Most of the fallout from the Giants' 45-38 loss to Philadelphia has been directed at defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. With fans and media critics calling for Sheridan's head, Giants coach Tom Coughlin issued a vote of support, but with a qualifier that Sheridan and his injury-riddled defense must perform better.
Sheridan got more bad news Friday when starting safety Aaron Ross (hamstring) joined starting cornerback Corey Webster (sprained knee) on the sideline, meaning more lineup changes are ahead for the Giants' Monday night game in Washington.
"We as a defense are certainly disappointed in our performance," Sheridan said when asked for his reaction to Coughlin's comments. "We don't expect to be giving up 25, 30 points a game. That's not the m.o. around here and never has been. Tom is very matter-of-fact about the bottom line [regarding] what's expected of our defense. In several of the last few games, we have not met those expectations . . . That's got to improve."
As the successor to popular and successful defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who is experiencing his own trials as a first-year head coach in St. Louis, Sheridan has been on something of a hot seat from the beginning of the season. When the Giants started 5-0, the transition looked seamless. But they're 2-6 in the past eight games, including three in which the Giants gave up at least 40 points.
Even Spagnuolo felt compelled to send an encouraging e-mail to Sheridan after Sunday night's debacle. Said Sheridan, "I e-mailed him back and said it means a lot." As for the difficulty of following Spagnuolo's act, he said, "Honestly, I have never even thought like that."
Trying to make up for the loss of injured safety Kenny Phillips and middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, Sheridan and Coughlin have shaken up the starting lineup in each of the past two games. It worked in a win over Dallas, but the Eagles hit them with one big play after another. "They had six 20-plus passes, which is a shame to say," Sheridan said.
Michael Johnson, who made a critical error on a 60-yard TD pass from McNabb to DeSean Jackson, likely will be back at safety in place of Ross, and either Kevin Dockery or rookie Bruce Johnson will start at corner in place of Webster. Under the circumstances, Sheridan said he could use a little more pass-rush help against the Redskins.
"It's really important, especially with the last couple developments in the last day or so," Sheridan said. "Are we better off trying to increase the pressure . . . and not ask those guys to play coverage for so long? That's definitely an issue."