When the Giants hired Perry Fewell in January 2010 to be their defensive coordinator, the team used words such as "passion,'' "fire'' and "intensity'' to describe what they thought he would bring. And for a while, he did.
Lately, though, the defense under his guidance has become downright dowdy and depressed. Even when there are plays made -- Ryan Mundy's 91-yard interception return against the Cowboys, Cullen Jenkins' forced fumble on the goal line against the Broncos -- they don't carry over to the next series. Players are grousing about the lack of enthusiasm.
"I think we're kind of waiting for that spark play,'' Justin Tuck said (even though two pretty big ones were named in the above paragraph). "I think we're waiting on somebody else to make a play. I think we're out there hustling, I think we're out there playing our butts off, but I don't think we're out there having fun.''
Fellow defensive captain Antrel Rolle also has noted the lack of luster in losses to Dallas (36-31) and Denver (41-23).
"Other defenses are flying around and making plays, there's a level of excitement that comes along with that,'' Rolle said. "Speaking to [former Giants safety] Deon Grant yesterday . . . he said, 'Antrel, even when y'all make good plays, even when you are playing good football, it's really not showing too much because there's no excitement behind it.'
"There's no level of excitement behind the great plays we were making throughout the course of the game,'' Rolle said. "I just feel like as NFL players this is something we should love to do, this is something we should automatically get amped for, this is something we automatically should be excited to do come Sundays. And right now on the sidelines I'm just not seeing it, honestly.''
That spark the Giants have been looking for should be coming from the top. Nothing excites defensive players like an aggressive game plan, and while the first two weeks of strategies have had their merits, they have not been thrillers. They have not captured the imagination of the players.
"It's getting to the point where we might have to take a few more chances,'' Tuck said.
"We can't sit around and keep letting this league pass us by,'' Rolle said.
Those were not direct indictments of the coaching staff. Rolle has complimented the game plans in the first two games. But on Tuesday, while the players were out making appearances on their day off -- Tuck kicking off the sixth season of his Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy program at the headquarters of Scholastic publishing and Rolle speaking on his weekly spot on WFAN -- Fewell and the coaches were making the game plan.
Perhaps falling to 0-2 will force him to get back to the dynamic ideas and fiery philosophies that drew the Giants to him in the first place. Maybe the lack of a pass rush from the same old four linemen will make him more aggressive and add a fifth. Or a sixth. The Giants seem to have enough quality defensive backs to handle that.
The way to excite the players is to allow them to play. Let it all hang out. Let them take chances and cash in when they hit big.
"We have to find a way to get to [Panthers quarterback Cam Newton] and get to every quarterback we play and not necessarily play it on the safe side,'' Tuck said.
Does that mean the return of the NASCAR package (four DEs on the field)? More blitzing? Maybe something really out of the box like lining up five linemen and letting them loose?
"We'll see,'' Tuck said. "We'll go back in on Wednesday and get the game plan and go from there.''