NFL Nation: Jason Pierre-Paul

The biggest decision the New York Giants will make about their salary-cap situation this offseason is whether to extend the contract of quarterback Eli Manning beyond 2015. Manning carries a 2015 salary cap number of $19.75 million, and the Giants could get significant relief with an extension. They have not yet decided whether to do this, though if they do, they're likely to find Manning more receptive after his strong 2014 season than they did after his weak 2013.

But while that issue looms over the offseason, there are some significant salary-cap questions for the Giants to answer on defense as well. Here are five:

1. What to do with Jason Pierre-Paul?

A strong finish got Pierre-Paul to 12.5 sacks on the season and seems to have set him up for a free-agent contract push. His demands on a long-term deal, expected to be more than $12 million per year, could be more than the Giants are willing to pay for a player who was as limited by injury as Pierre-Paul was in 2012 and 2013. But he just turned 26 last week, and it's hard to find too many better 4-3 defensive end options on the market. The Giants do not have a ready replacement if Pierre-Paul leaves and will have to address the pass rush either way. One possibility is to use the franchise player designation on Pierre-Paul, effectively signing him to a one-year contract worth something close to $15 million. That would hurt them against this year's cap, but assuming they found relief elsewhere it would give them a year to assess Pierre-Paul's worthiness of their long-term commitment as well as the development of players such as Damontre Moore and Kerry Wynn as potential replacements.

2. Is Mathias Kiwanuka done with the Giants?

I believe the answer to this is yes. He's clearly not coming back on his current contract, which includes a $4.775 million salary and a $7.45 million cap number for 2015. He's almost certain to be cut, and the only way I can see him back is on a veteran minimum deal, which I don't even know for sure they'd want to offer him. The Giants can save $4.825 million against their 2015 cap by cutting Kiwanuka.

3. What to do with Prince Amukamara?

As a 2011 first-round draft pick Amukamara was subject to the fifth-year option rule established by the new collective bargaining agreement, and the Giants did in fact exercise his 2015 option (expected to be about $7 million) last offseason. But that money is not guaranteed, and the Giants still could cut Amukamara by Sept. 1 if they wanted to. They don't, but his season-ending injury cut short a promising year and likely gives them leverage to negotiate a lower 2015 number on a two-year or three-year deal if they prefer. They do like him and want him back.

4. Can they still carry Jon Beason's contract?

Middle linebacker Beason was a centerpiece of last offseason's plan, but he barely played after suffering a springtime toe injury, and he carries a $7.167 million cap number for 2015 and $6.992 million for 2016. This is a contract that will need to be overhauled if they're to fit it, Pierre-Paul and free agent Antrel Rolle into the 2015 and 2016 budgets. Beason says he wants to be back, but the Giants have to reassess his value given his injury history.

5. What about safety?

Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe are the only safeties signed to 2015 contracts for the Giants as of right now. Rolle is a free agent they'd like to have back, but he's 32 and they're not likely to overpay to keep him. This is a position on which the Giants have shown they're willing to spend major resources (i.e., first-round picks and big free-agent dollars), so expect them to carve out some room in the budget to plug their holes at this position, regardless of what happens with Rolle.

2015 New York Giants free agents

January, 5, 2015
Jan 5
The New York Giants have 21 free agents as they enter the 2015 offseason. The new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET March 10, when unrestricted free agents can sign with any team.

Here’s a list of the Giants' unrestricted and restricted free agents:


New York Giants season report card

December, 31, 2014
video » AFC: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

The 2014 New York Giants had two three-game win streaks. Their quarterback cut his interception total nearly in half from last year. And they might well have the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.

But what the Giants didn't have was enough success -- not nearly enough. After going 7-9 last year and overhauling the offense, the Giants went 6-10 in 2014 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six years.

Yes, they had a ton of injuries -- 22 players on injured reserve, more than any other team in the league. And yes, they did have their moments on offense. But they couldn't hang with the good teams in the league and really were never a factor in the playoff race after the midway point of the season.

At the end of it, another disappointing year for a team that always says it wants to win the Super Bowl but, most years, can't even get itself into the postseason.

