnovers. And the six turnovers the Giants committed overall had a lot more to do with the outcome than did the performance of the defense. The 331 yards of offense the Cowboys amassed in that game represent the fourth-lowest number the Giants have allowed in a game so far this season.

So while the Giants' offensive coaches have been showing the horror-film tape of that game and preaching all week about the importance of limiting turnovers, the defensive coaches have focused on some things the Giants did well in that game. Holding Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant to 22 yards on four catches with double coverage. Tackling Miles Austin in the slot to limit the damage he could do after the catch. Holding Dallas to a field goal after the first interception gave Tony Romo the ball on the Giants' 15-yard line.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Thomas
Al Bello/Getty Images"More than anything, we have confidence as a defense. Everybody's on the same page," Terrell Thomas said.
"It was a loss, and then we lost five more in a row, so it's probably hard for people to remember, but there were a lot of positives for us to take out of that game," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "There's a lot we can work on, too, but we have things from that game that I think we can definitely build on."

The Giants also feel they have more tools with which to do the building. Middle linebacker Jon Beason wasn't there for that game, since he didn't arrive until late September in a trade with the Panthers. Spry safety Will Hill missed that game and the next three due to his drug suspension. And defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul played that night, but it was his first game action since June back surgery, as he'd sat out all of training camp and the preseason while recovering.

"We definitely feel more confident," said cornerback Terrell Thomas, who's likely to reprise his Week 1 role as the slot corner in charge of keeping Austin in front of him. "I thought we played a great game that night, given the circumstances, and obviously now we have some great additions. More than anything, we have confidence as a defense. Everybody's on the same page. We have an identity. We know who we are. We're going to go in there, stop the run, force Romo to throw the ball and hopefully limit the big plays and get some turnovers."

Pierre-Paul's presence up front as a disruptive force behind the line of scrimmage would help with that. He showed the impact he could have on a game Sunday, when he jumped at the line to intercept a Scott Tolzien pass and ran it back for a touchdown that swung the game in the Giants' favor for good. Pierre-Paul didn't look like that same old game-changer in Week 1, or for most of this season, but if Sunday was a sign that he's back, then that sets the Giants up to do a lot more against Dallas than they could the first time.

Beason's presence as both a leader and a physical player in the linebacking corps should help the Giants find an answer to Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who had 70 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in the opener. Romo threw 49 passes in that game and only averaged 5.4 yards per completion, throwing short over and over again to Witten and Austin in an attempt to attack the Giants' defense at its weakest point. The linebacking corps is strong now.

And Hill has been an all-over-the-field safety who has enabled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to be more flexible with his coverage schemes. They rolled a safety to Bryant's side all night in the opener and likely will double him again, but Hill, Antrel Rolle and Amukamara have all shown an ability to come up and play the run and operate in blitz packages as well. This Giants' defense is better equipped to confuse Romo than the Week 1 version was.

"When you're playing against Dallas and their receivers, you have to get a feel for what challenges they don't like," Fewell said. "If you're physical with them and they don't like it, then you'll press a lot. If you're playing off and they don't understand what you're doing, then you'll play off. You have to give them a number of different combinations, because you want to try to feel them out a little bit."

Now, the disclaimer on all of this is that the current four-game winning streak in which the Giants' defense has been so strong has been built against unprepared and/or inexperienced quarterbacks Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor and Tolzien. So with Romo coming to town, the defense is getting a test more difficult than any it's faced since the team was still winless. The Giants believe the confidence they have built up during the streak will translate as the schedule toughens.

"Jon Beason and Terrell Thomas and Antrel Rolle have really taken control of our defense and they’re the voices of our defense and they’re demanding from their teammates the execution of the things that we’ve game-planned each week," Fewell said. "That’s the confidence that I’m seeing in our people, because they are really putting pressure on themselves to perform. I just think those guys are doing a great job of leading us to where we need to be."

Sunday will offer a fresh test of how good this new and improved Giants defense really is.

Big Blue Morning: The Playoff Machine

November, 22, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: Hakeem Nicks says he'll play Sunday, but that doesn't erase the weird mystery that continues to surround his disappointing season. He says he's been dealing with an abdominal injury all year and that his agent recommended he get it looked at by team doctors this week. That's why he's on the injury report for the first time with it, I guess, but he didn't want to explain it very much. Just says he's playing. So we'll see. Some other stuff that happened Thursday included defensive coordinator Perry Fewell comparing Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as a guy who's "seen it all," as well as a lot of talk about how different the Giants' defense is from when they faced the Cowboys in Week 1 with no Jon Beason or Will Hill and a still-recovering Jason Pierre-Paul. But it's the passing game that's got to elevate to new heights if the Giants are going to cash in their sudden hot streak with a real playoff run. And that's why Nicks remains a story. The Cowboys are the worst pass defense in the league, and if Eli Manning and his receivers can't get it going this week, we have license to believe they won't.

