Three weeks ago, the New York Giants defense was in disarray; they were slow, sloppy and unrecognizable. The Giants had allowed more points in total than any team in the league and more points across the first five games of the season than any team in the Super Bowl era. Naturally, the defense was left highly accountable for these misdemeanors, though, even in recognition, it showed no sign of stopping.
Three weeks later and halfway through the season, the picture is looking a little rosier in the swamps of Jersey. The Giants have two-consecutive wins, Eli Manning‘s interception patches seem to be slowing and the Giants’ defense is revitalized, if not totally transformed; three things that just a fortnight ago were unthinkable, leaving us to wonder if coach Tom Coughlin has run out of wishes.
What was formerly a porous, penetrable and overly-generous defensive-11 has recorded two-consecutive offensive-shutouts and been the cornerstone in the Giants recent success. To go from leaking an NFL record-breaking points total to conceding just 14 points across 120 minutes of football is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s difficult to conceive a team undergoing such a radical transformation so quickly, though, to jump from the very worst to the very best in any category is a real statement of intent.
The transformation has begun up front and slowly trickled backwards. The defensive front seven have limited league-leading rushers (LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson) to two of their least productive games of the season whilst the influence of linebacker Jon Beason seems to be spreading like the gospel.
The Giants were propping up the pile having recorded just five sacks in total through the first six games of the season, yet they have doubled their total in the two games since, getting to the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks four times in Week 8 for their best outing of the season, so far. In contrast, the Giants rank joint-fifth in fumbles forced as the production on the front line continues to increase and improve. There is evidently something simmering under the surface in New York and the statistics are starting to prove it.
What would a solid defensive front seven be without anything in the backfield? The Giants’ rearguard improvements are steadily showing. A few weeks ago, I voiced my concern over the problems in the Giants secondary; it appears that somebody must have been listening, either that or the frailties were universally obvious. I called for the experienced heads among the secondary ranks to step up and channel their years as a professional to drag this team off their proverbial behinds.
Nine-year veteran safety Antrel Rolle was first to step up to the plate with an interception, four tackles and three passes defended for his best performance of the season to date in Week 7. Cornerback Terrell Thomas was next in line after being reinstated as a starter versus the Eagles in Week 8; you just couldn’t keep him out of the game as he contributed wholly with 10 solo tackles, one assist, a forced fumble and a timely interception just for good measure. The Giants knew they were onto a winner when they selected Thomas in the second round of the 2008 Draft, though, it works both ways, and Thomas now has to begin to repay the faith shown in him by the team after spending the last two years on the sidelines.
What a difference a few weeks can make. What was an injury-ravaged and extremely-fallible secondary is now looking back to somewhere near its best. All of sudden, there is competition for places which can only serve to be healthy; Thomas is returning to full fitness and has Trumain McBride pushing him for position on one side, whilst Prince Amukamara is finally getting a decent run in the team and flexing the abilities that made him a first-round draft pick a few seasons ago. The cherry atop this cake is the eagerly-awaited return of Corey Webster, who is being tentatively introduced back to first-team duties — nobody offers more to the Giants at cornerback than their nine-year veteran, two-time Super Bowl champion veteran.
Here is to hoping that the Giants’ offense is soon to follow suit. They’ve got two weeks to prepare for the Oakland Raiders and a three-game home stretch. Two weeks ago, the only way was up for the Giants’ defense, they suitably obliged.