August 4, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Giants secondary/safeties coach David Merritt works with New York Giants linebacker Etienne Sabino (47) at the New York Giants practice facility during training camp. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Giantisms: Coaching Winning Defense

In the NFL, offense gets a lot of the publicity and notoriety with the excitement of touchdowns, while the defense can seem a little tame with all the rule changes and fines for hits all in the name of long term player safety — a worthy cause.

Sometimes this causes fanatics to put defense and the phrase, “Defenses win championships”, on the NFL back burner. Offense is what’s hot, it’s what sells tickets, it machinates the fantasy football factory and keeps the billion dollar business booming. Analysts assume that NFL teams need a superstar QB to win the game’s ultimate prize — the Lombardi Trophy. However, last season the Denver Broncos tore through defense after defense, dominating the NFL, playing into the idea of the NFL’s “passing league” status and all the gridiron assumptions that go along with that notion.

Then of course, the Seattle Seahawks defense completely owned the offensive juggernaut as Eli Manning‘s big brother got destroyed in front a record breaking crowd of 115 million people around the world, 43-8. Not only did Seattle take that NFL cliche off the back burner, it caused all 32 to dust off their own hot stoves and make sure their defensive mixtures were properly seasoned for the upcoming season.

For the New York Football Giants, that starts with this group of men — the Giants defensive coaching staff:


Perry Fewell Defensive Coordinator
Rob Leonard Defensive Assistant
Peter Giunta Secondary/Corners
David Merritt Secondary/Safeties
Jim Herrmann Linebackers
Robert Nunn Defensive Line


The defensive scheme will once again be installed by Perry Fewell, as it has been for the past four seasons since Fewell joined the New York Football Giants from the Buffalo Bills prior to the 2010 season.

One of the big questions on defense is at the safety spot, in large part due to the off field problems of former Giants FS Will Hill, who was released from the organization following OTA’s.


Giants Secondary/Safeties coach Dave Merritt had this to say in a recent excellent interview by Patricia Traina, titled: Blog Bits: Safeties Coach David Merritt, Part 1, about the Will Hill situation:

Q: I know you probably don’t want to talk abut the past, but it’s probably safe to assume that what happened with Will Hill broke a lot of hearts around the organization. How have you been picking up the pieces in the safety room and as a defense?

A: You hit it on the head. Will Hill’s departure is something we’re all upset about. But at the same time, we have rules that need to be enforced and Mr. (Jerry) Reese did the right thing, as we all know in how he handled the situation.

By moving Will Hill out of the way and then looking at Stevie Brown and then understanding that Stevie is in a situation now where he is coming off of a major knee injury, his ability to come and be able to play at that level that he played at in 2012 is going to be big for us.

Our situation when we lost him in 2013 was he was on the shelf, so you’re sitting there saying, ‘Oh wow, that’s eight picks that are gone.’ Well, Antrel (Rolle) picked up some of the slack in that area, but Stevie, along with Antrel being on the field now, their chemistry is so good and I’m just looking forward to seeing him in pads and hopefully he’s able to push that knee.

Merritt is right to insinuate players like Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown must step it up in 2014. He also understands that Brown is coming back from a serious injury to one of his wheels, an injury that is often times a death sentence for players that rely on fluid movements in their legs to shadow receivers in the NFL, all the while not breaking pass interference rules. It takes incredible athleticism and fast, healthy movements to accomplish this weekly feat.

This is where defensive coaching comes in. The Giants have an extra preseason game to install Ben McAdoo’s new offense, but it’s important to note that coaches like Peter Guinta (defensive backs) have extra time to work with the players and build the ever important defensive chemistry. Not to mention health, especially for players like Prince Amukamara, one of the Giants top defenders. Guinta mentioned the idea that players need to stay healthy when discussing Prince’s durability in a piece for ESPN titled, Big Blue Morning: Prince on the rise?

“And he did that,” secondary coach Peter Guinta said last week at the end of the team’s minicamp. “He played all 16 games, every game getting better. You could see him improving by being out there. He understands the defense better. He’s much more comfortable here. And now he’s starting to take some chances and make some plays because of that comfort. He’s really starting to grow up that way, where he understands the game.”

“Now he’s starting to gamble a bit and take some chances, which you like to see because you want guys thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to make a play,'” Giunta said. “He’s evolved that confidence in himself and the defense, and he knows what’s coming.”

It is time to take it up a notch, and not just for Prince. Every coach on the Giants roster must excel at their jobs, they need to prepare these guys for an ever evolving NFL. Giants players need to buy into the system, but it’s the coaches who must sell that information, while deleting the mistakes that caused the Jints to fumble the season out the gates in 2013.

Frankly, that can’t happen again… the Giants need a healthy team, frothing at the mouth to play excellent football, to avoid the pitfalls of last season. The Giants must find a way to excel at coaching defense.

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Tags: Dave Merritt Defense New York Giants NFL Coaches

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