Behind enemy lines: The big news from Dallas on Thursday has little to do with this week's game, but a lot of people were surprised to hear Jerry Jones say Jason Garrett would return as head coach next year no matter how this year ends up. I wasn't, because I think Jones has strong personal feelings about Garrett and wants him to be the coach long-term. And yeah, it's certainly possible that Jones could change his mind next year or even tomorrow. But I've long believed that Garrett's seat wasn't as hot as many people assumed it to be. Doesn't much matter whether people outside the building think he's a good coach. Only Jones' opinion on this counts.

Around the division: Mike Sando and my "NFL Insiders" colleague Louis Riddick broke down the issues plaguing the Washington Redskins and whether they'll be able to overcome them. It's going to be real tough for any potential fixes to matter in time for this season, but the story is what happens power-structure-wise once the offseason rolls around.

Around the league: If you'd like to see exactly which scenarios will and won't lead to the Giants' making the playoffs, look no further than ESPN's Playoff Machine, which allows you to play out the remainder of the NFL season as many different ways as you'd like to see which teams make the playoffs. You can go to each week and put in your projected results from each game and see the playoff field change as you do it. And yes, I just wrecked any chance you had to get anything done at work today. You're welcome, America.

Twitter mailbag: On Justin Tuck's future

November, 16, 2013

Could less JPP mean more of Moore?

November, 14, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Damontre Moore story, NFL edition, is a pretty simple one so far as New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin sees it.

"The rookie gets hurt right away in preseason and he watches for a few weeks and he falls way behind," Coughlin said after Giants practice Thursday. "Then he tries to catch up and he does make a strong contribution on special teams. To this point, we’ve been healthy at defensive end, so we do have some flexibility of other people playing that position as well."

That, in a no-nonsense nutshell, is the way Coughlin answers questions about why Moore hasn't been a bigger part of the defense so far. The Giants drafted Moore in the third round in April mainly because he'd been a remarkably productive college player at Texas A&M and they thought they could deploy him as a pass-rusher with some effect right away. The preseason shoulder injury did set him back, but he has made an impact as a high-energy special-teamer, most recently blocking the Raiders punt that Cooper Taylor returned for a touchdown in Sunday's victory.

This came up Thursday because starting defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul missed a second straight day of practice due to his own shoulder injury. Pierre-Paul was cryptic about whether he'd practice Friday, saying, "We're just working on it" when asked how his shoulder felt and saying of Friday, "If you see me out there, I'm out there," which we all kind of figured but you never know because sometimes the guys doing the laundry mix up the jerseys.

But anyway, if Pierre-Paul can't go, there are a number of possible options. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins could slide out and play end -- a possibility more likely in a game like this, with the Packers using a third-string quarterback and the Giants focused mainly on stopping Eddie Lacy and the Green Bay running game. In that case, Mike Patterson or Johnathan Hankins would take over Jenkins' spot on the interior next to Linval Joseph. But Moore could be a guy who gets more action on obvious passing downs than he's had to this point.

"He can definitely be in the picture," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of Moore. "He'll be in the picture in our third-down situation, our rush package. We see him making a contribution there."

Moore is an upbeat, energetic and positive young man who says he's enjoying his opportunity to make an impact on special teams and would welcome any opportunity, small or large, that they offered him to do more on defense. Having played behind Von Miller when he arrived at Texas A&M, Moore is familiar with the concept of a young guy having to wait his turn.

"What player wouldn't naturally be excited to get a chance to play more?" Moore said. "But I just want to put the team in the best situation, whether it's me out there, whether it's JPP if he's ready to go. Whatever it takes. Every time I'm out on the field, I'm excited, because there are a lot of people who wish they could be out there."

Moore said the area in which he feels he's improved the most since arriving in the NFL is his weekday preparation -- film study, participation in meetings, things like that. He said the Giants' coaches and veterans helped him in those areas, which weren't high-priority areas for him in high school and college, where his talent carried him. Now, even though he hasn't played as much early as he or the Giants may have imagined he would, he feels more ready for his opportunity.

