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How Can New York Giants Tailor Their Defense to a Changing NFL?

January 15th, 2013 at 11:30 AM
By Kyle Langan

It is nearly impossible to ignore the presence of mobile quarterbacks in the modern NFL. This past weekend, the nation witnessed incredible performances by Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. The NFC East itself features the fantastic (though banged up) Robert Griffin III.

'QB Russell Wilson in the Pocket' photo (c) 2012, Neal - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Once considered a college exclusive scheme, the read- option has made its way into the NFL. Over what seems like the last seven or eight weeks, outside linebackers, defensive ends, and safeties have had their world turned upside down. Suddenly they have a whole separate area of the field to defend.

The New York Giants have been victimized by the mobile quarterback for years. So it begs the question: how can the Giants need to tailor their defensive scheme to address these fleet footed quarterbacks?

Improve the Interior

The ability to contain a mobile quarterback is heavily predicated on winning the battle up front on defense, particularly in the middle.

The most overlooked aspect of the Giants failures in 2012 was the lack of interior pressure. Linval Joseph showed some promise in spots, but Chris Canty was a non-factor too often. Behind the two of them, there was not a whole lot of production.

Rocky Bernard had a bit of a renaissance in 2011 but age caught up with him in 2012. Marvin Austin has not shown enough promise to even be on the roster on opening day next season, barring an other-worldly preseason.

Too often the Giants played Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul on the interior and opponents too advantage in the run game. This also could have been a contributing factor to the wear and tear on the two ends. It is time for the Giants to consider keeping Tuck and Pierre-Paul on the outside more often while rotating the stout Mathias Kiwanuka in with them to give them a blow during games.

On the interior, look for the Giants in investigate in a defensive tackle during free agency. One name to keep an eye on may be Richard Seymour. Don’t forget, the Giants added Shaun Rodgers last offseason. They won’t be scared off by age.

The Oakland Raiders are not likely to bring back the 33-year-old, but he is still one of the most scheme diverse defensive linemen in the NFL. That is something the Giants value highly.

Oakland also has another pending free agent by the name of Desmond Bryant, who achieved the highest rating of any interior defender according to Pro Football Focus (a +16.5 on 645 snaps). Bryant was a better pass rusher than run stopper, but the Giants could use some of that as well.

The Giants would also like to inject some youth here by way of the draft. At the absolute latest, The Giants will add another body here by the third round of the draft.

Continue Integrating Speed at the Linebacker Level

On the next level of the defense, the health of Jacquian Williams will be critical. Expect the Giants to look to Williams to take over more a leadership role on defense, assuming he maintains good health. He can cover ground in a hurry and has great instincts.

Spencer Paysinger has shown that he has solid instincts, but needs to learn to trust them a bit more. The coaches have trusted the undrafted free agent with a surprising amount of playing time in his first two seasons and he has taken advantage. Expect that to go up in 2013.

Keith Rivers struggled with injuries, as did Jacquian Williams. This forced Michael Boley to handle a bigger workload than he would like and it wore him down by December.

Getting healthy will improve the range of the linebacker corps. It will be imperative to add bodies to improve interior pressure, that will be key in defending this “new” breed of offense.

General Manager Jerry Reese knows how to build consistently competitive teams and he is not about to overlook the changing landscape of the NFL when he looks to revamp his team in 2013.

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Tags: Chris Canty, Football, Jacquian Williams, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Keith Rivers, Linval Joseph, Marvin Austin, Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Rocky Bernard, Spencer Paysinger

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23 Responses to “How Can New York Giants Tailor Their Defense to a Changing NFL?”

  1.  G-MenFan says:

    I don’t think this is as difficult to defend as it looks. It’s just that the pros don’t practice defending it. Once they do, it will go the way of the “Wildcat”.

    IMO it’s a gimmick with short legs. Once defenses start laying some nice hits on the “pitch man” we’ll see more QB concussions, broken ribs, and ripped up knees. That’ll cure that. In the NFL your QB runs a lot at great risk that’s never worth it.

