The New York Giants have to answer a question that doesn’t have one: Who is going to guard Jason Witten? With a team of young, inexperienced linebackers and little safety depth, the Giants will be very weak against opposing tight ends of Witten’s caliber. The long-time Dallas Cowboy has also burned the Giants of late, even catching 18 passes in game against them last year.
Each candidate for the G-Men has an issue. The first, most obvious candidates are Antrel Rolle or Ryan Mundy, but both safeties are much better at delivering big hits and using space well rather than one-on-one coverage. Often the Giants will bring in a third safety in these situations to cover Witten, but also have good roamers. With only three safeties on the roster, however, this would be a dangerous move. The three-safety approach fits best from a scheme perspective as Rolle and Mundy are both comfortable playing close to the line and in the box. However, it is a risky proposition and it requires Cooper Taylor to play a lot, something the Giants probably are not comfortable with.
The other clear option is having a linebacker guard Witten, but none of the Giants starting linebackers excel at guarding tight ends, especially not All-Pro ones like Witten. Keith Rivers is the strong-side linebacker, and whether in man or zone, he will probably deal with Witten a lot. Rivers moves relatively well, but is not as good in coverage as someone like Michael Boley, who played with the Giants last year. Witten burned Boley and every other Giants’ linebacker last year, and now has an even worse player lined up across from him. One solution would be to play Jacquain Williams in many sets as he is known for his play in coverage. The problem is Williams struggles against the run, which is part of the reason why he isn’t starting.
There simply is not a best answer here. To minimize this direct issue, the Giants will likely play a lot of zone, specifically cover-2. Even so, Witten should be able to manipulate poor defenders even in a zone. Oddly enough, the best counter to Witten may be the defensive line. If they can get pressure on Tony Romo, he might not have time to find Witten downfield.
The truth of the matter is that Witten probably will gash the Giants on a few plays, but if the Giants can curtail the other Cowboys, they can still get a win.