"Where that preparation comes in is, I'm more comfortable in the scheme, so I can go out there and not have to worry about thinking too much," Moore said. "When I start thinking, that's when stuff starts going wrong. But it's like [Giants linebacker] Jacquian Williams told me: once you have the scheme down, it's basically, 'See ball, go get ball.'"

Sounds simple enough. Sunday could be Moore's first big opportunity to show how good he is at it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are six quarterbacks in the NFL who have rushed for at least 250 yards already this year. The New York Giants have played three of them, and the other three are on the schedule. But the one with the most is the Oakland Raiders' Terrelle Pryor, and stopping him will be the Giants' assignment starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

"He's a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy. He's built like the power forward on a basketball team. I'm impressed with him on tape," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell gushed Thursday. "We're going to have to bring our A-game against this guy, because he can hurt you."

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsCan the Giants keep Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor from adding on more rushing yards to the 485 he has already this season?
Pryor was a surprise choice as the Raiders' starting quarterback in the preseason, but Oakland felt he had a higher ceiling and offered them the potential for more options on offense than Matt Flynn did. To this point, though the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5, the choice has looked like the right one. Pryor leads all NFL quarterbacks -- and all but 14 NFL running backs -- with 485 rushing yards this year on just 63 carries. Eight of those 63 carries have picked up 20 or more yards, including a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Raiders' Week 8 victory over the Steelers. He's also, perhaps more surprisingly, completing better than 60 percent of his passes, though his nine interceptions to five touchdown passes linger as an indication of how raw he still is.

"He's not going to stay in the pocket for long," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He understands how gifted he is as an athlete, and considering that the people chasing after him aren't as fast as he is, he has an advantage and he's used it to pretty good success. I don't know if he's necessarily looking to run, but when the opportunity is there, he's not hesitating."

The Giants have performed well as a defense against between-the-tackles running backs, including some of the best ones in the league. But they have been vulnerable to running quarterbacks. Carolina's Cam Newton ran for 45 yards and a touchdown against them in Week 3. Philadelphia's Michael Vick picked up 79 yards on seven carries in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring in the second quarter. Kansas City's Alex Smith ran for 37 yards on seven carries. Even Chicago's Jay Cutler managed 20 yards on three rushes. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 5.42 yards per carry against the Giants this year. Pryor is averaging 7.7.

"I don't really go into the game thinking about running," Pryor said Wednesday. "I saw that (NFL Network) special on Randall (Cunningham), and his coach was telling him to run first and pass second. I can't really go in thinking like that. If something happens where I have to get out and make a play, so be it. But I want to sit back and see if I can find some guys downfield and get some explosive gains in the passing game."

The Giants likely would be pleased if that was all they had to worry about with Pryor. No offense to his arm, which is formidable, but it's Pryor's footspeed that makes him a challenging matchup for a defense. Sometimes when they face running quarterbacks, the Giants will use a "spy," assigning one defensive player to account for the quarterback in case he takes off and runs. Sometimes they prefer to play it straight-up. The players this week made it sound as though they prefer and expect the latter.

"I don't think it's gotten that serious yet, to where we need a spy," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "I like the way the guys in our secondary and our linebackers make adjustments, and I think we can trust ourselves to make the right ones."

If there is to be a "spy," a strong candidate would be speedy linebacker Jacquian Williams, who was a big part of the defensive game plan two weeks ago against the Eagles and is likely to be one again this week. Fewell called Williams "one of our better assets" against Pryor due to his speed, and Williams said it was a role he'd be happy to play if asked.

"Judging from film, he's a bigger guy and faster than the running quarterbacks we've seen so far," Williams said. "For me, being one of the faster players on our defense, that's something they could maybe look for me to handle. But whatever I'm called on to do, I'll be happy to try it."

Pryor's the kind of player who's likely to force the Giants to change what they do a lot during the course of Sunday's game. The key will be to stay fast and loose and alert, and try to limit the damage done by the big runs of which the Raiders' exciting young quarterback is capable.
This week's "NFL Nation Says" feature polled players around the league on the best way to handle a sideline rant the likes of the one the Cowboys' Dez Bryant put on Sunday. And while there isn't an exact parallel here, this whole thing has me thinking about the New York Giants and the way they have handled adversity during a 2-6 first half that began with an incomprehensible six-game losing streak.