Team MVP: Odell Beckham Jr. To win a team MVP award after missing all of training camp and the first four games of the season with a hamstring injury takes some doing. But the Giants' rookie wide receiver was unquestionably their best player once he was on the field, and the numbers he put up in his three-quarters of a season ranked among those of the best players in the NFL. He finished the season with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in only 12 games. The Giants are excited as they look ahead to the possibility of a full 2015 season with Beckham and Victor Cruz both healthy at wide receiver.

Best moment: Beckham's twisting, one-handed touchdown catch in the Week 12 loss to the Cowboys might have been the No. 1 individual highlight of the entire NFL season. The catch made Beckham an instant sensation, landed him a dinner in New York City with LeBron James and shined a light on the best thing the Giants had going for them in the midst of a seven-game losing streak and overall dismal season. Those who had been watching Beckham in practice every day, in pregame warmups and in non-prime-time games were of course dazzled to see his best work live and in a difficult game situation, but the excitement over Beckham that has followed is fully justified based on the way he played before and after "The Catch."

Worst moment: When Cruz went up to try to catch a short pass in the end zone in Week 6 in Philadelphia and tore his patellar tendon before he hit the ground, it was as sickening and disappointing a moment as any the Giants had all year. Seeing Cruz, in tears, taken off the field on a cart with a team trainer holding his knee in place was tough to watch, and obviously the impact on the Giants' offense the rest of the way was significant. If they ever had a chance to make anything of this season, losing Cruz just as they were getting Beckham into the lineup took it right away from them.

2015 outlook: Hard to say for sure until we see what happens in free agency. But assuming they add a piece or two on the offensive line and address the pass rush, either by re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul or finding a high-end solution on the market, there is reason to hope next year will be better than the past two were. They obviously demonstrated progress and growth in Ben McAdoo's offense as the year went along. Quarterback Eli Manning had a fine season and -- apart from one five-interception mess against the 49ers -- did a better job of protecting the ball and making smart decisions than he has in years past. The array of weapons around Manning heading into 2015 gives reason for optimism.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and safety and defensive captain Antrel Rolle both stuck up for embattled defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Sunday, following the Giants' 34-26 season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants entered the final week of the season ranked fifth-to-last in total yards allowed. And the final performance against Philadelphia wasn't very impressive, either. But when asked if he would like to see his coaching staff return intact, Coughlin said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today."

There's still a chance Coughlin could be dismissed, with the Giants missing the playoffs for the third year in a row and finishing 6-10 -- their worst record since Coughlin's first year at the helm, 2004.

But the more likely scenario is saying goodbye to Fewell, although that is far from a given.

Rolle went ever farther in Fewell's defense.

"I have full confidence in Perry, and I know what kind of coach Perry is," Rolle said. "I know when he’s at his best, I know when he’s not at his best. I also know how to work with him -- I’ve been his dog for four years, I’ve been his fill-in guy. I love to work with Perry."

Of course, Rolle may not be here next year, either -- the 32-year-old will be a free agent this offseason. The former All-Pro has been a key contributor on the field and leader in the locker room the past five years, but had a subpar season in 2014.

"I've been through this process once before, and I think you just have to take it in stride," Rolle said. "If this was my last game as a Giant, I'm very appreciative, I wouldn't change anything for the world. I've had a wonderful five years here, and I gave the team every single inch that I had, I gave 'em every single thing that I had."

"I definitely want to stay here," Rolle added. "I feel like we're building something. Although we haven't had the season that we wanted to have, I think we're still building something."

Another key player who may not be back is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who also will be a free agent. Pierre-Paul came on strong late, with nine sacks in the final five games of the season -- capped off by two against the Eagles on Sunday. He finished with 12.5 sacks, by far his highest total since he posted 16.5 in 2011, his second year in the league.

Pierre-Paul is younger than Rolle (he'll turn 26 on New Year's Day), and more important at this stage of their respective careers. But he'll also cost a lot more money. He played well against the run the whole season. The question is, was that the real pass-rushing JPP we saw the final five weeks, or just a flash in the pan?

