We have an Insider piece from Gary Horton on the Giants' secondary and whether we can expect it to improve in 2013 over its disappointing 2012 performance. Gary's not the only one who thinks this way, but his chief concern about the Giants' secondary is the ability of the pass rush to rebound from its 33-sack season:
Jason Pierre-Paul must develop more counter moves and not just rely on his natural ability in order to build back up from the 6.5 sacks he recorded last season. Hybrid OLB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka probably will play a lot more snaps with his hand in the dirt, and both his edge rush quickness and athletic ability are excellent. This gives the Giants a potentially good three-man rotation at DE -- along with veteran Justin Tuck -- but there is no margin for error.
We know the Giants love their "NASCAR" package -- where they line up four athletic pass-rushers to get good blocking matchups -- but where is that fourth DE that they need to run it? For the first time in recent memory there are concerns about this unit.
When you talk to people around the Giants about the defense, and even about the secondary, they bring it back to the pass rush as well. The Giants' defensive schemes all rest on the ability to generate quarterback pressure with the front four and drop seven players into coverage. As Gary details, there's good depth at the cornerback spot, and newcomer Ryan Mundy could well fill the third safety role when the Giants go to "big nickel." If Terrell Thomas can recover from his latest knee surgery and stay healthy, the depth in the secondary only gets better. A healthy Thomas is a starter-quality player in a backup role.
But Thomas is an "if," and there are other questions on the back end, including the starting safety tandem of Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown. Were Brown's eight interceptions last season an anomaly, or is he going to deliver on that playmaking promise again this year? And regardless, are he and Rolle going to be able to switch off as seamlessly as Rolle and Kenny Phillips used to? Brown was almost exclusively the post safety in the Giants' defense in the second half of last season, with Rolle playing mainly up in the box. But they'd prefer to be able to switch off, and they're working in camp to get Brown more comfortable with both roles. No guarantee it'll work, nor is there any that cornerback Corey Webster will get burned less in coverage this season or that Prince Amukamara will take the steps he needs to take in terms of aggressiveness.
So yeah, I'm with Gary. The Giants need Pierre-Paul healthy, Tuck to bounce back and someone from the backup group of pass-rushers (Adrian Tracy? Damontre Moore?) to step forward and fill Osi Umenyiora's shoes in the rotation. Because all of those questions on the back end of the defense are going to feel a lot easier to answer if this is a 48-sack defense than they were last season when it was a 33-sack defense.