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Missing Pass Rush Doesn't Explain Everything

Giants defensive flaws go well beyond disappearing pass rush

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The missing pass rush is just one of the problems with the Giants defense.

    Whenever the Giants ignore a glaring need early in the draft to select a player who can get after the quarterback, the refrain from the team is the same.

    "You can never have enough pass rushers."

    When things are working the right way, that motto is one that makes Jerry Reese look very smart. His inability to turn up enough good linebackers and defensive backs gets hidden because mediocre offenses can't survive long enough to exploit those weaknesses.

    In the last three weeks, we've seen what happens when that pass rush doesn't dominate the opposition. When you give them time, quarterbacks, whether they are as good as Drew Brees or as shaky as Alex Smith, will pick this defense apart all day because there simply aren't enough playmakers lined up behind them.

    Perry Fewell has gotten heavily criticized for the performance of his defense the last three weeks and he certainly deserves a heavy dose of the blame. Doing the same thing over and over again is going to bring the same results over and over again, especially when every team knows that there's no chance of the Giants defense stopping them if they leave in an extra blocker to take care of the pocket.

    Fewell shouldn't be getting all the blame, though. What do you expect a defensive coordinator to do when his linebackers are two overwhelmed sixth-round picks and the undrafted Mark Herzlich, whose courageous story doesn't obscure the fact that he shows no signs of being more than a special teamer at this level? 

    And the secondary, with the overmatched Aaron Ross, out-of-position Antrel Rolle and playing on fumes Deon Grant, isn't any better. You can argue that Fewell should be taking more risks, because he should, but there isn't much evidence the results would be any different.

    The state of the roster means that Reese should be coming under a great deal of fire for his unwillingness to improve the roster during training camp. His decisions on Steve Smith and Kevin Boss were highly criticized at the time, but the harsh light of the season makes it clear that his bigger mistake was the failure to bring in any kind of reinforcements when the Giants lost Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff for the season.

    "Next man up" is terrific coachspeak for not letting injuries get in the way of winning, but it helps when the next man up has a snowball's chance in hell of helping the team win games. You can't build a defense that has only one chance of competing and expect to be a successful team in the NFL, but that's just what Reese has done with a Giants defense that can't stop anyone if they aren't rushing four and sacking the quarterback.

    There isn't going to be some call for Reese to go anywhere in this post. Even though he failed to react to the injuries, the team still has enough talent that there should be better results on the field than the ones that the Giants have put together this season.

    But it is time for the Giants to full break ties with the Super Bowl season and the idea that it birthed that all you needed on defense was pass rush from the front four in order to beat the opposition. Times change, players change and teams that don't change with them are doomed to falling into ruts like the one the Giants have fallen into this month.

    It's been a perfect storm of problems for the Giants defense. Injuries exposed a lack of depth which exposed the team's overreliance on the pass rush which exposed Fewell's inability to adapt which has exposed the Giants to a losing streak that might put the playoffs out of reach.

    Maybe you can't ever have enough pass rushers, but this season is showing us that you can have too few players everywhere else on the field.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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