Simply put, Big Blue has a bad run defense. They are 22nd in the NFL with 122.3 rushing yards allowed per game and 29th with 4.7 yards surrendered per carry. The only thing they do well against the run is defend their goal line. They have only allowed seven touchdowns on the ground, tied for sixth best in the league with Philadelphia and Seattle.
The Giants should do four things to improve their run defense in 2013. First, they must void Osi Umenyiora's contract and let him walk in free agency. Umenyiora is still a force as a pass rusher with six sacks this season, but he is dreadful against the run. According to PFF, he has a minus-4.5 rating defending the run, which ranks 53rd out of the 62 defensive ends graded who play in a 4-3 defense.
The eye test backs up this rating.
Osi does a terrible job setting the edge and often overcommits in an attempt to rush the passer, which in turn allows big rushing plays to the outside. This is one of the key reasons why a team like the Redskins has torched the Giants on the ground in two games this season.
To fill Umenyiora's spot, the Giants could move Mathias Kiwanuka back to the defensive line or draft a defensive end who is strong against the run in the middle rounds to backup Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
Secondly, they should let Rocky Bernard leave in free agency as well. He has been subpar against the run in 2012 with a minus-1.9 rating, and his age (34 at the start of next season) suggests that he is only going to get worse.
The third thing is not something Big Blue needs to do but instead hope for, which is for young defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin to show improvement. For Joseph, who is only 24, he needs to go from being a solid contributor to a borderline Pro Bowl performer. His four sacks and 2.0 PFF rating against the run suggests that this is possible.
Austin, on the other hand, needs to prove he is not a bust and become what Joseph is now. The 23-year-old former second-round pick missed all of his 2011 rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle and has not made any impact in the limited playing time he has received in six games this season.
Finally, in the linebacking corps, Chase Blackburn should be sent packing, as he is an unrestricted free agent. Sure, Blackburn has made some big plays this season as the team's starting middle linebacker. Unfortunately, this is all he contributes, as he is terrible in pass coverage with minus-6.7 rating and even worse against the run with a rating of minus-8.7. The latter is better than only six other inside linebackers in the NFL who have taken at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps.
To replace Blackburn, the Giants can look to sign either Green Bay's Brad Jones or Baltimore's Dannell Ellerbe. Both are unrestricted free agents after this season. Both are only 27 years old and under the radar enough that they won't command a huge contract. Most importantly, they are each strong against the run with Jones compiling a 5.8 PFF mark in this category, while Ellerbe is not far behind at 5.3.
If the Giants perform all of these changes next season, they should be able to go from the bottom-third in the NFL in rush defense to the top-third in the only one year.