If the Giants Aren't Soft, Now's the Time to Prove It

Tough talk and shakeups for a reeling defense

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Dec 4, 2009  |  Updated 4:30 PM EDT
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For the last seven weeks, the Giants met questions about what's wrong with their team with incredulity. Nothing was wrong, they said, they were a good football team and those losses would turn into victories soon enough. 

Frankly, it sounded a lot like the pilot of an airplane telling passengers that they should just ignore the flames shooting out of the engines and the rapid drop in altitude because everything was still A-OK. Something has been broken with the Giants for quite some time now and it's a bit silly to think the issue was simply one of effort. 

That made it refreshing to hear defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan say that the team hasn't been physical enough on defense over the last few games. There are various ways to explain why the once-intimidating defense has lost its edge, but none of them really matter. The Giants are getting blown off the ball, they aren't attacking opposing quarterbacks and admitting that is the first step toward changing the results. Sheridan hasn't been perfect this season, far from it, but this is a step in the right direction.

The second step is getting rid of the players who aren't getting the job done. The Giants have done that by installing Jonathan Goff at middle linebacker in place of Chase Blackburn, and it appears that defensive linemen Fred Robbins and Osi Umenyiora are also slated for more time on the bench. There are mixed blessings to those moves since neither Chris Canty nor Mathias Kiwanuka has been a world beater this season, but they make sense as part of the larger effort to change the atmosphere around the team. 

Constantly saying things are alright or, as Tom Coughlin has in the past, that you have no idea how to fix what's wrong isn't a productive way of fixing problems. Trying new things and challenging players by calling them soft or cutting their playing time, however, are time-tested techiniques for getting results.

Now it's up to the players, some of whom don't seem to be taking the new way of doing business all that well. Justin Tuck balked at the notion that he's not physical enough on defense, which ignores the point that Sheridan was speaking generally and not about him in particular. Worse than that, though, is the fact that Tuck's status as a veteran leader means that he needs to help sell what the coaches want to do or it will almost surely backfire.

Tuck's pride is understandable, but to borrow a phrase from Marcellus Wallace, now's the time to say "f--- pride." Channel the anger to the field and use it to beat the Cowboys, because if you lose you'll have plenty of time to worry about hurt feelings.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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