After the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007, they were labeled as one of the best pass-rushing teams in the NFL. Every offense feared for their lives because the Giants would constantly find a way to put pressure on the quarterback. However, over the first two weeks of the 2013 season, that identity has changed. In two games, the Giants have two sacks and neither of them came against the Denver Broncos. There are numerous players who must step up their game if the Giants want a chance, not only of beating the Carolina Panthers, but making a run for the playoffs.
The first player that needs to improve is Justin Tuck. Over the past three seasons, Tucks productivity on the field has dropped significantly. In 2011, he totaled 37 tackles and only five sacks. While those numbers can be ignored because the Giants won the Super Bowl, his 2012 numbers cannot be overlooked. That year, he slightly improved his total tackles with 45, but he only had four sacks. This season he leads the team with 16 tackles, but doesn’t have a sack to his name. For the game against the Panthers, the captain of the Giants must go back to his old tricks if he wants his team to have a chance at a victory.
Another player that needs to go back to his old ways is Jason Pierre-Paul. Similar to Tuck, he has been inconsistent at finding ways to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. After his jaw-dropping 2011 season, in which he had 16.5 sacks, last season was a disappointment. He finished the year with six sacks and it appeared that teams had found a way to hold him back.
The storyline coming into this season is that he had extensive back surgery, but he’s still expected to be a physical presence for the Giants defensive line. While he was the only Giant to record a sack on Tony Romo, that was the only tackle he had in the game. When playing the Broncos, he didn’t record a sack and only had five tackles. Against a Panthers offensive line that gave up six sacks against the Buffalo Bills, the game this Sunday could be a golden opportunity for Pierre-Paul to re-emerge as the Giants defensive warrior.
Finally, Mathias Kiwanuka has had a terrible start to the season. He was expected to step in for Pierre-Paul as he recovered from his back surgery, but he has been the biggest disappointment for the Giants. He’s totaled only four tackles and doesn’t have a sack. While Kiwanuka has always struggled with sacking quarterbacks, it’s the lack of tackling that is most disturbing. His career high came in 2011 with 84 tackles, and last season he had a good year with 37. In the past two games, the opposing offensive lines have outplayed him in every way possible. With Pierre-Paul still recovering from his surgery, Kiwanuka is going to have to step up his game.
In a game that is a must win for the Giants, these players and the rest of the defensive line must find a way to stop the speedy Cam Newton. As previously mentioned, Newton was sacked six times by the Bills, and while they have one of the best defensive ends in Mario Williams, the Giants have just as much talent on the front line.