"I don't know what changed. I am trying to figure it out myself," Pierre-Paul said of the last five games. "I am playing better. I had to step up big time. I wouldn't say I wasn't stepping up the first couple of weeks. Injuries, man. I fought through 'em, I got healthy, and I have been on a roll. That's the game of football, you never know."

Pierre-Paul did miss a little practice time with a shoulder injury this season, but he played in all 16 games. He said in recent weeks that he wants to stay with the Giants, reiterated that Sunday, and sounded cautiously optimistic that the game wasn't his final one with Big Blue.

"I am pretty sure it is probably not," Pierre-Paul said. "Like I said Friday, I don't know what the future holds. But I went out there and played great today, my teammates played great, but we didn't play great enough to win this game."

Pierre-Paul may have been great, but some of his teammates certainly weren't. And now it's time to assess them all.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' season-ending 34-26 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium:
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't reject questions about his future, but he made it clear there were internal discussions to be had before he could deliver final answers. "I'm going to go about my business, just as I always do, unless I'm told otherwise," he said. Asked if he wanted his coaching staff to return intact, he said, "Yes, but I'm not going to say anything more about that or anything else today." Asked if he thought things were moving in the right direction and if he wanted to be back to oversee them in 2015, he said he would not answer the last part but added "I think it's headed in the right direction, yeah."
  • Coughlin said the reason rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. came out of the game late was that he was "vomiting and so on and so forth" on the sideline.
  • After a 12-catch, 185-yard, one-touchdown finale to his brilliant rookie season, Beckham said he was "looking forward to next year with a smile."
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a free agent, said he would like to be back and that he would like Coughlin to return as well. "I look at Coach Coughlin as a dad," Pierre-Paul said. "You need someone like that on the team, otherwise it would be chaos." Pierre-Paul also endorsed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, whose job status seems a bit more tenuous.
  • Owner John Mara and GM Jerry Reese declined comment after the game and likely will address the media Monday or Tuesday.

Giants' McClain calls Rams 'dirty team'

December, 21, 2014
ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday:
  • McClain
    Linebacker Jameel McClain walked from the field to the locker room hollering, "Dirty-ass team! That dirty [stuff] doesn't help you win! They suck as an organization!" This was in obvious reference to the Rams, as the Giants felt they'd been targeting Odell Beckham Jr. with cheap shots all game and trying to get under his and the Giants' skin. "I'm just not interested," McClain said later. "I had a lot of respect for the things their defense did. I'm just not interested in chippiness and dirty play. It's not what this game is about, and it has no room in the league." Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle were among the other Giants to use the word "dirty" to describe the Rams.
  • lastname
    "Doesn't anyone want to talk about the game?" a frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin asked after several questions about Beckham and the first-half brawl. Seconds later, he ended his postgame news conference early with a sarcastic "Happy Holidays" and stormed out before his "game" questions could be asked -- or before someone could explain to him that when you're 6-9 and were eliminated on Thanksgiving, it's not unreasonable for people to ask about the brawl that saw two of your players get kicked out of the game or the continued maturation and development of your superstar rookie before they ask about the game. Not Coughlin's finest moment.
  • For his part, Beckham said Coughlin spoke to him about his ball-spinning end zone celebration that drew the flag, and Beckham apologized on behalf of himself and the team for his role in sparking the brawl. But he said he wouldn't apologize for playing with passion or for his teammates' standing up to protect him and one another. Damontre Moore, who along with Preston Parker was ejected for his role in the brawl, said he felt bad he let his team down by getting ejected, but he wouldn't do anything differently if the same circumstances presented themselves.

Jason Pierre-Paul making push to return

December, 16, 2014
Jason Pierre-Paul AP Photo/Bill KostrounNew York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has turned up his production in recent weeks.
Six sacks in his last three games have raised Jason Pierre-Paul's season total to 9.5, which isn't an elite-pass-rusher number, but Pierre-Paul says it doesn't matter.

"Just numbers, man," the New York Giants defensive end said after his big game Sunday against Washington. "If you look at the film, really break down all the statistics, I'm having a great season."

The Giants, as you know, are not. But if Pierre-Paul truly is, he's setting himself up well for a free-agent contract push that could force the Giants into an interesting offseason decision.

