Think back to the approach of week three in 2007. After two losses to the Cowboys and Packers, the Giants headed to Washington with few supporters behind a defense that allowed a combined 80 points. While the 2010 team heads in to the week three with a win under their belt and having allowed “only” 56 points, there is a parallel to be drawn. Both units started their respective seasons off with sub-par defensive performances under the leadership of a new defensive coordinator.
Steve Spagnuolo, the current head coach of the St. Louis Rams, was struggling for credibility among the New York faithful after such a dreadful start to the 2007 campaign. However, the goal line stand in Washington that sealed Bug Blue’s first victory set a tone for that unit. They were matched up against a big, physical offensive line that paved way for one of the better two-back duos in the league. On top of that, they were on the road. That stand on the goal line created a swagger for a unit that did not care who they were up against, where they were, or what the situation was. They simply lined up against their opponent and defeated them schematically and physically, time after time. The leaders of the unit, Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce, held their teammates accountable for their hustle, heart, and passion from start to finish. They went on to win tough games on the road in record-setting fashion and we all know how it ended in Scottsdale, Arizona against arguably the best offense this game has ever seen. The talent was indeed there but what brought in the results was, simply, their swagger.
Perry Fewell has taken over a defense that also set records in 2009, but not on the right end of them. Under Bill Sheridan, the Giants were giving up points in bunches throughout the year and it was the achilles heal to a team that completely fell apart during the second half of the season. Fewell immediately caught the attention of the defense with his outspoken, go-getter approach. We heard rave reviews about the intensity he brought to the team and considering the personnel upgrades on all three levels of the defense, things were looking up. The talent is far better than what the Giants had in 2007 on this side of the ball, however they lack the swagger we saw #92 play with for years. They lack the true leader on the field that gets everyone going, the guy that gets the most out of role players. We are getting used to watching the unit get pushed all over the field and instead of putting an end to it, these New York Giants seem to accept it and hope that it ends, rather than putting an end to it themselves.
Sunday afternoon will present an opportunity for these guys, behind their new defensive coordinator, to make an enormous statement. Not necessarily about their talent, not necessarily about their scheme, but about their will to fight through adversity and play with attitude, with confidence….with swagger. Chris Johnson is the most dangerous running back in the league the moment this defense loses their will to fight, he will find his way in to the end zone. Someone needs to take he bull by the horn, look it straight in the eye, and throw it to the ground with anger. When it gets up, do it again. Antrell Rolle and Justin Tuck appear to be working on the leadership roles but the inconsistency needs to end. I can understand the physical performance being up and down, but that swagger needs to be there at all times. I have not seen it for a couple years now and without it, the Giants will continue to set records, just not the right ones.