EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If you've been watching the New York Giants' preseason games, you've surely noticed that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is putting more than four people on the defensive line an awful lot. Safeties, linebackers, a nickel corner here and there ... all indications are that the Giants' defense this year is going to be very blitz-heavy.
This is not what you remember about Spagnuolo's first stint with the Giants, of course. The Super Bowl XLII upset of the Patriots was made possible, we have been told for years, by the ability of Spagnuolo's defense to pressure the quarterback with the front four defensive linemen and keep seven players in coverage. This is what made Spagnuolo a success, led to a head-coaching opportunity and props him up in the treasured memories of Giants fans.
But Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora aren't walking through that door. And while Jason Pierre-Paul will at some point, no one knows when. So, given what the Giants have on the defensive line right now, the only way Spagnuolo is going to get any pressure on the quarterback is to send extra guys.
Add in the issues at safety, and one of the conclusions with which you're left is that there's an awful lot riding on starting cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
"We know how it's going to be this year," Amukamara said. "I wouldn't say he's building the defense around us, but our strength is probably on the outside right now in our secondary, I think it's fair to say. He's been pretty aggressive, and I think it's because he knows he's got the guys on the back end to cover."
So in Week 1, expect to see Rodgers-Cromartie stuck to Dez Bryant and Amukamara stuck to Terrance Williams. And in Week 2, expect to see Rodgers-Cromartie on Julio Jones and Amukamara on Roddy White. And in Week 3, expect to see Rodgers-Cromartie on DeSean Jackson and Amukamara on Pierre Garcon. And on and on and on. And while that may not be super-unusual or really even new for the Giants, what's different is the imperative these two will have to be just about perfect. The Giants are going to have more than enough worries about the opposing quarterback's ability to beat them with the tight end or the nickel receiver. If Amukamara or Rodgers-Cromartie has a tough game against one of the top options, things could fall apart in a hurry.
"There's a lot of pressure on a corner anyway, especially when there's an all-out blitz or when they're sending extra guys," Amukamara said. "But I think me and DRC are good enough to handle those situations."