Pierre-Paul turns 26 in two weeks and is eligible for free agency a couple of months after that. Given his age, the brilliance he flashed during the Giants' 2011-12 Super Bowl run and what's shaping up to be a strong finish to his walk year, he's likely to generate a high level of interest on the open market. Elite pass-rushers are a rare commodity, and if Pierre-Paul can sell himself at that -- at his age -- he has reason to dream of a deal in the $12 million or $13 million-a-year range.

The Giants will have enough cap space to do a deal like that if they want to keep Pierre-Paul. But they have many other needs as well, and the way the Giants generally act with their free agents is to set a price they think is fair and tell the guy he's welcome to go try to get more elsewhere if he thinks he can. It's unclear at this point whether the Giants would break the bank to keep their 2010 first-round draft pick, though they are happy with the way he has performed in 2014.

"JPP is playing very well," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "Technically, early on, he was doing some things that we could correct and help with, and we did, and he has really adapted his game again to the way and manner in which we would like him to rush."

The Giants' pass rush as a whole has taken off the last three weeks in games against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Washington. After recording a total of 19 sacks in their first 11 games of the season, the Giants have 22 sacks in their last three games, pushing them all the way up to No. 4 in the league in that category. Much of that has to do with the contributions they're getting from young players like linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive ends Kerry Wynn and Damontre Moore. But Pierre-Paul is the centerpiece player -- the all-around defensive end who can take on left tackles, play the run and find his way to the quarterback with his speed and instincts. That's the player they saw in 2011, and after two injury-plagued seasons that followed, the Giants believe they're seeing that player again this year.

They will need a foundation piece for the pass rush this offseason. If it's not Pierre-Paul, they'll have to find it somewhere else -- either in free agency or with a first-round draft pick that currently would be No. 8 overall. I can't tell them how to spend their money, and I understand being hesitant to commit five or six years and $12 million or $13 million a year to a guy who's struggled to stay healthy. But Pierre-Paul may end up being their best option.

He also would be the first of GM Jerry Reese's first-round draft picks to sign a second contract with the team. Aaron Ross (2007), Kenny Phillips (2008) and Hakeem Nicks (2009) all went elsewhere at the end of their rookie deals for reasons of injury or ineffectiveness. Prince Amukamara (2011) is no sure thing to break that trend. They hold a 2015 option on him and it remains to be seen what effect his season-ending injury has on their long-range assessment of his value. David Wilson (2012) had to retire in August due to neck injuries. And it's far too early to know what the future holds for Justin Pugh (2013) or brilliant rookie Odell Beckham Jr. (2014).

First-round picks are supposed to be long-term foundation pieces. The questions for the Giants are whether they believe, after five years, that Pierre-Paul is a foundation piece and how much they're willing to bet on it.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have turned into a sack machine.

For the third straight week, the Giants wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, with seven takedowns in the team's 24-13 win over the Washington Redskins.

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Giants have been getting sacks in bunches, including Jason Pierre-Paul who has 2.5 on Sunday.
That follows up another seven-sack performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and an eight-sack game against the Tennessee Titans. Yes, these are very weak opponents. But perhaps it's a good sign for the future.

In the first 11 games of the year, the Giants had just 19 sacks, ranking them near the bottom of the NFL. They now have 22 the past three weeks, elevating them into the top 10 of the league.

"That D-line, they're hungry," middle linebacker Jameel McClain said. "The hunger is there -- not to say that it wasn't there in the beginning, but it's obvious. You see drooling dogs when it comes to third down. That's what you want to see."

The defense actually played pretty poorly in the first half, giving up 265 yards to the Redskins, to just 95 for the Giants. Luckily Washington's lead was just 10-7, after Robert Griffin III's touchdown run on the final play of the half was overturned by review.

But the Giants gave up just three more points after that, collecting five of their seven sacks in the final two quarters.

"We came in at halftime and we weren’t playing great. We could have done better," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We came out with energy and we wanted it more. We were the most physical team and we proved it out there."

Pierre-Paul was the catalyst, with 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. He now has 9.5 sacks on the season, his most since posting 16.5 back in 2011.

