The New York Giants are not completely equipped for their Week 3 road game against the Carolina Panthers.
According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News:
On Wednesday the depleted Giants flew to Carolina without running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Domenik Hixon, right tackle David Diehl and, in a bit of a shocker, without receiver Hakeem Nicks. They all will miss the game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.
This certainly gives the Panthers increased odds at beating the defending Super Bowl champions at home. Plus, the Cats do present a much stronger defensive unit than in 2011.
With linebackers Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly helping pass-rusher Charles Johnson in the front seven, Chris Gamble and safety Charles Godfrey are quiet reliable in the secondary. Include rookie Josh Norman, and Eli Manning has no choice but to bring his A-game.
Although Carolina allowed 325 passing yards from Drew Brees in Week 2, the unit forced two turnovers with five quarterback hits and one touchdown. To break down how the Panthers can expose Manning and the Giants, let's look at what last Sunday provided.
Godfrey's Pick-6 Was Difference For Win Over NOLA
On an interception return for a touchdown, the Panthers came out in a 4-3 Over look, with Godfrey rolled down into the box. The outside presents man coverage—press at the bottom—and a Cover 1 safety back deep.
Defensive end Charles Johnson reads the play to a tee and doesn't fall for the fake. This is exactly how you want a backside end to dissect a play when the ball goes away. The No. 1 rule in football at any level: If something goes away, something is coming back.
As the play develops, Johnson interferes with Brees' line of sight, and tight end Jimmy Graham is manned up with linebacker Jon Beason, providing a coverage shell underneath. Godfrey simply continues reading the play, and because of the flow, Brees has no shot at throwing back across his body and the field to running back Darren Sproles.
Godfrey then makes a break on the ball, and Carolina gets an easy pick-six. Against the Giants, this type of defensive play call will work.
For one, New York doesn't present a tight end on Graham's level, and the Panthers are disciplined enough to lock down in man coverage. Also, the Giants have to try to establish the ground game early on to keep Cam Newton off the field.
In turn, rolling down Godfrey to help stop the run and take pressure off the front four is key. After all, the man led Carolina with 11 tackles last week, and the Panthers must attack Big Blue in the trenches.
With other instinctive players like Beason, Kuechly and Johnson up front, the Cats can be more present a more aggressive attack to force ill-advised throws such as the one from Brees above.
Next, we look at the Buccaneers' first pick of Eli Manning, which bodes well for Ron Rivera's defense.
Eli's Early Struggles Almost Cost Big Blue vs. Bucs
Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster came away with the first pick off Manning in Week 2. Interestingly enough, it was Manning not making a quick enough read and short throw that allowed Foster to make the play.
Here, the Giants have the line-of-scrimmage advantage against Tampa Bay's front seven, with Ronde Barber rolling down late. This space creates a running advantage for New York, but a passing play is called instead.
After the quick play-fake, Barber is playing over the top of the tight end, and the linebackers aren't quite deep enough. Lest we forget, the play action did freeze the 'backers briefly to create intermediate space over the middle.
Manning then has his target open behind the second level, because Foster hasn't gotten enough depth in coverage just yet after not locking up the nearest receiving threat. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Manning took a bit too much time in the pocket despite the solid protection.
Foster is then able to get depth, and Manning underthrew his target.
What Carolina must do differently than the Bucs here is get Godfrey in the box right away.
Stuffing the run is still a weakness for the Panthers, and New York can run the ball effectively at will. With the depleted receiving corps of Big Blue, Carolina must anticipate the run more, because it has allowed 293 rushing yards through two games.
On the bright side, the Cats linebackers of Beason and Kuechly are well-versed against the pass and won't be fooled by play action. So for Carolina to take advantage of anything, it's loading the box and forcing the Giants to beat them one-on-one.
Gamble and Co. are technicians in coverage, and not letting the middle open up is vital to slowing the Giants' passing attack. The Buccaneers got fortunate a few times with Manning's weak passes. However, he torched them in the final quarter to get the win.
If the Panthers play better defense than Tampa Bay did early on, Manning won't be able to adjust mid-game as easily to make a late comeback.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.