The Giants' defense might be Top 15 in the league right now in yards per game. Points per game could use some improvement at 26.3 points allowed, but it's still only 17th in the NFL. Things could be worse for this unit in an 0-3 start.
For defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, those aren't the stats he's interested in. The ones he does focus on tell a bigger story for his unit, and they don't look too good through the first three games of the season.
And he knows the blame is first and foremost his to burden.
"I’m not living in the past, but we got to do a better job of that," he said. "Period, point blank, starts with me."
So what exactly is "that." Well, it's multiple things for Graham, first by starting with run defense.
"I keep it real simple. The first thing I look at is the record — obviously it’s not good enough," Graham told reporters via Zoom on Thursday. "But to get into more detail, I look at the situational stuff and the stuff we want to be defined by. Stopping the run. Stopping the run when you know they’re going to run the ball."
Taking a look at this first stat, the Giants are currently allowing 123 yards per game on the ground. That just won't cut it, especially when GM Dave Gettleman said before the season that the team was looking to cut that stat down. With big players up front like 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson to go along with one of the NFL's best tacklers in Blake Martinez, chunk plays on the ground shouldn't be happening. But they clearly are.
That's just the beginning of where Graham looks.
"In this league, games are won on third down, red area, and two minute," he said. "And I would say this, statistically from the naked guy, we got to do a better job. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching that.”
Instead of the naked eye, let’s use those statistics to paint the picture. The Giants are dead last in opponent third down conversions, as they move the chains 58 percent of the time in those situations. And it’s weird because New York is actually one of the best teams on first down, which normally leads to longer third downs that are harder to convert. In the red zone, opponents are scoring two out of three trips at 66.7 percent.
And though he doesn’t mention it, we have to tack on this stat: The Giants are 30th in opponent time of possession percentage (58.86).
Simply put, these numbers have to change if the Giants want to remain competitive this season. It doesn’t help that the offense is also struggling, especially with turnovers that forces the defense right back on the field.
But Graham isn’t one to point the finger anywhere else, as you could see from his answer. He knows that his squad is capable of better play, and it will start with the coaching and play-calling from him. We’ll see if that’s the case with a high-octane Los Angeles Rams offense on the schedule for Sunday.