Second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins also had 2.5 sacks on the day. Hankins is known as a run-stuffer, but now has seven sacks on the season, and looks like a cornerstone for years to come.

Cullen Jenkins also had one sack, and Damontre Moore and Devon Kennard shared one. Kennard, the rookie linebacker from USC, now has 4.5 sacks in the past three games.

"There’s more people involved in making a lot of plays, which is a good thing," coach Tom Coughlin said. "JPP has turned it up and he’s made a bunch of plays here in the last four or five games. You’re getting plays from the interior guys. When Damontre had a couple plays a week ago, Hankins had a play today or a couple of plays. Devon has done a good job of that as well and gotten pressure. The more the merrier."

It's too late to save this season, but perhaps the Giants don't have to make wholesale changes on the defensive line. Pierre-Paul may be worthy of a big contract after all. He's still not among the league leaders in sacks, but he's climbing the list -- and he's played extremely well against the run this year, too.

In fact, Pierre-Paul entered this week ranked the fourth-best 4-3 defensive end in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, and the best DE against the run.

“Those are just numbers, man," Pierre-Paul said, of his sack total. "If you look at the full game and the statistics and the performance as a whole, I’m having a great season. I know that, and I know things will take care of themselves.

"Right now, I’m just focused on these last two games and trying to get a couple of wins."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 24-13 victory Sunday over Washington:
  • The talk was, of course, of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his three touchdown catches. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "He's the fire of the offense." Safety Antrel Rolle said, "Nothing this guy does amazes me." And fellow rookie Andre Williams said, "Odell is playing at the highest level. I catch the 'wow' moment at the end. I don't see him run his routes or anything. I just see him in the end zone, mostly."
  • For Beckham's part, he believes he can do more. He chided himself for a first-half play on which he believed he should have gotten both feet in bounds, and of course for his error on the final punt return of the game. "I apologize to my special teams coach," Beckham said of the muff. "There's no better feeling than seeing your offense run on the field to take a knee at the end of the game."
  • Tom Coughlin declined to explain Rueben Randle's latest benching but indicated it was more than just a first-quarter benching like the one in Jacksonville two weeks ago. This time, Randle declined to discuss it as well. My impression was that his entry into the game would have been delayed even longer had Kevin Ogletree not had to leave briefly to be checked for a head injury.
  • Coughlin said running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle on the first play of the game. Jennings did not return. He had been hoping to get through this game and be at full strength for next week, but it's unclear whether this latest development changes those plans.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three games remain in the New York Giants' season, and possibly in Jason Pierre-Paul's Giants career. The 2010 first-round pick is eligible for free agency after this season and so far has not had any talks with the team about a long-term contract. He insists he's not thinking about it.

"I don't think about it at all," Pierre-Paul said after Giants practice Wednesday. "I think everything's going to fall into place for itself. I'm playing great, and we'll see what happens. I'm focused on getting to the offseason and sitting down and seeing what I did wrong and what I can do better for next year."

Pierre-Paul turns 26 next month and is enjoying his first fully healthy season since 2011, when he had 16.5 sacks in the regular season and helped the Giants win their most recent Super Bowl title. The 3.5 sacks he has registered in his last two games have doubled his season total to seven, which is the second-highest single-season total of his career. It's not a very high number, but he has earned praise from his coaches for the consistently effective way he has played against the run.

And when the offseason does arrive, the Giants are going to have to decide whether to pay him the pricey, long-term deal he seeks or look elsewhere for the foundation piece for the future of their pass rush.

"If I could stay here, I would love to be a Giant for life," Pierre-Paul said. "But who knows? I don't know what's going to happen, and I don't worry about it. My agent will handle it with the Giants when it comes time to talk."
NASHVILLE -- After missing two days of practice last week with a sprained right ankle, New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings is officially active for Sunday's game here against the Tennessee Titans. The question now is how much the Giants can expect him to play.

