The Giants are undergoing a bit of a youth movement on defense, which may explain why that unit has seemed more energetic and faster.
Big Blue finally broke their seven-game losing streak last week with a resounding win in Tennessee. During the last two games, the Giants (4-9) have a combined 15 sacks, including consecutive games in which rookie linebacker Devon Kennard registered two sacks in each.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been under fire for most of the year, but with a reworked defensive rotation, the maligned coach is starting to get the most out of the youngsters – particularly Kennard.
“He is becoming smarter as a football player with the experience that he is getting. I think he is displaying that in his play, being a strong, powerful player,” said Fewell, acknowledging the work of linebacker coach Jim Herrmann. “Coach Herrmann has done a great job of bringing him along and developing him and we are trying to take advantage of his talents and trying to use him in the right ways. And Devon is taking what he is learning in the classroom and applying it on the field. In the classroom, when you ask him a question, he is pretty sharp. A lot of times when they are out there on the field and it happens fast, as a ball coach, you can see them thinking, like, ‘okay, I know what I am supposed to do, but I really didn’t use my athleticism to do it.’ He is starting to use his athleticism and executing those moves on the field seamlessly.”
It wasn’t always a seamless transition for the Giants’ burgeoning players. But with more game experience, mostly due to injuries to key players, the dividends have shown on the field lately.
According to Football Outsiders, the Giants’ defensive efficiency jumped three spots following last week’s decimation of the Titans. Now sitting at 22nd, they’re showing a steady progress, just in time for a Washington offense that has a ranking of 27thin the league and is still trying to decide which quarterback to start, Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III.
Fewell likes how the defense is jelling and progressing and said, despite the “unique” gameplanning this week of having to prepare for two different quarterback styles, he feels the young guys are up to the task.
“It is pretty difficult, getting ready for two guys," Fewell said. "You have to have two game plans, so to speak, [and] you have to divide your practice time in two different types of styles of quarterbacks.Even though they may run the same plays, they run them in a different manner within a different speed. That is a juggling act that we are continuing throughout the week.”
Fewell continued, praising other young guys that he expects to make an impact on Sunday.
“Look at [defensive tackle] Jay [Bromley]," Fewellsaid. "He came to us as a guy that could push the pocket and we were trying to help him develop his run-game skills. I think he has developed some of his run game skills, and can really help stop the run. Kerry [Wynn], too. He had a solid preseason for us. He just had to continue to practice and get better. And now he’s on the field more.Both are getting pretty disciplined in what they do in the run game as well as the pass game. We are looking to see if they can continue to display that power and strength and apply it in the game consistently in order to be every-down players.”
Jason Pierre-Paul has been an every-down player for most of his tenure. Although he only has eight sacks, Pierre-Paul has put together a very solid season, ranking only behind Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt in efficiency.
Now Big Blue’s sage defensive leader, Pierre-Paul has been in the film room studying Washington’s offense intensely. He noted that “it doesn’t matter” who the starting quarterback is, and is confident in his ability and preparation – and confident in the youngsters he’s been guiding – to make whichever signal-caller uncomfortable.
“It starts in that [film] room," Pierre-Paul said. "The coaches have done a good job all week explaining things to us. Communication has been better with us. We have guys out, so we know we have to communicate way better than we were before. We stay in and study more. We take extra time and come in during the morning to study. We have a lot of young guys playing, but they are doing their jobs and playing great. Damontré [Moore] is doing a great job. Kerry Wynn is doing a great job and you have Cullen [Jenkins] playing in there, too. … We know what it takes to get to the quarterback.”
Big Blue notes:
- Kennard on being the first Giants’ rookie to win Defensive Player of the Week honors: “There have been some incredible linebackers to play for this organization so something like that, it was definitely special, but I know that I have a long ways to go and a lot of things that I want to improve and continue to develop in my game ... [like] route-recognition, understanding formations, just allowing myself to play faster and faster. I just want to continue to get better. I’m not in any way, shape or form satisfied.”
- The Giants have also been a lot more blitz-happy now that Kennard is emerging into that game-changing factor. Kennard said he’ll do whatever the coaches ask of him, and although he enjoys getting after the passer, he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into merely a specialist: “Whatever they ask of me, whether it’s blitzing, whether it’s in coverage, whether it’s stopping the run. Whatever they ask me, I want to try to excel at. I want to be a peak performer every time I step on the field. I don’t want to be seen as just a blitzing linebacker. I want to be able to do whatever they need and ask of me every week.”