Jaime C. Harris
In the New York City area, and for that matter nationally, the Jets are garnering far more attention than the Giants. As the Jets enter the 2010-11 season with high expectations of reaching the Super Bowl, the Giants are an uncertainty.
They open the season at home this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers (1 P.M.) in an unfamiliar position: the Giants are not a solid bet to make the playoffs. Although the NFC East, the division in which they play, has only one team, the Dallas Cowboys, considered a strong postseason contender, the Giants still face potential struggles in traditionally what has been one of the most grueling divisions to navigate.
The ambiguity surrounding the Giants’ fortunes is tied to their recent showings on the field. They were 8-8 last season and bore the look of a team in transition – both offensively and defensively – this preseason.
The defensive side of the ball is discernibly a greater concern than the offense. Perry Fewell, hired by the Giants in January, is the unit’s third defensive coordinator in the last three seasons. He and Giants head coach Tom Coughlin are quite familiar with each others styles and strengths as Fewell served as Coughlin’s defensive backs coach from 1998 to 2002 when Coughlin controlled the sidelines of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fewell brings with him a high energy mindset and will employ what is termed a read and react scheme. This system is a less aggressive one than the blitzing, attacking philosophy employed by former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during the Giants’ 2008 Super Bowl season and 14-2 campaign the next year.
Schemes are often given too much credence, as players must make plays irrespective of the defensive paradigms. To support Fewell, the Giants have made significant changes in player personnel to match the coaching the changes, and are hopeful the marriage will yield results demonstrably better than last season, when the defense was for the most part awful.
Offensively, the Giants most pressing concern is the offensive line. Advancing age and a rash of injuries engulfing the collective front could stymie what is otherwise a group that is well-built.
If the defense gels early, the Giants can return to the playoffs after being left out of the tournament in 2009. With a schedule that is favorable on paper, the Giants are looking at 10-6 and a wildcard berth.