It would be unimaginable to think that after starting the season with six straight losses, the Giants would be playing meaningful games in the second half of the season. But so is the case; riding a two game winning streak and coming off of a bye, Big Blue will have a tough test on Sunday as they host the Oakland Raiders, sitting just two games out of first place in the NFC East.
The Giants received even more help last night as the Washington Redskins couldn't seal up a victory against the Minnesota Vikings.
But with the focus being on this week, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell understands that the Oakland offense can be dangerous and it all starts with quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
"I’m impressed with him on tape. We’re going to have our A game going in to contain this guy because he can hurt you," said Fewell. "94 yards I think it was against Philly that he ran for and he can pull the ball down on a running play or a pass play and go at any time, so that’s what makes him really tough in that you never know when that’s going to happen with him because it’s not just quarterback scrambles."
Pryor, being one of the more mobile QB's in the league; will have to the Giants keeping a close eye on the former Ohio State Buckeye, as he could take off down the field at any moment.
"He’s a 4.4 guy built like a power forward on a basketball team and he can go," said Fewell. "I think sometimes they’re designed runs that they have that it’s a tailback run action and he just keeps the ball."
The Giants defense has had their fair share of stopping quarterbacks who can not only air the ball out, but also use the ground game to their advantage, but they have been mediocre at best.
During their week 3 blowout loss against the Carolina Panthers, the Giants gave up 45 yards and a touchdown to Cam Newton and in their week 5 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles, Michael Vick led the team in rushing, racking up 79 yards, but left the game early with an injury.
Big Blue will have to be ready for the quick offense led by the 6-4 Pryor, who leads all NFL QB's with 485 yards rushing and has had 8 runs of 20+ yards including a 93 yard touchdown run against the Eagles mentioned by Fewell, so his explosiveness is evident. Pryor is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and while the defense should be concerned with the mobility of the third-year QB, Pryor has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for five touchdowns, but has thrown nine interceptions.
The Giants have not seen a lot of 'west coast offense' this season, but Fewell understands that Pryor has evolved into a quarterback who has adapted the system.
"What we see is he’s good in the west coast offense and I think that’s what he is excelling at right now," said Fewell. "They’re not asking him to do a lot more than the west coast reads and so he’s able to accomplish that."
One of the important factors will be the Giants ability to pressure Pryor inside of the pocket, forcing him into making mistakes. DE Jason Pierre-Paul told the media during the Giants off week that has been feeling better each week and is close to being 100 percent healthy, and Fewell is ready for JPP to breakout.
"I think we’re all anticipating and have been waiting for him to have a breakout game," said Fewell. "I think the bye week obviously helped him a lot and so he’s practiced well this week."
If Pryor is able to evade pressure inside of the pocket and break to the outside, Fewell is confident that LB Jacquian Williams will be able to contain him.
"Several years ago when he was a rookie, we placed him in the spy position to run down Michael Vick because we felt like he could go catch those guys," said Fewell. "That’s one of our better assets because he does have speed."
With the Raiders mainstay running back Darren McFadden nursing a hamstring injury, it looks like backup Rashad Jennings will get the carries on Sunday. While the Giants will have to keep an eye on Pryor; Jennings proved last week with his performance against the Eagles, where he tallied 102 yards and one touchdown, that he can be a role player.
The Raiders rank 5th in the NFL in rushing yards (147.8 per game), so the battle in the trenches and the effectiveness of the Giants defensive line, could be the difference between a win and a loss, as Big Blue tries to gain ground in their division and salvage a season which seemed lost a couple weeks back.