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How Jerry Reese built this team – Defense Part I

We looked at the offense in my last blog and how Jerry Reese assembled a pretty good one. We can’t say that about the defense this season, statistically it wasn’t that good and part of the reason the Giants were 9-7. So many injuries derailed it, Terrell Thomas, Jonathan Goff were put on IR and many of the starting players suffered nagging injuries that hindered their performance all season. Although part of the reason the Giants finished 9-7 to win their division was because the defense started to come together at the end of the season, just in time to help salvage it. Let’s take a look at this defense and how it was put together.

 

To me it seems that Reese concentrates on one position a little more than others. He picks out one position he feels is most important and patches the others together the best he could with free agents and later round draft picks. He knows that due to the cap and the fact good teams always pick late in the draft he is not going to have stars at every position. First off you can’t pay all those guys, secondly if you put all your money in one place you have nothing left to fill in other positions as teams like the Knicks and Miami Heat found out in the NBA and the Eagles in the NFL. So you have to spread it around, some positions you will have stars and others you will and must have solid professionals who do their job, they need to get paid too, that’s the only way to put a winning team together. Reese truly understand this and goes about his job with this understanding, he puts the best group out there from the Star players to the guys on special teams who give up their bodies for the chance just to play in the NFL. There is also the issue of depth, there are going to be injuries and you better have some depth. Jerry Reese somehow finds pieces and puts them in place.

 

The star of the defense is the line, from one end to the other they are like a chorus line of hungry lions and the quarterback is raw meat on the move. Even the second unit is almost as good as some starting ones. The starters right now are Tuck, Canty, Joseph and JPP, the backups are Osi, Dave Tollefson, Rocky Bernard and Jimmy Kennedy. I’m going to include Kiwi in here because he was drafted as a defensive end and does many times rush the passer like one. His transition to linebacker has been a rocky one and I felt if they had left him there from day one he would have been a pro bowl player at that position. Kiwanuka(Kiwi) does as far as I can tell line up as a DE in the Spagnuolo type NASCAR line, that’s where the four linemen are all defensive ends and rush the passer as such. The Giant DEs are strong and very fast, the big slower interior lineman cannot handle that speed. It works on passing downs but it is not something you would use all the time, it won’t work on running downs. The Patriots know what’s coming but can they stop it?

 

The star of this line is JPP, Jason Pierre-Paul, this was the most dramatic pick of Reese’s tenure as GM of the Giants. It was a huge gamble on a player who had very limited experience in football at any level. His physical stature and ability was off the chart as well his athletic prowess, but could he play football, we now know the answer is a resounding YES. At this point he is the closest thing the Giants have had on defense since LT, sorry Mike Strahan, JPP if healthy will surpass you. Like LT he disrupts an offense and has to be accounted for. I wish I can say I was glad when he was drafted, I was not, I thought we needed an offensive lineman and I wanted Pouncey. I did not want JPP, I thought he was too much of a risk, I was wrong. All the GMs in the NFL were drooling waiting for the other general managers to pass on him because he was such a gamble. Reese took that gamble and it has paid off, they all knew that although he was a gamble the reward was worth the risk. He was the Giants first pick in the 2010 draft at number 15. He’s only making $475,000, I wonder what that number will look like when his rookie contract it up.

 

On the other side of JPP is Justin Tuck, a third round pick from Notre Dame in 2005 who was lucky to have been taken under the wing of the great Michael Strahan. Tuck when healthy is a force like Michael was. He can rush the passer as well as play the run. Not many defensive linemen can do that anymore, injuries have plagued him and he will never statistically reach the heights he might have. As long as Tuck is in there and healthy he makes the defensive line superior to most others. Next to him is Chris Canty, drafted by the Dallas cowboys in the 4th round of the 2005 draft he was never happy nor comfortable in a 3-4 defense, maybe being a New Yorker he was never happy in Texas. He has found a home in New York with the Giants 4-3 defense and has played very well, sometimes even at times unstoppable. Linval Joseph is also a huge man at 6”4” and 320 pounds next to Canty at 6’7”, listed at 317. Joesph was a second round pick in 2010 and there was never any doubt about his ability. Right now he becoming a dominate force inside and will only get better. Rocky Bernard was signed in 2009 after having some success in Seattle, he never lived up to what he did there but at times when not injured made himself known. For a backup he does some very nice work in limited snaps.

 

I was excited when the Giants drafted Marvin Austin, he is very similar to another player we had Alford who never regained his form after knee surgery. Austin has an interesting history, he has a very high ceiling as a player much more than Alford, too bad he was injured and placed on IR. I am looking forward to him playing next season, he will be pushing everybody for playing time. Dave Tollefson is a very average athlete that makes the best of what he has, he like Blackburn is an important special teams player and if ignored will make the play, a very good backup who just might start on some other teams. He was a free agent signed in 2007 by Reese, drafted in the 7th round by Green Bay. And last but not least, Osi Umenyiora drafted by Ernie in the second round of the 2003 draft. We all know about Osi, no need to rehash the issues Osi has had with the team. He has become a very good backup for JPP and can still rush the passer with the best of them. Jimmy Kennedy has had his problems but has found a home here which like Canty makes sense since he is a New Yorker. He’s played well when getting snaps but has never lived up to his first round draft selection by the Rams, he was the 12th pick. I don’t know if he will even be on the Super Bowl roster, I hope he is and has a great game.

