The New York Giants‘ defense is coming on leaps and bounds since opening the season in uncharacteristic and, quite frankly, laughable fashion.
The Giants had given up more total points than any of their other 31 adversaries through the first six games of the season, breaking an unwanted record which dated back way beyond the Super Bowl era.
Three weeks and two games later the transformation is there for all to see. The secondary is getting increasingly healthier with established names like Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas back in the fold, and the second-string linebackers are pushing the starters for places as competition for playing time heats up. The Giants flipped the spectrum on its head. Having conceded over 30 points-per-game in their opening five losses, they’ve allowed just 14 total points during victories in Weeks 7 and 8 of the regular season. Perhaps even more poignant is the fact that the Giants defense has not allowed an opponent an offensive score since Robbie Gould kicked a field goal for the Chicago Bears some nine quarters ago.
This recent upturn in fortunes for the Giants ‘D’ is further heralded when considering the personnel they were up against. Franchise running backs LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson both rank, like clockwork, among the top-five in their position for yardage this season, and they also have something else in common. Both ‘Shady’ and ‘All Day’ have had their least effective outings of the season against the Giants. The Giants’ run defense has been elevated up to 9th in the league after making an impressive stand against the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles.
This brings us suitably up-to-date and a Week 10 meeting with the Oakland Raiders whose offensive strengths are rather blatant. The Raiders’ passing attack ranks a lowly 30th in the league, and in contrast they are the fourth-best team in the NFL when running the ball, averaging 147.8 yards-per-game — no prizes for guessing where Perry Fewell‘s attention should be directed in the build-up to this Sunday’s action.
A big part of the reason why the Raiders rank highly in rushing yardage is their mobile quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The third-year pro leads all quarterbacks (and indeed a lot of running backs) for rushing yardage this season with 485 yards on just 63 attempts. Pryor currently ranks 15th in the entire league for rushing yardage, above such established names as Knowshon Moreno and Maurice Jones-Drew for whom running the ball is the extent of their profession. Pryor is evolving from the new breed of quarterbacks who rely on their legs almost as much as their arms, and the Raiders’ game-plan plays to these strengths. Let the Giants be warned; Pryor is coming off the back of his best game of the season so far after passing for 288 yards and adding an extra 94 on the ground in a blowout loss to the Eagles in Week 9.
The Giants’ run defense will require similar production to that of the best two weeks if they are to prevent the Raiders from running riot. They should also be looking to channel and learn from previous experiences, having had a tough time against mobile quarterbacks in recent times. Michael Vick scrambled for 79 yards on just seven carries against the Giants in Week 5 and was achieving so much success with his legs that he suffered a hamstring injury and hasn’t played a full game since. It may have been last season, but the performance of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III should still be fresh in Fewell’s memory; RG3 terrorized the Giants’ defensive front-seven with his read-option play and accumulated 72 rushing yards on just five carries in what was a pivotal victory in Week 13.
As a side note, the Giants may also want to play close attention to Raiders running back Rashad Jennings this week. The backup rusher made the most of his opportunity when replacing the injured Darren McFadden, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown and adding 74 yards receiving in what was the best all-purpose outing of his career.
The Raiders may be a one-trick-pony in terms of offensive success, but they are very good at what they do. The Giants have shown their capabilities against the run in recent weeks, and there is extra emphasis on this for Week 10.
Related Link – Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden to Miss Week 10?