    •  Krow says:

      I think you’re right … but it’s going to take a year or two before schemes and injuries catch up.

      The trick is to hit the QB every play … and hit him hard.

    •  GOAT56 says:

      I think it’s more than a gimmick. It much more like the run and shoot than the wildcat. Both offensives work but they put your QB in a lot of risk. Long term it’s hard to see these teams risking their top guy so much. Especially since these guys have shown ability to pass and could function as regular QBs with mobility. What makes it hard is that these QBs are just faster than the DEs/OLBs trying to contain them so even one false step and it’s likely a successful run.

      But I agree if teams continue running that offense I think defenses will just focus on hitting the QB even if he hands it to the RB. If you don’t care about your QB getting hit and the QB can throw well it is tough to stop though.

      •  G-MenFan says:

        I disagree that it’s more like the run & shoot. It’s a read option pure and simple–I wasn’t comparing it to the wildcat in mechanics–just in my prediction for its longevity.

        The problem is, the QBs we’re talking about are the cream of the crop at doing it. They are world-class stud athletes that bewilder at the college level, and so far, even at the professional level. The difference there is that the defensive players in the NFL are also world-class stud athletes and once they scheme to stop it–it will be stopped. You can’t stop perfect passing/catching because of the rules. But in the NFL if you commit to stopping the run, it will be done.

        •  GOAT56 says:

          I meant that I think the longevity will be similar of the run & shoot. Some teams still run a modified run and shoot with a TE replacing the 4th WR. So my point is that certain elements will be in the game to stay.

          I think stopping it is tougher than you think if you are willing to risk your QB. What makes it tough is that will multiple WRs still in the game play action is deadly. Being in the pistol a fake and a pass can happen very quickly so if you have a accurate passer and an athletic QB it’s tough. The solution is penetration but that comes with a risk of getting out of lanes.

          When I first saw the offense I thought it was simple and a gimmick but when you see it with talented QBs that can run and pass it’s tough to stop because it makes you hesitate as a defense.

          •  G-MenFan says:

            Agreed, but once you put a LB with the speed of, say, Keith Rivers (assuming he’s still alive) on the QB on every down, I think it forces the QBs hand and you give up only one defender–the very aggressive “spy”, whose job it is to rack up hits on Mr. Wonderful.

            Krow is correct in my opinion–this will be a couple of seasons in the making. But I’m pretty sure that 3 seasons from now, the only QB we’ll be talking about in this regard is Cam Newton. The guy is freakin’ huge and can take some pops. If he’s smart and doesn’t try to get all cute being the BMOC down in Carolina, running for 100 yards and 2 TDs every week, I think he’ll be really good and tough to stop when he does run.

  2.  sonnymooks says:

    The Giants need more speed, and more hard hitters, period.

    In the draft, I’d be looking for a pass rusher, first and foremost, a top DB and a Linebacker (again). In other words, upgrade the defense as a whole (since we are going to keep the same D.C. despite his record setting badness).

    We need to boost the pass rush, we need better coverage. No ifs ands or buts. The reason QBs have been able to run around on us has more to do with LB play then anything else. Another thing, Hitters, we need Hitters. We may have missed big time by not grabbing that kid that the Bengals got as an Undrafted free agent, Burfect.

    At the end of the day, guys that can hit, are guys that change games, that dispurt game plans, that intimidate and screw up the best laid plans any schemer can come up with. Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”, we need safeties and LBs that do the same thing.

    Personally, I’d go defense heavy in the draft, if, and its a big if, If I drafted anyone on offense, it’d almost have to be a Offensive lineman, but otherwise, I’m looking defense, finishing 31st is a damn disgrace, giving up the number of yards we did, what was it, 6,000 or something, two years in a row ???? Are you kidding me ???

  3.  Krow says:

    It’s not so much our players who have the problem with option offenses … it’s the scheme.

