Masking Their Depleted Secondary: Here is a prescription to take to a nearby pharmacy.
The Giants clearly felt the effects of Terrell Thomas’s season-ending injury and Prince Amukamara being sidelined with a high ankle sprain as Romo surgically picked the Giants’ cornerbacks apart. Unfortunately, Michael Coe re-injured his hamstring during the Week 1 game, and Corey Webster was flatlining for large chunks of key plays, getting burned for scores and missing interception opportunities.
Despite the difficulty the Giants had with one-on-one matchups and faulty tackling, they do have their “NASCAR” package entirely healthy, a dangerous threat that was mostly absent during the regular season last year due to injuries.
This week, Big Blue is facing quarterback Josh Freeman, who was second in the NFL in interceptions in 2011. Despite Freeman getting leaner in the off-season and having a new big-time receiving threat in Vincent Jackson, his play was streaky in the Bucs’ Week 1 victory over Carolina (16-10). Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora need to harass and disrupt any rhythm Freeman is able to acquire. If the Giants can force the pocket to consistently collapse, the shaky secondary will hold its own.
Passing Offense Diagnosis: It’s just seasonal allergies.
The Giants have the big advantage in Week 2 because they have the best player of the matchup managing the game’s most important position. Eli Manning was slightly off in Week 1, but he was not given much assistance since the G-Men’s No. 1 receiver, Victor Cruz, had three drops, and Nicks’ impact was minimal. Two issues that looked magnified in the loss are particularly troubling for the Giants going forward.
First: Hakeem Nicks’ lingering foot problems. While Nicks is not known for his speed, being able to precisely run routes and plant his foot when cutting is crucial for a receiver, and if this is difficult for Nicks all season, it could be devastating for the Giants’ pass attack. (Nicks is a perfect offensive complement to Cruz.)
Second: Timely blitzing by opponents. There has been an increase among statistical data by ESPN and Football Outsiders showing that the more teams blitz Manning, the more he picks secondaries apart, allowing for big plays.
Here are two telling statistics by ESPN Stats & Information. When Eli faced five or more pass-rushers, he was in the top five in the NFL for QBR. He led the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and first downs against added pressure. But when the Cowboys sent five or more rushers on less plays than they did last season, Eli proved to be less effective. And when Dallas then ramped up their pressure, the duress for Manning resulted in sacks or knockdowns.