EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Lorenzo Carter this week wishes he had a professional basketball player's opportunity for rapid redemption.
The second-year linebacker and the rest of his defensive teammates on the Giants were dissatisfied with their performance in the season-opening loss in Dallas last week. They are eager to show they are capable of much better when the team plays its home opener tomorrow against the Buffalo Bills, whose quarterback is the mobile Josh Allen. But the seven days between games seem like an eternity.
"A lot of guys, we talk," Carter said. "In the NBA, if they have a bad game, the next day they can go out there and play again. For us, we have a whole week to sit, let it marinate, watch film and soul search. I think that's what we've been doing this week. We came out and worked hard this week in practice. Now we're just getting ready to come out and get that taste out of our mouths. Everybody is ready to get that taste out of their mouths."
Their performance will determine if they're successful. While the run defense was strong against the Cowboys (who averaged just 3.0 yards a carry and did not have a run longer than 10 yards in 30 attempts), both the front and back ends of the pass defense were lacking. The D never did sack quarterback Dak Prescott and rarely pressured him, getting credited for just two hits. And the secondary had too many coverage breakdowns, resulting in seven completions for more than 20 yards, including gains of 62, 45 and 36 yards that weren't touchdowns.
"We did not play, number one, as well as we expected to play and, number two, as well as we are capable of playing," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.
"I think everybody is looking for the same answer, how are we going to get more pressure on the quarterback?' outside linebackers coach Mike Dawson said. "Obviously, have to make him uncomfortable, we have to get the ball coming out faster, and we have to make him throw it under duress when he is going to throw it. Ultimately, we need to sack the quarterback when we get there. Something I think all the guys are hungry to get fixed, hungry to get answered, they came out and trained hard this week. We have to do a great job. Guys that can move, you have to have a good aiming point and good plan on those guys to be able to get to them."
Perhaps the most critical question facing the defense entering the season was where the pass rush would come from. The players most often mentioned as potential suppliers of that valuable commodity were veteran linebacker Markus Golden, rookies Oshane Ximines and Dexter Lawrence and Carter. The quartet combined for five tackles (two solo) and one hit on Prescott (by Carter).
"We were disappointed, of course," Carter said. "But it's just on to the next week. There's nothing you can really do about last week but watch the film, evaluate it and then just get ready for this week. We're going to keep going."
"When it comes down to whether you pressure (with extra players) or you four-man rush, it comes down to winning one-on-ones," Bettcher said. "We have to do a better job of winning one-on-ones. I think coming out of Week 1 in terms of that specifically, you don't sit back and say, 'I'm surprised, I can't believe this, I can't believe that.' I don't live in that world. I look at it as here's something we have to get better at, let's go work to get better at it. We're running to things, we aren't running from them. We need to attack what the problem was and go work to correct the problem. Not just say we need to rush the quarterback better? The truth is how do you rush the passer better. What fundamentals and techniques do we need to improve with specifically with what guys and players."
The same question could be asked about the secondary. Dallas' strategy was to have Prescott throw the ball away from the Giants' top cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, and toward the young corners on the opposite side, Antonio Hamilton (who started and played 36 snaps) and first-round draft choice DeAndre Baker (31 snaps). Prescott completed 25 of 33 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"It didn't shake us," said free safety Antoine Bethea. "It wasn't the outing we wanted. We have to put the work in this week (to correct it)."
"It's an opportunity for me to bounce back and show what I can do," Baker said. "Show that I can fight through adversity. It's not the best game that I wanted to have, but I can now bounce back and show what I can do."
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Coach Pat Shurmur and Bettcher all but announced changes are coming there for the Bills game.
"You can expect the young guys to play, just like they did the other night," Shurmur said. "We'll see how much. The rotation on that player (Hamilton) and maybe a couple others may change on defense."
"We have to play better at that spot, we have to tackle better at that spot," Bettcher said. "I think that's what it came down to, some missed tackles at that position. Bake's going to get a chance to play there and you'll see Ham in situations and we will go from there. I think the plan will reveal itself like it did last week on Sunday. We just have to play better at the spot, just with the little things, it's not about ability, it's not what the guys are capable of doing, they just need to execute things that they know."
The Giants' secondary is an interesting blend of young players like Baker, Hamilton, Grant Haley and third-year strong safety starter Jabrill Peppers, and veterans Bethea (a 14-year pro), Jenkins (eighth season) and Michael Thomas (sixth). Every defensive back gives up big plays at some point. After a rough opening week, the more experienced players are schooling the youngster in letting those plays go and moving on.
"Just understand that this is the NFL," Thomas said. "You have to continue to put in the work. The good thing about it for them is not just individuals, but teams make the biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. Now you see it's not like the preseason. You can have a great week of practice, but the results might not always be there. Come in, communicate way better than you did last week, run to the ball way better than you did last week, better than you've ever done before, and execute way better than you did last week. That's going to give you a chance to have success."
"You have to have a short-term memory when you're playing cornerback," Jenkins said. "You have to understand that you're going to make plays, and you're going to have plays made on you, because I get paid just as well as they get paid. You can't go out there thinking, 'Oh I'm going to knock every ball down, I'm going to stop every completion.' Just go out there and play football. Understand that whatever happens between the snap, it happened. After the snap, (move on to the) next play. That's all that matters.
"I'm going to tell them (Baker and Hamilton) that every day. Every day until they understand. Until they learn that it's next play because they have to understand, like I said, they get paid just as well as we get paid. Everybody in the NFL is the best at what they do. You can't go out there thinking this and thinking that. If you get beat, you line up on the next play and win the next matchup."
The Giants' defensive backs intend to do that tomorrow. It's just too bad they have to wait a week for redemption.
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