Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Advanced Stats: 3 Areas the Giants Defense Can Step Up


Ever wonder how two units on the same squad can end up at odds with each other? Look no further than the 2013 New York Football Giants. The Giants offense could not stay on the field. The defense was overtaxed and seemingly in damage prevention mode on every single drive. Eli Manning and company led the NFL with 44 giveaways (by a wide margin), not to mention 59 three-and-out possessions when they didn’t cough up the rock (only the Jets and Jaguars were worse). All in all, the D held its own quite nicely given the circumstances, finishing 8th in the league in total yardage allowed at 332.2 yards per game. Nevertheless… the deep stats point to clear areas for improvement. Let’s dig in.

Opponents Time of Possession/3rd Down Conversion %

31:06, 28th in the NFL

40.09%, 24th

The two above measures are tied at the hip. Again, their counterparts on offense didn’t do them any favors, but the defense had its own struggles getting OFF the field. Extended drives reared up at the most inopportune times, particularly in the 4th quarter. Week 12 versus Dallas serves as a pristine example — 3rd and 10, 3rd and 7 and 3rd and 5 conversions on the Cowboys game sealing march . Even without a pass rush, the Giants natural inclination was to be reactive rather than proactive. That needs to change.

Potential Fix: If the front four isn’t getting pressure, a creative blitz package is worth the risk — with personnel that can actually make a play. Hoping for an incompletion is not a strategy.

Passing First Downs Allowed

12.4, 23rd

Thwarting the opponents ground game was a legitimate strength for the Giants in 2013. They allowed 3.8 yards per carry (6th) and didn’t allow a run over 34 yards all season. However, despite putting themselves in positive down/distance situations, third-down completions were too often served up on a silver platter.

Potential Fix: The Giants bolstered their secondary with the additions of Pro Bowl caliber cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and true slot corner Walter Thurmond. Slot receivers torched the Giants last year. Antrel Rolle was forced to cover the inside out of necessity, but it was beyond his means.

QB Sack Percentage

5.35%, 29th

The Seattle Seahawks aside, success in the NFL starts and ends with frontline pressure. For the second consecutive season the Giants could not reach the QB: 34 sacks (25th) and a -31.2 team pass rush rating by Pro Football Focus. Those sacks came in bunches as well, with very little game to game consistency. Trigger shy Robert Griffin III played a seminal role in keeping them from the bottom of the barrel.

Potential Fix: A healthy and reinvigorated Jason Pierre-Paul rediscovers his 2011 form, AND Damontre Moore takes a massive leap forward with added muscle and ameliorated technique. Perhaps Robert Ayers has pass rush tricks he didn’t unveil in Denver…

Conclusion

Fix 1: Giants D must GET OFF THE FIELD. Take the opposing offense out of its comfort zone.

Fix 2: Forcing predictable third-down passing situations is supposed to be a win. Don’t waste two downs of hard work by getting passive on the money down. Walter Thurmond wins the slot battles.

Fix 3: 25-year old JPP still has plenty left in the tank and once again requires double teaming. As a result, all kinds of new doors are opened for getting after the quarterback.

Make no mistake — the Giants defense was good enough to win with last season. All the correlative statistical weaknesses are only being spotlighted because the D took the field with zero margin for error. Will Hill is gone, and that hurts tremendously, but the additions at CB will result in an improved secondary product. The talent on the backline is overflowing, and reason enough to be bullish on the Giants defense entering 2014.

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