Re­tooled Gi­ants de­fense strug­gling for sacks

Com­ing into this sea­son, the Gi­ants have $30 mil­lion in cap space in­vested in their start­ing de­fen­sive line.

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Cana­van

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. >> Com­ing into this sea­son, the New York Gi­ants have $30 mil­lion in cap space in­vested in their start­ing de­fen­sive line.

Based solely on sacks five games into the sea­son, the re­turn is go­ing to be dis­as­trous.

The Gi­ants (2-3) have an NFL-low four sacks and only two have been by the line­men head­ing into Sun­day’s game at MetLife Sta­dium against the Bal­ti­more Ravens (3-2).

Olivier Ver­non ($13 mil­lion against the cap) and fel­low de­fen­sive end Ja­son Pier­rePaul ($9.4 mil­lion) have one sack apiece. Tack­les Da­mon Har­ri­son ($6.6 mil­lion) and Johnathan Hank­ins ($1.3 mil­lion) have been shut out.

The lack of a rush was never more ev­i­dent than Sun­day night, when Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers some­times had as many as five sec­onds to stand and throw. He was not sacked and hur­ried only three times.

The only time he was re­ally knocked down was when Ver­non shoved him to the ground while cor­ner­back Janoris Jenk­ins re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion. Of course, Ver­non drew a 15-yard penalty for the il­le­gal hit.

Ver­non, who was signed to a five-year, $85 mil­lion con­tract, didn’t have much to say about the lack of a pass rush. Most of his an­swers were 10 words or fewer and noted the need to play bet­ter.

“It is the be­gin­ning of the sea­son,” Ver­non said when asked if he was frus­trated.

The for­mer Mi­ami Dol­phin has been both­ered by a wrist in­jury since the sec­ond week of the sea­son but re­fused to ad­dress it.

Pierre-Paul, who like Ver­non has rarely left the field this sea­son, re­turned to prac­tice on a lim­ited ba­sis fol­low­ing a groin in­jury. He said he will play Sun­day.

Pierre-Paul, who missed half of last sea­son af­ter man­gling his right hand in a fire­works ac­ci­dent on July 4, isn’t con­cerned about the sack to­tal ei­ther. He said the de­fend­ers have been close and just need to fin­ish plays.

“To me, it’s not even about sacks, to tell you the truth,” he said. “Yes, it’s nice to have, but in re­al­ity, when you look at the games, we’ve been close. We just have to fin­ish with the sack num­bers.

“Our de­fense has been play­ing pretty well. We just have to get there and fin­ish. I’m not talk­ing about the D-line, I’m talk­ing about as a group. Tackle bet­ter. We have done a poor job tack­ling. That’s ev­ery guy on the team, in­clud­ing my­self.

“We just have to get bet­ter.”

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Steve Spag­n­uolo said sacks can be great, but he is more in­ter­ested in lim­it­ing op­po­nents on rush­ing on first and sec­ond down and cut­ting down on op­po­nents’ big plays.

“I will say this: Would we like to have more?” Spag­n­uolo said of the sacks. “Yes. Would we like to have more pres­sure on the quar­ter­back? Yes. I do think that there are mo­ments in there where we are hit­ting and get­ting pres­sure on the quar­ter­back that don’t show up on a stat sheet. But we need more.”

The Gi­ants prac­ticed in shoul­der pads on Thurs­day just to work on their tack­ling.

The tack­ling prob­lem has re­sulted in the de­fense fail­ing to get off the field many times. It is ranked 30th in third­down de­fense.

The lack of a pass rush, the third-down de­fense, poor tack­ling and lit­tle help from the of­fense in re­cent weeks has the Gi­ants rid­ing a three-game los­ing streak. It also has many fans think­ing about a fifth straight sea­son miss­ing the play­offs.

“There’s no uh-oh,” Pierre-Paul said. “You know how it is. We started, what, 0-6 (2014)? We still had a chance to go to the play­offs. It’s still early. The sea­son’s just started. We’re go­ing on six. It’s early. Any­thing can hap­pen.

“Then we have this bye week af­ter this Lon­don game. We’re just fo­cus­ing on this game now, but we have a lot of room for im­prove­ment.”

VOL­LEY­BALL KINGSTON RECRE­ATION WOMEN A DIVI­SION Re­sults: Tony’s Pizza def. Rose & Kier­nan, 25-23, 25-11, 17-25; Static def. The Painter, 25-21, 25-23, 19-25; Shader Sep­tic Ser­vice def. Dap­son Chet­ney Fu­neral Home, 25-10, 25-6, 25-8; —— B DIVI­SION Re­sults: The B Team def. Spin­nen­we­ber PFV, 25-9, 25-5, 25-10; Se­crets def. Home Plate Deli, 25-21, 14-25, 25-13; Gil­prat­ick/VanVlient Fu­neral Home def. Un­cle Wil­lie’s tav­ern 25-14, 25-22, 25-19; Tiano Elet­ric def. The Free Ballers, 25-22, 25-14, 25-15 —— COED UP­PER B DIVI­SION Re­sults: The Bev­erly def. Kem­perle, 27-26, 25-23, 25-12; Stu­dio 456 def. Joe Beez, 25-19, 16-25, 26-24; Santa Fe def. The Painter 25-20, 21-25, 25-23; Sky Hook def. Cornu/White Ea­gle, 25-20, 25-21, 25-18; Mariner’s Har­bor def. Van Loans I, 25-19, 25-20, 25-22; —— LOWER B DIVI­SION Re­sults: Al­coa-Safe Sets def. The Cor­ner, 25-20, 25-15, 2225; Sham­rock Tav­ern def. Fred’s Paint­ing, 25-15, 25-8, 25-13; Port Ewen Phar­macy def. FBS Prop­erty and Fa­cil­ity, 25-22, 26-24, 25-18 —— Men A DIVI­SION Re­sults: McGil­licuddy’s def. The An­chor, 25-20, 25-13, 25-14, 25-23, 25-22; Sky­hook def. White Ea­gle, 25-18, 25-20, 1225, 13-25, 26-24

MIKE ROEMER — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers breaks away from Gi­ants’ Olivier Ver­non dur­ing New York’s loss to Green Bay last Sun­day.

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