From what I have been told, the Giants' plan is to use Jennings mainly on passing downs, with rookie Andre Williams getting the start and most of the first-down and second-down work. It's possible, if Jennings looks good early, his role could expand as the game goes along. But for now, they're planning to lean on Williams against the Titans' No. 31-ranked run defense and use Jennings as a receiving option and pass protector on third downs. The Giants officially listed Williams as their starting running back.

In other news, the Giants are using Damontre Moore as the starting defensive end opposite Jason Pierre-Paul with both Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka having been placed on injured reserve last week. Spencer Paysinger starts at weakside linebacker with Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich back home dealing with concussion symptoms.

Here is the full list of Giants inactives, which only has six names on it this week because the Giants only have 52 players on their 53-man roster:

LB Mark Herzlich
LB Jacquian Williams
OL James Brewer
G Eric Herman
CB Jayron Hosley
RB Chris Ogbonnaya

Giants' last-ranked defense stands up

November, 16, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All week long, the New York Giants defense was reminded time and time again that statistically they were the worst unit in the NFL.

Well, they did something about it Sunday afternoon.

The Giants held Colin Kaepernick & Co. in check, for the most part, giving up just 16 points. But that was enough for the 49ers, thanks to the Giants' ineptitude on offense.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernic
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants defense held Colin Kaepernick to under 200 yards passing and just 24 yards rushing.
It was a much better defensive effort than last week's debacle in Seattle, but the players were not satisfied after the game.

"There were positives to take from it," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. "But a loss is a loss, and it hurts just as much."

"We lost the game. I’m not happy about nothing right now," said fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul.

A week after being gashed for 350 rushing yards by the Seahawks -- the third-most allowed in a single game in team history -- the Giants held the 49ers to a much more modest 148 on 37 carries.

Frank Gore (19 carries, 95 yards) had a pretty good day, but the Giants limited Kaepernick to 24 yards on eight carries.

"We executed our plays better, and handled that read-option better too," Pierre-Paul said.

In the air, Kaepernick completed just 15 of 29 passes, for 193 yards. The Giants gave up one big play, but it was a very damaging one -- a 48-yard touchdown grab and run by Michael Crabtree early in the third quarter, San Francisco's lone touchdown of the game.

"I think we played some good football at points. I think at points we gave things up," said middle linebacker Jameel McClain. "We got back to playing assignments and trusting in the scheme and everybody doing their job and playing passionate, so I’m very excited about that. But we obviously didn’t do enough."

Keep in mind, the defensive unit we watched Sunday looked very different than the one we saw at the beginning of the season. The Giants were without starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, starting linebackers Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams, and starting cornerback Prince Amukamara due to injury.

The Giants' other starting cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was shuffled in and out of the lineup as well because of a sore right leg. And he didn't look very good when he was on the field, getting beaten by Crabtree on the touchdown.

There's certainly room for improvement. The Giants' D got just one turnover -- a fumble by Gore on the very first possession of the game (recovered by cornerback Zack Bowman). They had just one sack (by Robert Ayers, who leads the team with five). And Pierre-Paul was quiet, with just one tackle on the afternoon.

But overall the Giants did have five tackles for loss -- one apiece by Ayers, Kiwanuka, McClain, Devon Kennard and Mark Herzlich, who played well (nine tackles) filling in for the injured Williams.

"The defense obviously had listened to enough and they played with good physical play," coach Tom Coughlin said. "They made plays out there today and got a lot of stops."

The Giants may not be ranked dead-last in defense anymore once this week's games are over. But that would be little consolation with the team now 3-7, having lost five games in a row.

"I want to win, I don’t want anything else," Kiwanuka said. "I don’t want moral victories, I don’t want anybody to pat half of us on the back. I want us to get a win."
SEATTLE -- When the New York Giants finished last season 7-9, owner John Mara famously declared the offense "broken," and the team set about totally retooling with a new coordinator and a new scheme.

Following Sunday's 38-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Giants are 3-6 and headed for another disappointing, non-playoff season. And while the offense isn't exactly setting the world on fire, this time it's the defense that looks broken and headed for major offseason change.

