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It isn't clear exactly when the New York Giants' defensive players began trusting one another, when they started believing in Perry Fewell's scheme and when they knew they had more than just a talented unit stocked with former early-round draft picks.
Safety Antrel Rolle thinks it might've taken place during the team's loss to the Titans three weeks ago.
Defensive tackle Chris Canty, though, thinks the process started months before that.
"We've been developing that trust all offseason," Canty said. "We had a long offseason to think about it and develop that trust. That is something that is starting to carry over to the field."
After putting together back-to-back dominant defensive performances, the Giants (3-2) now own the top-ranked defense in the league and the best pass defense as well. The Giants allow 244.6 yards a game.
|After tormenting the Bears and Texans, Chris Canty's Giants turn their attention to the Lions.|
But before Fewell's defense could smother opponents, it had to develop a trust from within. Fewell, in his first season as the Giants' defensive coordinator, puts an emphasis on filling gaps and each player has certain responsibilities.
They must stay true to their role and not stray and try to make a play on their own. Players had to buy into their roles and had to believe that if they executed their particular responsibility on a play, teammates would do the same and make the play, even if it appeared they could make the play on their own.
That trust was not there last year when the defense fell apart and chaos reigned.
"That is something that is very critical," said Rolle, who joined the Giants in March as a free agent. "You can definitely not look to play someone else's position or look to try to cover up for someone else."
Even though the defense spent the entire offseason working on what Fewell wanted it to do, the players needed to see the system work. The Giants were able to shut down Carolina's rushing attack in a season-opening win but were trounced 38-14 by the Colts after gearing their defense to stop the pass, only to be flattened by Indy's running game.
Then the Giants fell the following week to Tennessee, but defensive players say they saw positives out of that 29-10 loss. They pretty much kept Chris Johnson in check until he gained 55 of his 125 yards on one drive late in the game. The Giants felt they beat themselves in that game after committing 11 penalties, five of which were personal fouls that came after the whistle. Defensively, the Giants saw how they handled the best running back in the game for most of the game but were just unable to finish the job.
"It took time for us to understand the system and trust the roles as well as trust the coaches," Rolle said. "Not saying that in a negative way, but we are all new here, we are all in this thing together. We really didn't know what to expect from Perry Fewell. You hear a lot of great things about him, you know the first game goes pretty well, the second game doesn't go so well ... you really don't know what to expect."
Then the Giants crushed the Bears, notching 10 sacks and knocking out two quarterbacks. They followed it up against Houston by holding the top-ranked rushing attack to a total of 24 yards.
Rolle was critical on Sunday with six tackles. He played a ton in the box and helped make sure Arian Foster, who entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher, had nowhere to cut back and run.
"I definitely think [trust] is fully there and we understand what we have as a unit," Rolle said. "[On run assignments] I have to trust those guys that they will be there, even if I do see a hole. I have to trust that someone will come and clog it. When [the trust] came, I don't know. It just happened to click."
Tuesdays with Canty: While some players spend their Tuesday lounging around at home or playing golf, Canty was one of several Giants getting in extra prep work at the team facility. Tackle David Diehl said in his weekly Tuesday radio interview with 1050 ESPN that numerous players were busy working on the one day players have off each week.
It has become part of the Giants' routine. Head coach Tom Coughlin, often busy installing the game plan with his staff, will notice players at the facility.
"They like to come in and have lunch," Coughlin said as laughter ensued. "But we've had guys that have been in on Tuesday since day one. I mean, Eli Manning is in here on Tuesday always and always has been. So if guys want to study with him or watch tape with him, they're in here with him. You notice how the defensive backs will get together and come in.
"They get a tremendous amount out of it because they get ahead," the coach added. "They've all got DVDs, they've all got study guides. But when you have the opportunity on a Tuesday when it's not hectic and you're not being hustled to the next phase of your protocol, you can take the time to study not only the overall feeling and the overall way in which the opponent plays but you can zoom in on the guys you're playing against.
"So, I think it gives guys a nice head start and it pays off."
Etc.: Center Shaun O'Hara was scheduled to test his ankle/Achilles on Tuesday. Coughlin will give an update on Wednesday. O'Hara tried to run last Tuesday and was unable to practice last week. ... Ahmad Bradshaw has a league-leading seven runs of 20 yards or more. ... Osi Umenyiora has six sacks, tied for second in the NFL. Five of his sacks have come in the past two weeks. ... Coughlin's Jay Fund Foundation raised more than $775,000 at the "Champions for Children" gala to benefit families of children with cancer.
Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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