The Giants are not selling Aaron Rodgers short. They’re not bad-mouthing him, downplaying his abilities, or insulting him with any kind of remarks that may wind up on a bulletin board in Green Bay. They have shown him the utmost respect.
They just think they’re going to beat him.
“I believe so,” linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said Tuesday when asked if the Giants can do what no team has been able to do for the past six weeks: stop Rodgers.
He’s not the only one who thinks that.
“I believe we have the secondary to stop anyone, not just him,” linebacker Kelvin Sheppard told Newsday. “He’s a tremendous player, a Hall of Fame quarterback. I have the utmost respect for him, you have to. But I always feel like any week, not just this week, that we can stop anyone.”
It’s that secondary that will be most put to the test against the Packers in Sunday’s wild-card game at Lambeau Field. A secondary with two Pro Bowlers this season (cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins), a recent Pro Bowler in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and a defense that has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the NFL (25).
Are they the best secondary in the league?
“I don’t know, you all tell me,” Jenkins said. “Numbers don’t lie. We’re doing what we have to do. We leave that up to you guys.”
At the very least, the Giants have a very strong secondary. It’s by design.
“That’s why they bring in guys like myself and DRC and Jackrabbit,” rookie first-round pick Eli Apple said of the cornerbacks. “That’s why we’re here, to do our job and make sure we limit the big plays and also make plays ourselves. It’s always great to have a great secondary. That is always one of the most important things on your team.”
Especially against Rodgers.
“Exactly,” Apple said.
The Giants understand there are actually two Aaron Rodgers. The first is the drop-back passer, fairly straightforward.
“Inside the pocket he can shred you,” Casillas admitted.
The second is where it gets daunting. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league — maybe one of the best all-time — at buying time in the backfield and throwing on the run. The perfect example of that is the pass he threw Sunday to beat the Lions. He spun away from pressure, floated to his left, avoided trouble a second time, then found Geronimo Allison for a 10-yard touchdown.
Jenkins summed up the Giants’ game plan for that kind of play in one word: “Plaster.”
As in stick to your receiver.
“Stay with your man,” he said. “Follow him everywhere he goes, even if he goes to the bathroom.”
Casillas said the Giants will have drills this week in which they cover receivers for three or four seconds, and then try to stick with the receiver when he runs a completely different second route. It’s like sticking around for a double feature.
“It’s almost a second play when Rodgers breaks to scramble,” Casillas said. “It’s almost a second play, like an audible almost. That has to be accounted for.”
Knowing it is coming and stopping it from happening, though, are two different things. The Giants believe they can handle it. In fact, they’re looking forward to it.
“As a defense we get excited,” Apple said. “It’s going to be a good challenge with a quarterback who likes to throw it around and likes to scramble. It’s going to be a great challenge for us to go out and compete against the best.”
And the scrambling and second routes?
“It makes it more chaotic and adds a little craziness to the game,” Apple said. “To me it makes it more fun, though. We get a chance to run around more and when he throws the ball, go make a play.”