    Like it or not we’re a coverage team. We primarily rush 4. The DEs go wide. The LBs drop into coverage.

    If you were drawing up the worst defense to employ against a scrambler it would be that one.

    As for the option, our DL is taught to penetrate … not to set the edge or play gaps. Our LBs are small and fast for the most part … the right type to play a coverage scheme … not the right type to stuff the run. And our DBs play zone, so one-read schemes are not at a disadvantage.

    I’m more worried that Perry Fewell can’t change than I am the players.

  4.  Dirt says:

    GMenFan,

    I’m not disagreeing with you at all re: Barden. However, it’s that “for whatever reason” that grades his red zone capabilities as unknown, as we simply never saw it. “For whatever reason”, we never got to see the tallest guy on the team matched up against smaller corners to catch jump balls in the end zone.

    Not saying he should stay, not at all. Would have liked to have seen him attempt it once though.

    •  G-MenFan says:

      I agree that he wasn’t used in the red zone as much as he should have. Our red zone efficiency has been “meh” for the past two seasons hovering around 54% TD rate; and not utilizing a human utility pole is…a missed opportunity.

      One of the several reasons that feed my Gilbride hatred/psychosis/anger management “issues”.

  5.  Grateful Giants says:

    I think the biggest way to stop the read option is to make it impossible to run, in other words, we need our offense to put up points and put up a lot of points fast. If the other team wants to run the ball thats fine they’ll never catch us.

    Think (and I hate that I am about to say this) about the seahawks trying to play against the pats…they can run their fake offense all they like when you need more than one score, that entire scheme becomes obsolete because you are now playing against the clock too.

    Stop settling for FGs, take some chances. throw the ball deep at least AT LEAST 1 time a quarter.

    •  Grateful Giants says:

      but great article, obviously our D needs a lot of help with this

    •  Dirt says:

      No no no, we’ve been there before, so it’s not a big deal to have to come from behind. There’s no point in scoring all the points you possibly can.

      Same with the playoffs – who cares about winning 12-13 games and locking up home field. Win just enough, because the two (2) times we did it before wasn’t actually a wild ride, but the norm that you go beat good teams on the road.

      •  Grateful Giants says:

        I guess my point was, I’d like to see these read options play against the Pats, where they don’t take their foot off the pedal. Whether their defense is any good, how much option are you running down 41-14?

        Hit the QB, Maul the QB every play, put up points. Obviously thats what everyones trying to do, I guess its just not as easy as I want it to be. So I guess Im just stating the obvious.

  6.  Krow says:

    Colleges routinely stop these option-based offenses. I find it hard to believe that professional teams can’t. It’s just novel in the NFL at the moment.

    •  GOAT56 says:

      The read option with a QB that can really run and really throw I haven’t seen stopped often. Kaepernick did exactly what he’s doing now at Nevada.

    •  sonnymooks says:

      Yes and No, some of these option based-offenses are unstoppable in college, while some defenses crush option based systems. Its all about pure, unbridled talent there.

      Teams that run option based systems, that have a big or huge talent advantage look unstoppable (though, they would probably be just as unstoppable with any system or scheme) while teams that have that same kind of edge on defense, stop the option like a brick wall.

      In the NFL, it just takes talent and coaching, not much more then that. Its a good wrinkle, you can build an offense around it, if you have that kind of talent, but its not the kind of system you want to run if you are facing a team that can crush you. If the talent levels are equal, and it comes down to scheme, an option offense will beat a cover two defense. It varies. Certain schemes are more susceptible to option offenses then others if the talent level is weaker or even.

  7.  Begiant says:

    Defend the outside to force the Qb to hand the ball off to the runningback so there are more people to help in the middle. Hit the QB hard and often. That is the best way IMO to stop this read option.

  8.  Krow says:

    Terrell Thomas … there’s no way we’re paying him that huge bonus. It was part of a ‘show me’ contract, and he certainly didn’t show.

