The New York Giants have allowed an average of 372.2 yards per game, which ranks 22nd in the NFL. The secondary is in shambles and their vaunted defensive line has a combined 3.5 sacks through four games . Poor defensive play has been a major contributing factor in both of the Giants' divisional losses this season. In particular, defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck have been nearly invisible through the first four games of 2012.
It's possible that Umenyiora and Tuck are no longer what they used to be. Both have experienced a great deal of wear and tear throughout their lengthy careers, including several injuries to both players.
However, last January and into February we saw the same two guys wreaking havoc on the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. In an ESPN radio interview on Tuesday, Osi Umenyiora said teams have began to counter the Giants pass rush by getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly, and that there's not a lot Big Blue can do to stop it.
"There's really no counter for it, honestly." Umenyiora said. "Because if you blitz, obviously, we have some injuries in our secondary so you can't really commit too many people to a rush. If you don't do that then you're going to allow the teams to have more time because they're keeping more people in to protect. So it's a very difficult situation that we're in. It's a precarious situation, but at the end of the day it's on us, the defensive linemen, to find a way to make more plays."
Against the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Tony Romo massacred the Giants with a steady dose of quick slant routes over the middle of the field. The Giants corner backs played with their backs to the sideline and the pass rush was unable to get to Romo with consistency. These short, quick passes cost Big Blue the game.
The same scenario played out in Philadelphia this past Sunday. The Giants front four rarely got to Michael Vick in time to hit him, and if they did break through they were seldom able to contain Vick in the pocket. When the Giants blitzed, they got pressure on Vick, but he was able to make big plays through the air to DeSean Jackson as the game progressed.
"Obviously teams have gone to their quick passes, they've gone to their double teams and their chips to negate the pass rush," Umenyiora said. "That's just what it is. That's respect. And that's what we've come to expect and it's just something that we're going to have to deal with. Nobody really wants to hear any excuses. Nobody cares that we're getting double-teamed, triple-teamed, all this stuff. They still expect us to get to the quarterback so eventually that's exactly what we're going to have to do."
The Giants don't have any proven talent at cornerback, Kenny Phillips is hurt and Chase Blackburn can not cover anybody over the middle of the field. In short, there are not enough healthy, talented players in the secondary to consistently compete with the NFL's elite right now. If Corey Webster gets back on track, Amukamara and Jayron Hosley gain more experience, and Kenny Phillips gets healthy, there's a chance that can change in the near future.
However, for now, it's up to the defensive line to carry the defense. Despite the lack of production so far, this is still one of the most talented groups in the NFL. If the secondary ever gets healthy enough to cover anybody, we will see JPP, Osi, and Tuck break out like we have in the past. Until then, the defense is going to be suspect.
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