an article last year before the Jets game,
A few players were enthused by defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s willingness to get back to basics this week. The plan is apparently to rid themselves of many on-field checks in favor of getting back to basic schemes that worked last season.
Gone will be the confusion, the “I was right” excuses between players executing different calls, the not-so-veiled grumbling from Antrel Rolle wanting to be a “ball hawk” and the passive approach from defensive backs trying to figure out what to do.
Also eliminated will be the ridiculous rate of third-down conversions by opponents, the quick releases from quarterbacks giving the pass rush little time and the receivers running free for uncontested touchdown grabs.
Well, at least they can only hope all of these things will be cleaned up for a defense that has yet to turn in a dominating performance this year.
“From the front to the back. It’s been everything, it hasn’t been right,” safety Deon Grant said. “But this week (Fewell) got back to, ‘Forget it. I’m going out there with the guys I’ve got, I’m going back to last year’s mentality.’
“He’s been trying so hard this year to call hard defenses to be effective but he was trying to protect certain guys that didn’t know the defense as well.”
We knew exactly what packages we were running in each game, so we knew the defense,” Grant said of last year’s game plans. “We knew how to freak it if we wanted to.”
Uh, what it?
"'Freak it’ means two guys out there used to playing with each other, and he’d do something and I’d piggyback off him. I’d mess up and he’d clean it up for me so it’s not highlighted,” Grant said. “This year you’ve got guys who don’t know the system like that. You’ve got injuries. So you’ve got to try to figure out ways to make it work."
Grant is referring to the rookies, namely linebackers Jacquian Williams and Greg Jones as well as cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Williams has had issues in zone coverage, Jones blew an adjustment from zone to man on a touchdown by the 49ers and a confused Amukamara has allowed a few big plays, including 74- and 40-yarders against the Cowboys and a 20-yard touchdown against Washington.
Grant said the things the Giants did last year were on display in the game against the Patriots. Looking back at the “All-22” coaches’ tape, it’s evident their two interceptions were on simple coverage looks, as opposed to the “complex” calls that have confused Amukamara and even veterans like Rolle and Webster on Dez Bryant’s 50-yard touchdown for Dallas.
Both of the interceptions against New England appeared to be Cover-3 defenses in which the two cornerbacks and a safety (Phillips) had the deep zones, with three linebackers and Rolle patrolling underneath. One interception was a result of Boley’s tipping a pass underneath a route, while the other came when Grant trailed tight end Rob Gronkowski up the seam.
As Grant dropped, he seemed to convert it to man coverage, with Boley keeping an eye on the zone he vacated.
That’s right, they freaked it.
It looked like we played a lot of man last year but we used to mix it up,” Grant said. “We were aggressive because we knew what we were doing. Now, we’re out there guessing too much. Last year, even when we were playing zone, we were attacking. Now, we’re not attacking.”
They’re also not doing what Fewell and his assistants identified as a key ingredient in their defense: matching up “late in the down.” In other words, starting in zone and matching up with a receiver running through it.
Instead, there’s been a lot of standing around zones without making a play on the ball.
“We haven’t done it as well as we did it a year ago,” Fewell said, adding: “It’s a matter of trust, knowing who your partner is and how you’re working with your partner. It’s more of a, ‘I know where everybody is and I know where my responsibilities are and this is how I play it.’”
Fewell wants to see it this week. He has to. In a lot of ways, he’s simplified the game plan by getting back to what worked last year.
And the players like it.
“He’s been doing it week in and week out but he hasn’t been sold on it,” Grant said. “This week he said, ‘It’s do or die.’”