The Giants gave up a must-be-a-typo 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks on Sunday. Running back Marshawn Lynch had 140 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Russell Wilson had 107 rushing yards and the other touchdown. Four different players carried the ball for the Seahawks and every single one of them averaged more than five yards per carry. As a team, they averaged 7.8.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants' defense seemed helpless against the Seattle ground game, giving up 350 rushing yards.
"That hurts," said Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who could be seen hollering on the sideline in an effort to fire up his defensive teammates at various points in the game. "Because that means they're just lining up and hitting you in the mouth, they're more physical and they want it more. And I know that can't be the case."

The Seahawks did win the physical battles Sunday, but worse was the Giants' inability to figure out Seattle's zone-read offense. They appeared to guess wrong on almost every play, especially in an second half in which Seattle outscored them 24-0. When they should have been swarming toward Lynch up the middle, they were playing too wide. When they should have been playing contain on Wilson on the outside, they were swarming the middle. Wilson had easy decision after easy decision, and the Seahawks picked the Giants' defense apart.

"Our defense is all about knowing what your assignment is and doing it," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You can't beat yourself in this league. If you have the dive, take the dive. If you have the quarterback, take the quarterback."

The excuses are there for the Giants if they want them. They're playing without three of their top four cornerbacks and their starting middle linebacker, all of whom are out for the season due to injuries. Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins were playing hurt Sunday. It's clear they're outmanned on both sides of the ball, and the reason is that they're still piecing back together a roster that was so hollowed out by the end of last season that they had no choice but to load up on free agents in an effort to plug holes.

However, all of that understood, the defense is playing at an inexcusably poor level. The Giants are allowing an average of 456 yards per game during their current four-game losing streak. They did collect three turnovers Sunday, and the first two were the main reason they had a 17-14 lead at the half. But they're still allowing too many big plays due to too many missed assignments, and overall they're just not stopping anyone.

"We'll be OK," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul insisted. "We've just got to get it right. We've got seven games left. We'll be OK."

I don't know what Pierre-Paul is talking about. Yes, things could get better in December, when they stop playing playoff teams and start lining up against the Jacksonville/Tennessee/Washington/St. Louis portion of the schedule. And assuming they can run off some wins toward the end of the year as they did last year, head coach Tom Coughlin still has a strong chance to salvage his job.

But on defense, there's no one who should currently be assuming things will be all right. Coordinator Perry Fewell, at this point, does not deserve to return in 2015. Pierre-Paul, who's headed for free agency, isn't a sure thing to be back. Rolle is a pending free agent whom the team loves, but he's going to be 32, and how much money will he want? If the Giants react to this year's defensive performance the way they reacted to last year's offensive performance, all bets are off, and they have to think seriously about which of their current players fit into whatever new scheme their new coordinator will be installing.

"We've got to get better," Rolle said. "Everyone. Players, coaches, we have to find an answer, because right now the answer's not there."

Increasingly, as it did last year, it looks as though the answer is somewhere in the offseason, somewhere outside the organization. Because regardless of injuries, talent deficiencies or strength of schedule, an NFL defense simply has to be playing better than the Giants' defense is playing right now. There's no question the Giants' defense is broken, and will require an extensive fix once this season is over.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The 2014 New York Giants are not a very good team. They never were a very good team, and now that the big injuries have set in, they don't even look as though they can be competitive with the league's legitimate contenders. The Giants are 0-5 against teams with a winning record and 3-0 against teams with a losing record, and Monday night's 40-24 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts did little but reinforce what we already knew.

Coach Tom Coughlin challenged his team last week to "play above the X's and O's," but given the Giants' health situation, their inexperience and the talent level of their personnel, that's too much to ask at this point. The alarming thing about Monday night was the extent to which the Giants played below the X's and O's: the touchdown given up because the defense wasn't ready; the inability to convert a third down; the maddening, continued, fruitless search for a running game.

"You've got to have a lot of passion about this game," safety and defensive team captain Antrel Rolle said early Tuesday morning. "We're not taking it. We have to fight harder."

They do. The Giants have eight games left in this season. The rules say they have to play all eight. Coughlin will demand they prepare and play their absolute best in all eight, whether they're contenders or not. So the question becomes, What can they get out of the second half of another lost season? The answer: quite a bit.