 

The next group has gotten a lot of attention in the draft and free agency, that’s the secondary. Let’s have a look at this group of players. The best and most consistent so far has been Corey Webster, he was considered a bust at one time due to the defensive coordinators not knowing how best to use him, I remember one game with him and another DB just looking at each other in confusion after Webster gave up a TD, not anymore. He is a M2M cover guy, that’s Mano a Mano, Giants defensive backs all seem to be on the bigger side and physical, perfect for man to man coverage. Not as good as Revis but in that group. He was a draft pick of Ernie Acorrsi, a second round pick in 2005 and has played exceptionally well over the last few years. Next is Ross, a number one pick of Reese in 2007, his first draft. He has had injury issues throughout his career, I thought originally Reese was hoping to draft Revis but the Jets pounced on him and the next best player was Ross. Believe it or not they were very closely rated coming out of college, maybe if Ross hadn’t had all the injuries he would have been a much better player. Right now he is a good player who teases you by starting to show signs of greatness then getting injured. Before the season our number two cornerback was Terrell Thomas, a second round pick out of USC in 2008 who had surpassed Ross on the depth chart. He’s another big physical corner who used that well because he lacked the top end speed, he’s perfect for covering that second receiver. Unfortunately he was injured during the preseason with a torn ligament, hopefully he will return to form.

 

Even though this group was set Reese used his number one pick in 2011 for another cornerback, in hindsight a great move but it has not worked out that way. Prince Amukamara was very highly regarded coming into the draft. He was thought to be a player going much earlier than he did, a Revis type cover guy. Reese swooped in and took him 19th in the first round. Everybody said Reese scored again as he did with JPP, but it has not turned out that way. The strike shortened season hurt many rookies, cornerback is a very technical position, there is so much to learn and just plain physical ability will not get you there. So the Prince was already behind the curve add to that injuries and this looked like it was going to be a lost season for the Giants first round pick, at a time when they needed him the most. It was so important to have three good cover cornerbacks because so many teams run three wide receiver formations or at least have a pass catching tight end or running back, there is going to be a lot of people to cover. When Prince finally got his chance he did not come through, he was benched. He was not ready for prime time, I personally feel that was partially due to Tom Coughlin. When Fewell was asked if Prince was ready he said yes but it was TCs decision to hold him back when he could have been in the lineup. I wondered what the hell for, this guy needs to get into the game and get some experience in case the injury prone Ross goes down, we already lost Thomas. As it came to pass Ross was injured and Prince was not ready because he went in without enough game time experience. This player has all the skills and is a competitor, I am hoping he gets another chance in the super bowl to prove he is as good as Reese thought he was. The Giants are going to need his cover skills against the Patriots. The fourth cornerback is Will Blackmon who also returns punts. He was a 4th round pick in 2005 by the Green Bay Packers so there has to be some talent there. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

 

Our starting safeties are Kenny Phillips and Antre Rolle. Phillips who is referred to as KP was a first round draft pick in 2008, the last pick in that round since the Giants won the super bowl. The Pats who lost were picking before the Giants and were surely going to pick him, thanks to then Jets coach Eric Mangini the Pats lost that pick because they were filming the opposing team’s practices, a huge no-no in the NFL. So the commissioner took that pick away as punishment for that infraction. Without doubt the Pats were going to pick KP and thanks to Eric we got him. I and many others thought he would be the next coming of LT as a safety, a disruptive player other teams had to account for, but he had a knee problem that required surgery and to me he has never regained the speed and agility he once had. He does a better than average job and seems to be improving every year both physically and more importantly knowing his job. So maybe he will never be the game changer we had hoped nonetheless he is still an excellent free safety. Antre Rolle was signed as a free agent in 2010 after being a first round pick in 2005 by the Cardinals. He is noted for his tough inside play and good coverage ability as a strong safety. He was a cornerback moved to safety, he has had some trouble covering speed guys as we have seen them blow by Antre a few times, still his experience and instincts have helped the defense overcome the lack of quality linebacking. The sad story here is Chad Jones who was drafted in third round of the 2010 draft. During the off season he was in a car accident and almost lost his leg. He has been in rehab and from the reports I have read is coming along very well. He was a BIG safety at 6’3” and it is said he is coming back as a linebacker, we can only hope that he is healthy and whole as a person which is more important than football. To round out the last of the defensive backfield is Deon Grant, not much to say in my opinion, he is what he is and as free safety he is scary in coverage but not in a good way, but has had some good moments mostly against the run.

 

Next will be part II.


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4 Responses to “How Jerry Reese built this team – Defense Part I”

  1. Jason says:

    you forgot tyler sash

    • Big Daddy says:

      If that’s the only guy I left off this list or got wrong I am very happy. But thanks for pointing that out since he is such an important player in the overall scheme of things. Of course now that I said that he ends up making a key INT or special teams play to help win the game.

  2. Jason says:

    aye u never know look at devin thomas last week anything possible

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