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Cowboys Game Plan Week Twelve: The Giants Defense

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The Giants defense has been a disappointment this season and against the Cowboys it will be without linebacker Jon Beason and corner Prince Amukamara - the question is will they be able to stop the Cowboys running game?

Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants defense is about "keeping everything in front of you." In other words, it is lacking in talent so it will give up a lot of plays underneath to force teams to go the length of the field to score. At least that is what was expected at the beginning of the season, (see this article for more about this):

"Perry Fewell's defense is made to bend, but don't break," Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas says. "We're going to give up underneath throws. That wasn't what the Giants' defense was known for the last couple of years. And I think that's going to be a hard adjustment for the fans and media to see.

"But I think the overall objective is to create more turnovers."

That's what's supposed to happen when the defensive scheme is a "Read and React."

It's not all "read and react" of course - in fact, several Giants defensive backs said Fewell has mixed in so many different coverages in his first camp as defensive coordinator that they have no idea how to label his scheme. But it seems that a softer, less aggressive, non-press coverage system will be a staple of his secondary...."

The idea, the players say, is to force them to read a quarterback's eyes and to follow where the ball is going rather than to focus on the receiver. They believe that gives them a better chance to get the interceptions they were unable to get during their disaster of a season last year.

The year the Giants won Super Bowl XLII, they led the league with 53 sacks, but last year the defense finished 25th in the league and this year the defense has not been good either, ranking 31st in yards per game at 397.7, 32nd in rushing, 22nd in passing, and 26th in scoring, but let's look at what they might do this week against the 7-3 Dallas Cowboys in the breakdown below.

Week Twelve:

Opponent: New York Giants

Head Coach: Tom Coughlin

Defensive Coordinator: Perry Fewell

Defensive Scheme: Read and React, Bend But Don't Break, Get Turnovers.

Projected Starters: ( *** = Injured )

  • LDE - Mathias Kiwanuka - # 94 ***
  • LDT - Cullen Jenkins - # 99 ***
  • RDT - Johnathan Hankins - # 95
  • RDE - Jason Pierre-Paul - # 90
  • SLB - Devon Kennard - # 59
  • MLB - Jameel McClain - # 53
  • WLB - Jacquain Williams - # 57 ***
  • LCB- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - # 21 ***
  • FS - Quintin Demps - # 35
  • SS - Antrel Rolle - # 26
  • RCB - Zack Bowman - # 31

NOTE: Players with the asterisks may not start.

THE BREAKDOWN:

Many defensive coordinators will use the old saying "take away their strength" as the main part of their game plan. It may be that Perry Fewell will indeed use that tactic. This article that says the Giants will be, and should be, very concerned about the running game of the Cowboys because the key to the Cowboys success is to stay away from the obvious passing downs, such as second and long or third and long, and the way you do that is by running the ball effectively.

"The problem with the Giants’ run defense, as it’s currently configured, is that the guys who have the best chance of stopping the run—defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins—can be walled off so that the running play can be successfully sent in the opposite direction.

One solution might be to move linebacker Devon Kennard, who, per PFF (subscription required), graded out with a 1.6 run-defense grade, to the opposite side of Pierre-Paul and Hankins to at least give themselves a chance at playing better contain."

While the Giants will be trying to slow down the running game, they will surely try to slow down the passing attack by double-covering Dez Bryant and on obvious passing downs they will try to blitz by using stunts. They will overload one side with more blitzers than the Cowboys can block as the Redskins successfully did according to the same article above.

In an article from Big Blue View we hear that if Dominic Rogers-Cromartie is healthy enough then the Giants may try to single cover Dez, but if Rodgers-Cromartie is not 100 percent, my thinking is that they will double Dez.

"The first time the two teams played Rodgers-Cromartie was hobbling around due to back and hamstring injuries, and played only 15 snaps. Prince Amukamara covered Bryant and, despite a valiant effort, the Cowboys star still caught nine passes for 151 yards. Rodgers-Cromartie may not be 100 percent yet, but he is as healthy as he has been in several weeks.

Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said this week that the Giants "never know" when DRC might stiffen up and need to come out of a game for a period of time. Fewell added that "Obviously he is feeling better. Before he just couldn't practice."

This time the Cowboys should be ready for those blitzes with the correct concept which is "to not be dictated to by the defense, but rather dictate to them." The way this is done is by realizing what the defense gives up when it blitzes and then use that against them.

To understand the correct concept we look at the assignments of the front four and the three linebackers. Safety blitzes have their weakness and that is it requires single coverage and leaving the defense vulnerable to the deep pass and that goes completely against Fewell's scheme, so let's look at the concept of just those front seven.

Normally the offensive line has to block four rushers with five offensive linemen while the linebackers are responsible for covering the back(s) out of the backfield, and the tight end(s). This means if the linebackers blitz, then the defense is hoping that the offense is dumb enough to go max protect which puts more blockers right next to the quarterback and keeps them out of the pass patterns.

The Cowboys need to use to the 12 package a lot and send both tight ends and the running back out into the short zones instead of using them to block like they did against the Redskins. They moved Witten over to the other side to help block , (so there would be three to block three), on a play where the Redskins overloaded the weak side, but against a stunt, this tactic can be an advantage for the defense as it was in this case as Brandon Merriweather got the sack.

Let's hope the Cowboys are the hungrier team as this season has been full of upsets as we saw with the Raiders beating the Chiefs and the Rams beating the Broncos.