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Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe 2014 season has been frustrating for Eli Manning and the Giants, but the next eight games will be used to weed out the roster for 2015 and beyond.
The final eight games of this Giants season will be about finding out who's part of the solution and who isn't. The Giants began a rebuilding project last spring, and as they brace for the extreme likelihood of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six years, they must carefully evaluate the ability, desire and fit of every player they have. They need to know what they have that's worth building on.

"You can't say we're not prepared, we're not focused, not practicing hard," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "That's one thing about Coach Coughlin -- he's not going to let that happen."

Those who demonstrate an ability to function in the Giants' program will stand in good stead for 2015 and beyond. Those who don't, no matter how much they make or in which round they were drafted, will not. The evidence for this was on the field Monday night wearing a Colts No. 14 jersey: former first-round pick Hakeem Nicks, who yawned his way out of town with a miserable contract year in 2013. Just 26 years old and a Giants Super Bowl champion, Nicks was clearly not into what they were doing here anymore, so they decided in the spring not to make him a part of what they were doing in the future, either.

So, yes, you'd better believe people are playing for jobs right now. The group the Giants are running out there on a weekly basis is very young and still learning, but the people who run the team are going to be watching closely to see how hard those young players are working, what the competition means to them and how they're developing in the system. Former first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul is where Nicks was a year ago, and if he's looking for a big contract in free agency, he's got to deliver big to convince the team to give it to him. Left tackle Will Beatty, who signed a big free-agent deal two offseasons ago, needs to play like someone who deserves to keep it. Rolle is an impending free agent. Heck, Eli Manning is going to be looking for a contract extension at the end of this year.

And this goes for the coaches, too. It's hard to imagine a Coughlin team bottoming out and finishing 4-12 or 3-13 -- especially after last year's hollowed-out husk of a roster didn't. But if such a thing happens, Coughlin is not automatically safe. If Perry Fewell's defense keeps giving up big plays, he's not guaranteed a job in 2015. It's hard to see them cutting offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo loose after just one year, but the first-year playcaller is like every other rookie around here -- he has to show promise in order to make the Giants feel good about sticking with him beyond 2014.

These are tough times around the Giants. No one likes losing, and no one likes the feeling of not being good enough to compete week to week. If it's all pointing to better things in the future, it's easier to take. But those who want to stick around and be part of those better things need to spend the final eight games proving they can help make them a reality -- or they won't get the chance.
Jason Pierre-Paul didn't have his best game two weeks ago against the Philadelphia Eagles and star left tackle Jason Peters, but he rebounded well enough Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and star left tackle Tyron Smith that New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin singled him out in a team meeting Monday morning.

"Coach Coughlin mentioned him specifically as having a great game, and when we went back and watched the film, we were amazed," Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "He dominated."

Pierre-Paul had two sacks in the Giants' 31-21 loss in Dallas, getting the better of Smith, who the previous week had become the first offensive lineman in 10 years to a win a conference Player of the Week award. Pierre-Paul was complimentary of Smith prior to the game, but he did note Friday, "I've won a couple of those [Player of the Week] awards too, you know."

He has indeed, and after he struggled through injuries that limited his production the last two years, that was easy for some to forget. But so far this year, Pierre-Paul has been a force for the Giants on the defensive line.

"He's always been an outstanding run player," Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn said Tuesday. "He's been as good as there has been in the league. When he's healthy, he's as good a run player as I've been around. And with the pass rush, if he continues to stay healthy, it will show up. I think he has a better plan in the pass rush than he has ever had. He came into training camp and that plan developed for him. He's doing a good job attacking offensive tackles."

His 3.5 sacks put him on pace for just eight this year, which is not a number that would make a defensive end in search of a big free-agent contract very happy. But Pierre-Paul knows those sacks can come in bunches. In the meantime, if he continues to play well against the run, he knows the Giants (who've been preaching the importance of that to him since he was a rookie) will appreciate it come contract time. The Giants will have it in their budget to sign Pierre-Paul long term next offseason, and if he continues to play the way he's played so far this year, they'll be happy to give him the kind of deal that stamps him as the cornerstone of their pass rush for the present and the future.