The Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was ugly, especially for the defensive backfield. Tony Romo lit up the New York secondary for 307 yards and three touchdowns on the way to a 24-17 Cowboys victory. If the Giants want to even up their record at 1-1 next Sunday when they host the Buccaneers, they’ll need to do a better job against the pass.
Improving the Giants’ pass coverage all starts with the play of veteran cornerback Corey Webster. New York drafted him in the second round (43 overall) way back in 2005, but it wasn’t until recently that Webster became a pivotal part of the Giants’ defense.
After posting six interceptions and 16 passes defended en route to a Super Bowl victory in 2011, many believed that Webster was a Pro Bowl snub. But instead of reminding everyone of his value in this season’s opening game, Webster stumbled out of the gate.
According to Tom MacMahon of ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth, Romo completed 6-of-7 attempts while targeting Webster, the most memorable being a 40-yard touchdown grab by Kevin Ogletree.
In fact, the only pass that Webster successfully defended was a terribly thrown ball by a scrambling Romo. It could have easily been an interception, but Webster just flat out dropped it.
Suffice it to say, if the Giants want to turn things around, Webster will need to play up to par this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This will be no easy task for the former LSU standout.
The Giants are already undermanned at cornerback. Last week, Justin Tryon was thrust into the starting lineup after Terrell Thomas (ACL, season-ending IR), Prince Amukamara (high ankle sprain) and Michael Coe (hamstring) were all forced out of action with injuries. The injury-depleted unit will have to rely heavily on Webster in Week 2.
On top of that, Webster will likely be given the daunting assignment of shutting down Vincent Jackson. That’s a tall order considering Webster’s shaky play and Jackson’s dangerous play-making ability.
Last season, Jackson caught 60 balls for 1,106 yards with the Chargers, which averages out to a staggering 18.4 yards per catch. He’s a legitimate scoring threat as well; Jackson tied his career-high with nine touchdown grabs in 2011.
Sure, Josh Freeman isn’t exactly the second coming of Dan Marino, but I bet he’ll still be licking his chops as he studies Webster’s game film from the Cowboys game.
If Jackson takes advantage of Webster, the Giants could quickly find themselves in an 0-2 hole. However, if Webster picks his game up when it counts (as he has done many times before), the Giants will be in good position to win their first game of the 2012 season.
The team’s main concern obviously lies with the cornerback position opposite Webster, but if he can shut down Jackson one-on-one, the Bucs will have a tough time moving the ball down the field.
With Jackson effectively out of the game, Tampa Bay will have to rely on second wide receiver Mike Williams, who is coming off a sophomore slump, and aging tight end Dallas Clark.
If Webster can handle Jackson in man-to-man coverage, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips will be able to help out more on the other side. With more consistent coverage in the secondary, Freeman will have to work a little harder to find an open receiver. If he hangs on to the ball too long, that means more sacks for New York’s starting defensive ends, who were quiet in Week 1.
Of course many other factors will come into play before this game is decided. The Giants still need to prove they have the interior D-line depth to effectively play the run for four quarters, and the offensive line still has to prove that they can open up holes for the team’s struggling backs.
There’s no doubt, however, that New York’s success in their Week 2 matchup with the Buccaneers will start with extraordinary play from Webster.