TODAY'S PAPER
Clear 37° Good Evening
Clear 37° Good Evening
SportsFootballGiants

Better Giants personnel means more productive blitzing schemes by DBs

Landon Collins #21 of the New York Giants

Landon Collins #21 of the New York Giants reacts after a defensive stop in the first half of a game against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Landon Collins didn’t realize it, but he was happy when he found out.

“I might have to talk a little smack,” he said with a big smile.

Leon Hall recognized it, but was more shocked than proud.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been called that,” he said.

What the two defensive backs were talking about was being tied for the team lead in sacks. It’s early, sure, and their total of one each from Sunday’s game against the Saints is pretty paltry. But in a locker room that invested heavily on the defensive front in the offseason, and for a franchise that for several decades has thrived and failed by the act of bringing opposing quarterbacks to the ground, they got to spend at least the last few days strutting.

The reason? The Giants have been sending blitzers from the secondary at a pretty steady pace so far this season because coordinator Steve Spagnuolo finally has the players he can count on to be creative. Last year’s overmatched personnel clearly could not handle the assignments, but this team seems to have the ability to not only attack the quarterback from surprising angles but cover the gaps left by such charges.

And this is only the beginning.

“I think that’s coming,” Spagnuolo said of his confidence breeding creativity. “A lot of it has to do with the guys gelling together and I think they are gelling well . . . You can start to do some things that maybe you backed off on when you were trying to build the thing and get the foundation.”

The first hint that the Giants would not be afraid to send their defensive backs toward the pocket came in the preseason game against the Bills. When Janoris Jenkins blitzed from his cornerback position, whiffed on the quarterback and it turned into a big gain for Buffalo, it set a tone.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the guy who blitzed a few times in the opener against the Cowboys. He never got home, but his pressure seemed to rush rookie quarterback Dak Prescott into decisions that he did not want to make.

Then came last week’s game against the Saints. Collins was the first to register a sack for the Giants this season, coming around the edge on a blitz. Not only was he coming, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also was blitzing on the play.

“The running back saw both of us coming and he kind of looked both ways like six times,” Collins said. “He didn’t know which one to come and get. He took the one who was closer to the backfield and DRC was definitely closer because I had to come all the way around. He saw me but he had to pick a side.”

The result was Collins twisting Drew Brees to the turf.

Later in the game, it was Hall’s turn. After a nine-year career with the Bengals without a sack, he registered his first in the NFL.

“We do a lot of different stuff, which as a defender is fun to do,” Hall said. “Nothing really feels repetitive as far as doing the same thing all the time. You always have something different depending on situations. We have so many different things we can do and packages that offensively it’s got to be hard to study for the week. Because we are doing quite a bit of stuff, as long as we keep talking and communicating we’ll be fine.”

The players seem to be enjoying their new responsibility.

“Blitzing is fun,” Collins said. “You get an opportunity to get a sack. Not a lot of us have sacks in our careers.”

“It’s new, but it’s fun,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Anytime you have the chance to come out of the secondary and get a sack, it is a great feeling. I haven’t gotten one yet, but it’s definitely fun.”

Jenkins is more used to it. He played with the Rams for four years and had Gregg Williams as a defensive coordinator. He had his first and only NFL sack in 2013. He also knows that the key to successful blitzing is often covering down the field without the full allotment of players.

“When you’re blitzing, everything has to correlate together because if you give a quarterback five seconds and we’re only expecting him to get three seconds, it’s ugly on the back end,” Jenkins said.

That was the case a lot last year.

“We’d blitz and they’d hit us for a big one,” Collins said. “There’s no sense of blitzing and wasting that guy when we can use him in coverage, I think that’s what it was.”

This year, that’s not the case. At least not yet. The play does come with a risk, but also a potential for big rewards.

“The last thing you want to do is bust a coverage and give up a big play when it could have been prevented before the snap,” Hall said.

As the old coaching axiom goes: Whenever you blitz, somebody’s band is going to be playing.

Said Hall: “We need to keep making sure it’s ours.”

Landon Collins didn’t realize it, but he was happy when he found out.

“I might have to talk a little smack,” he said with a big smile.

Leon Hall recognized it, but was more shocked than proud.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been called that,” he said.

What the two defensive backs were talking about was being tied for the team lead in sacks. It’s early, sure, and their total of one each from Sunday’s game against the Saints is pretty paltry. But in a locker room that invested heavily on the defensive front in the offseason, and for a franchise that for several decades has thrived and failed by the act of bringing opposing quarterbacks to the ground, they got to spend at least the last few days strutting.

The reason? The Giants have been sending blitzers from the secondary at a pretty steady pace so far this season because coordinator Steve Spagnuolo finally has the players he can count on to be creative. Last year’s overmatched personnel clearly could not handle the assignments, but this team seems to have the ability to not only attack the quarterback from surprising angles but cover the gaps left by such charges.

And this is only the beginning.

“I think that’s coming,” Spagnuolo said of his confidence breeding creativity. “A lot of it has to do with the guys gelling together and I think they are gelling well . . . You can start to do some things that maybe you backed off on when you were trying to build the thing and get the foundation.”

The first hint that the Giants would not be afraid to send their defensive backs toward the pocket came in the preseason game against the Bills. When Janoris Jenkins blitzed from his cornerback position, whiffed on the quarterback and it turned into a big gain for Buffalo, it set a tone.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the guy who blitzed a few times in the opener against the Cowboys. He never got home, but his pressure seemed to rush rookie quarterback Dak Prescott into decisions that he did not want to make.

Then came last week’s game against the Saints. Collins was the first to register a sack for the Giants this season, coming around the edge on a blitz. Not only was he coming, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also was blitzing on the play.

“The running back saw both of us coming and he kind of looked both ways like six times,” Collins said. “He didn’t know which one to come and get. He took the one who was closer to the backfield and DRC was definitely closer because I had to come all the way around. He saw me but he had to pick a side.”

The result was Collins twisting Drew Brees to the turf.

Later in the game, it was Hall’s turn. After a nine-year career with the Bengals without a sack, he registered his first in the NFL.

“We do a lot of different stuff, which as a defender is fun to do,” Hall said. “Nothing really feels repetitive as far as doing the same thing all the time. You always have something different depending on situations. We have so many different things we can do and packages that offensively it’s got to be hard to study for the week. Because we are doing quite a bit of stuff, as long as we keep talking and communicating we’ll be fine.”

The players seem to be enjoying their new responsibility.

“Blitzing is fun,” Collins said. “You get an opportunity to get a sack. Not a lot of us have sacks in our careers.”

“It’s new, but it’s fun,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Anytime you have the chance to come out of the secondary and get a sack, it is a great feeling. I haven’t gotten one yet, but it’s definitely fun.”

Jenkins is more used to it. He played with the Rams for four years and had Gregg Williams as a defensive coordinator. He had his first and only NFL sack in 2013. He also knows that the key to successful blitzing is often covering down the field without the full allotment of players.

“When you’re blitzing, everything has to correlate together because if you give a quarterback five seconds and we’re only expecting him to get three seconds, it’s ugly on the back end,” Jenkins said.

That was the case a lot last year.

“We’d blitz and they’d hit us for a big one,” Collins said. “There’s no sense of blitzing and wasting that guy when we can use him in coverage, I think that’s what it was.”

This year, that’s not the case. At least not yet. The play does come with a risk, but also a potential for big rewards.

“The last thing you want to do is bust a coverage and give up a big play when it could have been prevented before the snap,” Hall said.

As the old coaching axiom goes: Whenever you blitz, somebody’s band is going to be playing.

Said Hall: “We need to keep making sure it’s ours.”

New York Sports