EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the primary objectives for the New York Giants this year is to rebuild a run defense that gave up an average of 129.1 yards per game last season.
To do that, New York placed a high premium on revamping the front seven by bringing in a mixture of young and old to compete. When it came time to test drive the first version of the new run defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason opener Saturday, the results weren't quite what head coach Tom Coughlin had in mind. Not bad, but just not what the coach wanted, apparently.
The Steelers recorded 81 rushing yards in the first half, with running back LaRod Stephens-Howling leading the way with 40 yards on seven carries, many of those yards coming right up the gut.
"Right off the bat, we were reached," Coughlin said Sunday, a day after the Giants' 18-13 win. "We didn't get off the blocks and didn't get to a point where we could reject the front, and the ball-carriers were able to slash and gain yardage, and, a couple of times, cut the ball back."
Part of the reason for the Giants' struggles could be that in their front seven, six of the seven starters against the Steelers were either new to the team or in new positions from a year ago, the lone exception being left defensive tackle Linval Joseph.
Coughlin was asked if unfamiliarity led to Saturday's difficulties.
"I hope not," Coughlin said. "I'm hoping that the combinations that we go with, we're hoping those combinations will provide the necessary strength ... to accomplish what our objectives are.
"We're not going to say it's going to be a perfect alignment; that just doesn't happen. But the guys that are available to us or the combinations that we decide upon are in there for that reason."
In the meantime, the plan moving forward is to get the players to review the video and identify and correct the issues this week in practice.
"I think we'll do a better job once we get a look at this tape and understand our gap responsibilities," Coughlin said. "This is going to continue to be an objective for us."