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Friday, October 8, 2010
Giants' D has tough task against Texans

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Even at the end of a long and grueling two-a-day during training camp, Perry Fewell can be so energetic it's as if the defensive coordinator is hooked up to an IV pumping him full of 5-Hour Energy drink.

So imagine what the New York Giants' defensive guru was like Sunday night after his unit demolished the Bears with 10 sacks while knocking out two quarterbacks and holding Chicago to a total of 110 yards in a 17-3 whipping. The seemingly over-caffeinated and enthusiastic defensive coordinator was in hyper-drive after watching his defensive line deliver a performance he described as "absolutely the best I've ever been around."

"Oh, you're jacked up!" Fewell said with his voice rising and his eyes glowing.

"You can't sleep. After something like that, you go home and you try to sleep … you can't. You're up until two or three o'clock and you're like, 'Wow.'"

But Fewell couldn't sleep, and not just because he was riding high after seeing his vision of the Giants terrorizing an opposing offense come to fruition. His brain was spinning with ideas about how to defend the Houston Texans' offense.

After putting it all together against the Bears, the Giants' defense now faces the most balanced offense it has seen this season. Houston owns the top-ranked rushing attack and the second-best offense in the league.

The Texans (3-1) will try to run all over the Giants (2-2) with emerging beast Arian Foster, who leads the NFL in rushing and is averaging 134.3 yards per game behind the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.

And then, when a defense locks in on stopping the run, the Texans can throw the ball to arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Andre Johnson.

"He's by far the best that I've ever seen play this game," said Matt Schaub, Johnson's quarterback. "He's the best in the game today. He has that rare combination that everyone looks for with the size, the speed, the strength, the hands, the intelligence, the route running."

Johnson has been slowed by an ankle injury and could be a game-time decision for the second straight week. He did not play last week against Oakland, but the Giants have been preparing as if Johnson will play.

Some teams have had success when double-teaming the 6-foot-3 Johnson. But Sage Rosenfels, who played quarterback for the Texans from 2006-08, said that won't be easy either. Rosenfels pointed out that the Texans move Johnson all over the field to get him in a one-on-one matchup.

Schaub has seen opposing defenses try everything to hold Johnson.

"We've seen quite a few different types of defenses," said Schaub, who has other weapons in Kevin Walter and pass-catching tight ends like Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen. "There's only so much you can do without compromising anything on the other side of the field, whether it be in the pass game or even in the run game, but we've seen a variety of double coverages and bracket-type coverages and different things of that nature."

The Giants must get pressure on Schaub, but it will not be as easy as last Sunday. Against the Bears, the Giants didn't have to worry too much about the run, and it showed, as Fewell's defensive front could rush almost at will.

The Giants will have to be sound against the run and fill the gaps against the Texans. They did that when they limited Carolina's two-headed attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to 74 yards rushing in the season-opening win over the Panthers. The Giants also did a good job against Tennessee's Chris Johnson until he gained 55 of his 125 yards on one drive midway through the fourth quarter of their 29-10 loss to the Titans.

In both of those cases, the Giants faced teams that made their living off the run. Against Indianapolis in Week 2, the Giants molded their game plan to stop the pass and they were burned for 160 yards on the ground.

Against Houston, the Giants' front line will have to be everything general manager Jerry Reese envisioned it would be. It must be stout up front and stuff the run while also getting penetration and pressuring the quarterback.

This would have been the perfect game for linebacker Keith Bulluck and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Fewell could use the physical Bulluck and the versatile Kiwanuka, who could move around from linebacker to defensive end to defensive tackle.

But both Bulluck (toe) and Kiwanuka (neck) are injured. That means linebacker Clint Sintim will likely see his most action of the season. And the Giants could use more packages with their three safeties -- Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips and Deon Grant.

They will have to be big and physical to stop Foster, who has rushed for 231, 106 and 131 yards in three of his first four games. The Texans also use a familiar face as a change of pace with former Giant Derrick Ward, who had 80 yards and a touchdown last week against the Raiders. The speedy Steve Slaton gets some carries as well.

Fewell might not sleep very much Sunday night again after the game. But Justin Tuck hopes it is because the defense delivers an encore performance that will leave its coordinator "jacked up."

"It's a huge challenge for us," Tuck said. "We are definitely going to see where we are as a complete football team come Sunday."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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