Five Giant issues: The pass rush

There were plenty of things that went wrong in the New York Giants’ title defense in 2012.

This week, we're taking a look at five Giant issues that kept the 2011 champs from making it back to the playoffs. Today, we explore the Giants’ pass rush and what went wrong.

The numbers: The Giants went from having 48 sacks in 2011 to 33 this past season.

And of those 33 sacks, the Giants’ big four pass rushers of Jason Pierre-Paul (6.5), Justin Tuck (4.0), Osi Umenyiora (6.0) and Mathias Kiwanuka (3.0) combined for 19.5 sacks.

In 2011, Pierre-Paul had 16.5 sacks alone. So what happened?

The reasons: The players all said offenses made the pass rush a center of attention. Quarterbacks made a concerted effort to get rid of the ball much faster. There were shorter drop backs and quicker releases.

Running backs and tight ends often chipped on the Giants’ ends before sometimes releasing.

“That’s a good question,” head coach Tom Coughlin said when asked about what happened to his pass rush and sacks last week on WFAN. “We were greatly down and diminished in that number. There are a lot of reasons that you can talk about. It wasn’t always chips and double teams. We didn’t win one-on-one battles. There were opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of it.”

Coughlin is right. The Giants didn’t win enough one-on-one battles. They needed greater production out of their rushers.

Tuck, who only has a total of nine sacks in the last two years after posting 11.5 sacks in 2010, also pointed out that the Giants just had bad luck sometimes as well.

“Sometimes it ain’t your year,” Tuck said. “I can remember plays where I was inches away from making big plays right before they got rid of the ball. Some years it is your year and others it is not.”

How to improve: While the players wouldn’t point fingers, the Giants pass rush would’ve been better if the defense had been able to stop the run and the secondary been able to cover longer. The front line, linebackers and secondary all feed off each other.

The Giants need to defend the run better. So having a healthy Chris Canty for an entire season will help. Also the Giants linebackers will have to pick up their play. And the secondary has to reduce the amount of big passing plays. The Giants pass rush can use the team’s best cover man, cornerback Corey Webster, to return to his old form after struggling this season.

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will spend the offseason trying to find ways to get his pass rushers in better positions to pressure the quarterback and his defensive ends will have to make plays.

With Umenyiora seeking a starting job and saying he likely will not be back, Pierre-Paul, Tuck and Kiwanuka will have to be better next season. If Umenyiora moves on, the Giants may elect to move Kiwanuka back to defensive end permanently.

And the Giants will need one more rusher like Adrian Tracy, Adewale Ojomo or a free agent or potential draft pick to step up.

“Our front didn’t get going like we would want it to,” general manager Jerry Reese said last week on ESPN New York 98.7. “Our defense as a whole. Our defensive front, we are used to getting better play out of those guys. Pierre-Paul had a terrific season a year ago but teams prepare for those kinds of things.”

Tell us what you thought went wrong with the Giants’ pass rush and what you think needs to improve below.