    But will he lose his mind when they offer him another vet minumum, incentive based deal?

    Sometimes players are so hurt and upset by the circumstances of their situation that they make emotional decisions. Steve Smith, Brandon Jacobs … even Amani Toomer. They all left money on the table over ego.

    •  G-MenFan says:

      Well, that’s exactly what they’ll do, you nailed it. It will be a vet-min offer incentive-laden with longevity metrics out the wazoo. I don’t think he’ll get angry…I think he knows it’s coming. Hey, he signed the last one–before he got hurt again. I think he signs this one too.

  9.  fanfor55years says:

    The read-option offense will not stay in place unless those teams are willing to invest money in TWO quarterbacks as insurance against the starter being hurt. The investment in top quarterbacks gained through the draft is pretty big, but not as big as it used to be. What San Francisco, Seattle, Carolina (and just maybe, Washington) could do is use a second or third round pick to now acquire a quarterback who many teams won’t want (can you imagine Tom Coughlin ever agreeing to go that way?) but could be a great backup for their #1 guy for a few years and then might not be able to get a fabulous contract when his rookie deal expired because many teams won’t run the read-option and in any case, the draftee may have gone four years without hitting the field. There may only be a universe of 3-4 teams that would think about bidding for his services, so you might be able to keep him for a lot of years.

    If you don’t have a really good backup who knows how to run that offense then you should not be running it because your team will have practiced THAT offense all year and won’t be able to turn on a dime with a drop-back QB.

    So that’s one issue.

    The other, obviously, is can defenses be created to stop the VERY BEST of the college read-option quarterbacks because those are the only guys who will make it to the NFL? The fact that college defenses have caught up with many of those offenses means nothing. Most of those quarterbacks aren’t good enough to make it to the NFL. Perhaps 2-4 might be each year, if that. So they will be those who CAN run, and CAN pass with accuracy. How do you stop that? Not so easy.

    You absolutely MUST stop the run between the tackles, so MUST be strong up the middle of your defense (DTs, MIKE, and a safety who can come up and hit). If you cannot do that, and you need help from all of the linebackers to stop the run, and you have an accurate passer as a quarterback, you are dead, plain-and-simple. Those LBers will HAVE to take a step forward on all fakes and therefore allow receivers to always get between them and the secondary. They will also have put themselves in a position where an outside blocker can seal them from the outside shoulder and make them unable to reach a fast QB as he turns the corner. You need a very stout middle front and MIKE, defensive ends and OLBers who can hesitate a part of a second before having to read middle run and then hit the hell out of the QB every time he tries to get to the outside.

    You also need high-quality corners because on ball fakes that a quarterback intends to make into a play-action pass your corners must be able to man-up on receivers as the QB drops back and the DEs, having hesitated a moment for a read so as not to get caught inside, accelerate toward him with, at most, one back still there to protect him and usually none. So you need corners capable of press coverage, very quick defensive ends (more JPP, Kiwi, Ojomo and Tracy, less Tuck), stout defensive tackles (do we have one of those? not in 2012, we didn’t) and a very good MIKE (where, oh where, is he?). You also need a scheme totally different from the one Perry Fewell runs. BUT, Fewell’s defense certainly shut down Cam Newton this year. How did that happen? That’s a tape someone should be looking at very closely.

  10.  GOAT56 says:

    GFan -

    I meant that I think the longevity will be similar of the run & shoot. Some teams still run a modified run and shoot with a TE replacing the 4th WR. So my point is that certain elements will be in the game to stay.

    I think stopping it is tougher than you think if you are willing to risk your QB. What makes it tough is that will multiple WRs still in the game play action is deadly. Being in the pistol a fake and a pass can happen very quickly so if you have a accurate passer and an athletic QB it’s tough. The solution is penetration but that comes with a risk of getting out of lanes.

    When I first saw the offense I thought it was simple and a gimmick but when you see it with talented QBs that can run and pass it’s tough to stop because it makes you hesitate as a defense.

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