Winless Giants hope to fix porous pass rush
The defensive line played a huge role in their run to a Super Bowl title two years ago. It slipped a little last season as New York missed the playoffs and it's been almost non-existent in the 0-2 start this year.
In losses to Dallas and Denver, the Giants recorded two sacks and just eight quarterback hits. That's well below the standard for a team that considers at least 10 quarterback hits to be the bottom of the ladder.
While Dallas' Tony Romo and Denver's Peyton Manning have two of the quickest releases in the game, the rush needs to improve against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (0-2) on Sunday - or else.
''That's the game plan,'' defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said Thursday. ''Obviously, the production from us has not been what we wanted it to be and we are determined to get that changed.''
Kiwanuka said the lack of production has not been from a lack of effort. The quick releases by Romo and Manning have prevented sacks. The Giants have had a couple of chances only to see the quarterback escape, and opponents have also been throwing shorter passes.
Manning and Romo completed 66 passes for 551 yards, an average of 8.34 yards. Still, the bottom line is New York ranks No. 29 in sacks per pass play.
The biggest concern is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The fourth-year pro is the line's catalyst, but he's gotten off to a slow start after having back surgery in June to repair a disk problem.
Pierre-Paul played in first two games and has one of the two sacks. However, it's obvious he is still getting back into shape. Where he used to make quarterbacks duck every play, the pressure isn't there now. One option might be to use explosive rookie Damontre Moore in passing situations.
''I feel like I'm close,'' Pierre-Paul said. ''There have been times I have gotten to the quarterback. It was like a second too late. Like I said, I'm getting there. I'm getting my step up in a game. It takes time, but that's no excuse. I'm out there and I have to do whatever it takes to win. Right now I'm not doing a good job.''
Panthers coach Ron Rivera scoffed at the idea that Pierre-Paul wasn't up to speed, saying he is still a dynamic player who has to be accounted for every play.
''When you game plan for a player, it's going to be hard for that guy to make his normal plays, like he has in the past, and that's what's happening,'' Rivera said. ''People are paying him a lot of respect.''
The Giants also can't go into the game expecting to rush Newton every play. DeAngelo Williams has rushed for 171 yards, a 4.4 yard average, in helping Carolina post the league's sixth-best rushing attack early in the season. Newton also is a threat to take off running is the line goes not contain him.
''We have to stop the run first,'' defensive end Justin Tuck said. ''Teams who give up sacks are put in situations to give up sacks. This is a run-first offense. They have a great scheme, a great running back and you know that with the quarterback, when you stop him he can move, so for us, coming into this game, we can't allow ourselves to start thinking that this team has this and that sack-wise. Let's stop the run.''
The Giants did that in the first half against the Broncos. Once that changed, Denver scored at will.
NOTES: CB Corey Webster did not practice Thursday because of a hip injury. He was not available to discuss his injury. With the Giants playing a lot of nickel formations, Jayron Hosley or Aaron Ross would be next up. ... With former Giants LB Chase Blackburn on the Panthers, special teams coach Tom Quinn might have to change some coverage and return calls to keep him honest. Blackburn was one of the Giants' top specialty players. ... LB Spencer Paysinger has taken over the job of making the defensive calls. Blackburn did it last year.