The Giants claim to have 15 starters on defense and they may in fact need that many to slow down Peyton Manning and the Colts.
So much is being made about Manning Bowl II, but reality check — Eli isn’t facing Peyton. Each has their own worries. While Eli will be facing Dwight?Freeney and that quick pass-rush on a fast carpet, Peyton will have to contend with the myriad of looks from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
By rule, Big Blue can’t have 15 defenders at a time, but they just want it to seem that way. The coaching staff has lectured since training camp that the defensive juggling and rotations are a necessity and that players have to buy in. It worked against Matt Moore in Week 1, but facing a four-time NFL?MVP is another story.
“It’s game-to-game,” coach Tom Coughlin said when asked about the deployment of defensive personnel. “The players have done a good job of digesting everything that was thrown at them. We’ve done a nice job of communicating and substituting.”
Coughlin isn’t interested in designating a strict 11-man starting lineup. Against Carolina, three safeties (Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant, and Kenny Phillips) played a majority of the snaps at the same time, while linebackers played end and ends played linebacker.
“There are 15 guys that start,” Coughlin said. “They’ve all done a good job of trying to understand. We’re going to use the players to the best of their ability.”
Michael Boley is an example of the unselfishness. Boley, who started every game last season and every pre-season game this season at weakside linebacker, gave way in the opening-game starting lineup to customary defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. The coaches deemed Kiwi a better fit to meet their goal of stopping the Panthers’ rushing attack but against the Colts, a passing team, we might see as many as six defensive backs [dime defense] on field on the opening play.
“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about this,” Coughlin said. “We’ve been on this subject since last winter. We’ll do the best we can to determine what we’re playing against and the structure needed to give us the edge. We have a lot of guys. We have guys that play the run very well and still are not necessarily a part of one or two packages. It’s just the way it is.”
Boley let his actions speak for themselves against Carolina with five tackles (four solo) and a quarterback hit. Kiwanuka had perhaps the best day of Giant defenders with four tackles, two sacks, a tackle for a loss, and a forced fumble.
Boley said he’s bought in, adding that whatever is best for the team, he’s willing to do.
“First and foremost, it’s whatever is going to benefit the team,” Boley said of his reserve duty. “All the other stuff is secondary. Of course, we all want to be on the field at the same time but you can’t. They put us in the right position to give us the best chance to win.”
How much the Giants can disrupt Peyton Manning will go a long way in determining if Fewell’s rotations really work. Peyton said during Wednesday’s press conference that he knows Fewell will have plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
“I think one thing that’s tough is that it’s a new defensive coordinator and he has new players,” Manning said. “Anytime you have a new coordinator, there’s not a whole lot of film to draw back on [because] when you have new players, it allows you to do different things. With the defensive line the Giants have, it gives them great flexibility. And with the athleticism at corner and safety, it allows them to do a lot of different things. There is always a little bit of the unknown here in the first weeks of the season.”
The best way for Manning to combat Fewell’s rotation is the usage of the no-huddle offense. Baltimore exposed New York with its stellar use of the no-huddle during the pre-season. You can bet Peyton was watching. Coughlin, however, says he thinks Big Blue already fixed that quirk.
“We have the experience of that game and hopefully have a good plan,” said Coughlin. “We haven’t played the Colts recently but we did play them a few years ago, so I think we have a solid plan that we started in the offseason. You will have to wait and see.”
WEEK 2 MATCHUPS
Each Manning has a Super Bowl ring – and the game’s MVP award – but let’s be honest: this isn’t all that close. Many consider Eli Manning an elite quarterback but for such a lofty status, he can still be wildly inaccurate. Meanwhile, big brother Peyton is the standard for all quarterbacks today and is already an all-time great. He attempted 57 passes last week in Houston without an interception; something we highly doubt Eli could ever do.
Neither ground game sets the world on fire. The Colts’ combination of Joseph Addai and Donald Brown at times seems like they’re just out there for show. The Giants’ duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs has their own problems, with the offensive line’s sudden run-blocking ineptness, inconsistencies, and a budding controversy with the benching of the temperamental Jacobs. Big Blue gets the slight edge only because at least they try to run the ball and control the clock.
The Giants receivers shocked the league last season with its productivity. They continued their upward slope last week with a 13-catch, 203-yard performance. Meanwhile, the Colts passing game could probably throw any Average Joe out there with Peyton Manning at the controls. That’s not a slight towards his receivers but a confirmation of his greatness. That being said, Indianapolis has more firepower with household names like Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark and budding stars Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon.
Indianapolis constantly keeps Peyton clean despite a no-name starting five and his penchant to drop back as many as 40 times a game. New York used to have a solid core which started almost four consecutive seasons but age and injuries have caught up to the G-Men and they no longer hold that distinction as the standard bearer of offensive lines.
DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN:
The Colts have a manic pass rush from the edges with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. They are the standard for bookend pass rushers. Their linebackers are quick but small and can be run at – just ask Texans running back Arian Foster, who embarrassed Indy by gaining 231 yards last week. As a unit Indianapolis can’t compare to the Giants’ stellar line rotation of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Barry Cofield, Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty, and Jason Pierre-Paul. New York’s linebackers are better, too, with Keith Bulluck leading the way as well.
The loss of Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders would be considered devastating if he wasn’t always hurt. When healthy, however, Sanders is elite. He’s out and there’s no one on that roster who can take his place. The Giants boast a plethora of talent in the secondary, even with Aaron Ross banged up. Three safeties [Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, and Deon Grant] play prominent roles and corners Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster are playmakers, too. They’ll certainly be tested by Peyton Manning but at least have the athletes to make the Colts earn its yardage through the air.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin simply and curtly answered “no” when asked if he’s been pleased with this unit. Whether it’s rookie punter Matt Dodge shanking punts or return man Darius Reynard not being able to break 20 yards per kick return, New York has shown inconsistencies there. Indy, meanwhile, has arguably the most clutch kicker of all time in Adam Vinatieri.