Giants defense in focus as team gets to work

Jason Pierre-Paul, left.

The Giants began their Super Bowl XLVI preparation in earnest on Thursday and sounded and looked as refreshed as any team could be that is coming off five-straight elimination-type wins.

The last time these two faced in the Super Bowl, following the 2007 season, the Patriots were a record-setting group and trying to cap a first-ever 19-0 campaign but were fended off, mostly due to the Giants’ pass rush. Defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were on that team.

And while Michael Strahan is no longer there, he’s been replaced admirably by second-year phenom Jason Pierre-Paul.   

Tuck said he’s rarely seen clips of Super Bowl XLII and what little he has seen of the tape has been a blur. What he does remember, however, is how the Giants’ defensive line played a huge role in determining the outcome. 

When asked why his team, specifically the defensive line, has had so much success in stifling Tom Brady, Tuck shrugged and gave all praise to the entire defense.  

“It comes down to 11 guys playing as one. [Brady] thrives on mismatches and I think we match up well with them,” Tuck said. “Those tight ends and receivers can pretty much go with any route that they want to go with to create mismatches, [but] the people that we have in our secondary, we have safeties that play like corners and we match up pretty well with those guys.”

Tuck then added it’ll be about how well they adjust once the Patriots figure out some things.    

“They are going to do some things that we may not be ready for at the beginning of that football game and it is going to come down to adjustments,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to make those adjustments to whatever they have shown that we haven’t seen and making it to a close game and keeping them kind of stopped on offense. … Eventually, it is going to come down to the team that executes this day.”         

Antrel Rolle isn’t one of Tuck’s brethren on the line, but agreed with his assertions.

“I think we match up extremely well. We have a great group of guys on our defensive side of the ball, especially on that line,” Rolle said. “It’s all going to boil down to who makes the least amount of mistakes, who’s more focused on what they have to get done and most of all, who has that dog mentality, who wants it the most. That’s what every ballgame comes down to.” 

Big Blue notes

» Coughlin said his first words to his team during Thursday morning meetings were, “And then there were two.”

Coughlin seemed in a light-hearted mood during his media session, especially when asked he’s in superstitions. The usually straight-laced Coughlin added this gem: “I haven’t changed my so-and-so’s [underwear] in three or four weeks but other than that, no.”   

Coughlin again doing stand-up: “Get a ladder, probably,” when asked how they will deal with the Patriots’ 6-foot-6 tight end Rob Gronkowski.      

When asked about New England’s other great tight end, Aaron Hernandez, Coughlin acknowledged the tough matchup and said due to Hernandez’s speed they’ll treat him more like a wide receiver this time. When asked if he’s seen anything different from the Patriots’ usage of Hernandez, Coughlin shrugged: “Nothing’s changed, except for the fact he’s a running back now too.”     

» Pierre-Paul said he’s ready right now to play the game today and all this down time is dragging on: “It does [drag on]. I’m ready to play. … Just see who’s going to be Super Bowl champions.”       

The second-year defensive end has youth on his side and young legs, but the layoff was certainly needed for some of the older veterans. He allowed that for some guys the rest will pay dividends: “It’s kind of a time for everybody in here to get right, give everybody in here time to get healthy and do what they have to do to get healthy. We have to be ready man. Monday we get out there and then media day, three days and other than that the last three days we have to practice hard.”    

» Among the players who missed practice were center David Baas (abdomen/neck), wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), cornerback Corey Webster (hamstring), linebacker Jacquian Williams (foot), linebacker Chase Blackburn (calf), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and cornerback/returner Will Blackmon (knee).

Coughlin said the seven who missed practice on Thursday were just a formality: “Trying to be smart. It’s precautionary to ensure they don’t aggravate their injuries unnecessarily.
  
» Linebacker Michael Boley said it’s been a long time since he watched a Super Bowl and is relishing the fact he’s actually playing in one: “I actually don’t watch the Super Bowl if I am not in it. I just have been like that since I have been in the league. If I am not playing in it, then I won’t watch it.”  

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.


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