Is the Apparent Complexity of the NY Giants' Defense a Good or Bad Thing?

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJune 26, 2014

New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell instructs players during NFL football practice in East Rutherford, N.J., Thursday, June 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Mel Evans/Associated Press

Walter Thurmond knows a thing or two about good defense. Coming over from the "Legion of Boom" in Seattle, the new slot corner for the New York Giants has played with some of the best defenders in the game. 

But after spending organized team activities learning Perry Fewell's system with the G-Men, Thurmond actually believes New York's D is more complex than Seattle's was. 

"I'm learning a little more stuff than we did in Seattle," Thurmond told reporters. "We were very simple. Here, we're mixing coverages and having exotic defenses. I like it, because it gives me a lot more freedom."

As an eternal pessimist, that got me thinking that it's possible the Giants have been falling victim to what arguably killed the Dallas Cowboys defense two years ago under Rob Ryan. Is it possible they're being asked to do too much

Exotic blitzes and mixed coverages and disguised schemes: It all sounds good, and it all looks good on paper. But sometimes you have to just let your players play. Seattle was able to do that because Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are three of the best defensive backs in football, while a front seven featuring Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril wasn't too shabby either. 

But this Giants defense is built similarly. Antrel Rolle is a Pro Bowl safety, and the addition of Thurmond, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Zack Bowman makes this one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Thurmond himself has stated this unit could be better than Seattle's. 

And while both are facing injury concerns, Jason Pierre-Paul and Jon Beason are capable of making that front seven every bit as good as the one that just won a Super Bowl for the Seahawks

Look, I'm pumping them up. I wrote two weeks ago that this D could be in trouble, partially due to offseason losses and partially due to that Beason foot injury. But I don't know that complex scheming from Fewell, especially with so many fresh young faces, is going to be the solution. 

In fact, it could do more harm than good. 

Maybe the Giants would be better off keeping it simple, as Thurmond said the Super Bowl champion Seahawks did.

Least productive teams while blitzing, 2013
TeamPass-rushing productivity while blitzing
Cleveland Browns26.4
San Diego Chargers30.3
Pittsburgh Steelers30.8
New York Jets30.9
Atlanta Falcons31.0
Philadelphia Eagles31.3
New York Giants31.5
Green Bay Packers31.7
Chicago Bears32.1
St. Louis Rams32.2
Pro Football Focus

Going back to that Cowboys comparison, it's not as though the Dallas D has been any better off since firing Ryan, but it was clear as day that talented players were making a lot of mistakes mainly because they were being asked to think too much. Ryan over-schemed. 

"Where we fundamentally came down with Rob is that his philosophy is about multiple scheme," Cowboys vice-president Stephen Jones told the media last year: 

I think you have to skinny it down. Philosophically, I don’t think Rob believes in that. And it’s not something that happened and all of a sudden at the end of the year we had a problem. I think Rob will tell you we had long visits about this in the off-season last year that there was too much scheme. He tried to cut it back and he did skinny it back, but it’s still a lot.

Is Fewell doing the same thing? 

This isn't the first time that question has been asked. Before departing as a free agent in the spring, veteran Justin Tuck spoke of an overcomplicated defense.

"For us, we outschemed ourselves early," Tuck said, per's Jordan Raanan. "That speaks to how good Perry Fewell can be. We might have had too much in." From Raanan: 

It's been well documented by now that the Giants had a meeting with Fewell around the Chicago game in Week 6 to simplify the defense. The players believed Fewell was trying to do too much, the verbiage and schemes were too complicated and convoluted.

But hearing this again, and this time from an outsider—one who comes to New York from the best defense in football—makes you wonder if Fewell is still trying to do too much.