Of note, the Giants did an impeccable job stopping the run against the league’s top rushing team.
On a good number of plays, Jason Pierre-Paul, normally a defensive end, lined up at the defensive tackle position. Maybe it was just being able to see the game from a different angle, but JPP seemed to thrive in this role, recording three tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection.
So maybe this change isn’t the 3-4 scheme that I suggested in a previous post, but it does show that Tom Coughlin and Perry Fewell were concerned with the production up front and weren’t afraid to make a change.
“We’ve been trying hard, but nothing has been happening,” Coughlin said. “I think that we had a great week of practice, and we focused on playing better, knowing full well we would have to. The No. 1 thing going in against San Francisco is you have to stop the run. It was a very detailed preparation week in terms of stopping the run, period. We felt like if we could do that, perhaps we could have a chance to rush the passer, that’s all.”
With JPP shifting to defensive tackle, Matthias Kiwanuka, who is normally an outside linebacker, lined up at defensive end, and he too turned in a solid performance with two tackles and sack.
Kiwanuka often gets lost in the shuffle of talented defensive players on the Giants, but he can be just as effective as JPP, Justin Tuck or Osi Umenyiora. Kiwi was actually drafted as a defensive end out of Boston College, so lining up there is nothing new to him.
With defensive tackle Chris Canty being cleared to practice this week, his workload might be limited as he eases back into competition. As a result, don’t be surprised if JPP gets more snaps from defensive tackle rather than defensive end. Even so, Coughlin and Fewell may have a different scheme to defend against Robert Griffin III.
“It’s specifically for each game,” Coughlin said. “Each game brings with it new challenges and new forms of strategy to try to defend against. Much of that designation was for the specific opponent, but it does create some opportunities for you to develop some of the personnel combinations that we used, if in fact the situation is right…If in fact you’ve created, in order to defend personnel combinations or whatever, and the next opponent doesn’t use them, then perhaps you’re not going to see them.”
In the end, the pressure the Giants got on Alex Smith forced him into some bad passes, three of which were intercepted. Just because a defensive front doesn’t routinely sack the quarterback doesn’t mean the front seven can’t have an impact on the game.
“It’s all related,” Kiwanuka said. “You talk about coverage sacks and pressure picks. No matter what you do, as a defense you have to be doing these things together and play in sync.”
So we’ll see what the Giants have up their sleeves defensively against the Redskins. RGIII and company have the potential for big plays, and the Giants have shown in the past that they struggle against a mobile quarterback.
But as the Giants’ defense continues to get healthy, it can be a dominant unit, as we saw against the 49ers.
“We can get better,” Pierre-Paul said. “There were people out today, and once we get them back, we will get better as a team and keep going.”