[+] EnlargePerry Fewell
AP Photo/Evan PinkusThe Giants defensive players' meeting with Perry Fewell may not have fixed the team's problems, but it was constructive.
My thought has to do with this meeting the Giants' defensive players say they had a few weeks back with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, in which they say they offered suggestions on how to simplify things and perhaps play better. We didn't find out about the meeting until weeks after it happened, and after the Giants' defense did start to play better. And when we did find out, it was in a matter-of-fact way, with the Giants' players and coaches willingly discussing it because there was nothing to hide. No one snapped at anyone on the sideline or cursed out a coach in public or in private. The meeting was a case of grown men acting like grown men toward each other -- of a group of people understanding the best way to solve a problem was to work together toward their common goal of getting better, and doing so in a professional way.

"The only thing I make of it is people trying to be the best they can be," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday when asked about that meeting. "And the honesty, the openness about being able to discuss those kinds of things with your coach, and the coach making a very serious attempt, without putting us in a position where we're not going enough, to do some things to help simplify."

In other words, Fewell wasn't going to just give the players everything they wanted. But he was willing to listen to their suggestions, since they were being offered as constructive criticism and an effort to make everyone (including him!) better. This sounds like a simple concept, but too often we see it go the other way, so it's worth pointing out instances in which adversity is handled the way everyone would prefer it be handled.

Even the Giants haven't been immune to slip-ups on this front, if you recall the 2009 season in which the defense quite obviously quit on short-time defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. But in general, the tone Coughlin sets as head coach lends itself to an atmosphere of professionalism and accountability, where blame isn't the priority and emotions tend to make their way through the proper channels. If part of the point of the Bryant story is that there was a time and a place to voice his concerns and that wasn't it, the Giants' meeting story would seem to stand as an example of what that right time and place might look like.

Coughlin and his coaches haven't had any kind of great season, don't get me wrong. The team ranks among the league leaders in penalties, and coaches and players alike have made some questionable in-game decisions during the rotten start. But through it all, the locker room has remained upbeat and professional. The leaders have stayed strong and encouraging. They have handled the tough time the way every coach wishes its team would but many don't.

Week 6 meeting sparked Giants' defense

October, 28, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As can happen when a team is getting its butt kicked every week, the players on the New York Giants' defense were tired of getting their butts kicked every week. So the week of their game in Chicago against the Bears, a group of them approached defensive coordinator Perry Fewell with some new ideas. It wasn't an angry meeting or an accusatory one, and Fewell didn't take it as such. But after a second straight game in which the defense didn't allow a touchdown, everyone around the team seems to agree it was a productive one.

"Just getting on the same page, I think, and simplifying some things to the point of, 'Let's go out there and see if they're better than us,'" was the way defensive end Justin Tuck characterized the meeting Monday, as the Giants dispersed for their bye week. "Just let us be an attacking defense and see what happens. And I think the last three games, the defense has been that way. The adjustment period was the first half against Chicago, and after that it's been kind of locked in."

A few things have come along with that, including the presence of early-October trade acquisition Jon Beason at middle linebacker and a couple of opponents in the Vikings and Eagles that are dealing with significant quarterback problems. But multiple players said after Sunday's game and again Monday that the results of that meeting a few weeks back have been showing up in successful scheme adjustments and better execution. After collecting just six sacks in their first seven games, the Giants got four in Sunday's victory in Philadelphia.

"We all saw something that wasn't working, and we tried to come up with some subtle ways to make it better -- players and coaches together," Tuck said. "Perry is pretty good at scheming, and I think sometimes it can slow you down. I thought we were a 'check-with-me' defense early in the season, and that's not really a good way for us to play. We want to be aggressive."

"We were adjusting too much and just not playing fast," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "And I think, in the second half of the Chicago game, we saw how good we could be if we simplified things. I think we were trying to do too much at times, as a coaching staff and as players."

One thing that remained steady and reliable about the Giants during their 0-6 start to the season was the attitude in the locker room. Had there been nasty backbiting or public finger-pointing during that rough start, it's possible that a meeting such as this could not have taken place -- or at least that it would have been more contentious. But safety Antrel Rolle described it as "a lot of speaking to each other as men," and that's the part that appears to have made head coach Tom Coughlin proud.

"The honesty, the openness about being able to discuss those kinds of things with your coach," Coughlin said. "That's what I make of it."

It'll be interesting to see whether the defense can continue to show the same kinds of results against what Coughlin described as "let's be frank -- a very difficult schedule in the second half of the year." But if nothing else comes out of the miserable stretch with which the Giants opened this season, the players and coaches at least know they can be honest with each other about what they think is wrong. And that's a pretty good blueprint for getting things fixed.