The Giants have allowed 182 points through 5 games. That’s 36.4 points per game. Good for dead last in the NFL. It’s a far cry from the defense that helped carry this team to a Super Bowl win less than two years ago in 2011.
There are several culprits for the Giants’ defensive woes, but none bigger than their pass rush – or lack thereof. Through 5 games, the G-Men have mustered just 5 sacks, the 2nd fewest in the NFL. Last year the Giants had 2 games with 5 or more sacks. They had 4 such games in 2011. Needless to say, as the Giants’ pass rush goes, their defense goes. But what is the root cause for the sudden inability to get to the quarterback?
The interior defensive line is one glaring reason. The rotation of Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers and Linval Joseph has generated no push in the face of the quarterback. Justin Tuck hasn’t created any disruption when he’s rotated inside either. This leaves plenty of space for opposing quarterbacks to see the field and step into their throws. This also allows the interior offensive line to help out their tackles on the outside. That means those tackles can protect against the outside rush, knowing they have help inside.
More disconcerting is that Giants defensive ends on the opposite side of Jason Pierre-Paul can’t offer a legitimate pass rush. Because teams can leave their tackle alone to handle those defensive ends (Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck etc…), they can focus more of their attention on Pierre-Paul, using backs and tight ends to help out on his side by double-teaming or at least chipping him.
Sometimes, teams have aligned with tight ends as well as receivers with tight splits inside of Pierre-Paul, and when they release inside of him into their routes, they don’t even have to hit him. The congestion creates traffic that he has to wade through, again slowing down his pass rush.
Yet the most concerning thing for the Giants is Jason Pierre-Paul himself. Even when left in one-on-one matchups, he has yet to capitalize. He’s been a step slower off the ball this season than in years past. Whether that’s due to his off-season back surgery or other ailments picked up from game to game, Pierre-Paul looks nothing like the dominant pass-rusher of 2011.
Two weeks ago against the Chiefs, Andy Reid appeared to have game-planned to stop Pierre-Paul. Early in the game, he used backs and tight ends to either double-team or chip him. Reid seemed to realize that Pierre-Paul wasn’t having any sort of impact, though. As the game progressed, he allowed his tackles to take him alone more and more. This meant the Chiefs were able to release additional receivers into routes, putting extra strain on a linebacking corps and secondary that struggle to cover.
The Giants defense, even in their heyday, was always reliant on a good pass rush. This allowed corners, safeties, and linebackers to expect quick throws and sit on routes. They didn’t have to cover for very long, which was a good thing because the Giants didn’t have great pass-coverage defenders. This season is no exception. The Giants play a lot of man-to-man coverage for a team that doesn’t have any true cover corners – or at least any good ones. The defense is based on the hypothetical notion that the pass rush still exists. It does not. And we’re seeing the end product of that on a weekly basis as a result.