Giants' DC Perry Fewell is obviously not pleased with his unit's low ranking (31st overall) last season but he feels the team has made the changes to improve on that greatly this year.
Fewell attributes the turnaround to "bigger butts" on the line, the health of JPP and the emergence of Prince Amukamara. He spoke about the state of the defense with reporters yesterday...
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Q: What are your thoughts on Ryan Mundy?A: Veteran safety. A very strong mentality as far as physical football. We like him in the run game. He’s developing for us in the pass game. We like the chemistry he’s had with the defense.
Q: Mathias Kiwanuka told us it’s far easier to focus on one position. Do you feel like that might liberate him and allow him to make more plays?A: Yeah. We’re certainly hopeful that it does. He’s such a good athlete. You want to use him in more ways than you probably should, but having him focus on one position bodes well for him.
Q: What kind of challenge does Dez Bryant pose for your secondary?A: He has had really good games against us. He’s an elite receiver. He’s one of the elite receivers in the league and so it’s always a challenge. He’s always a threat anytime he’s on the field, not only as a receiver but as a punt returner. He’s an all-around good football player.
Q: How much of a leap has Prince Amukamara taken this year?A: We really believe that he has benefitted from going through an OTA and being healthy during the OTAs and going through an offseason and going through training camp taking a lot of reps and not missing any practices and we’ve seen him improve more and more every day. We’ve seen his confidence get better and better every day. We think in the preseason games he’s responded extremely well, so we just look for him to keep growing and developing into the player that he can be.
Q: Do you look at him as potentially an elite player?A: It’s too early to say that. We’re going to play one game at a time and let him grow one game at a time.
Q: What’s Terrell Thomas’ readiness to be a contributing player for this secondary?A: We think he’s ready. We’re not going to shy away from putting him on the field. We believe that he’s going to go out and prove himself and we like the way he’s looked in practice as well as the preseason games. It’s game time.
Q: What role will he play for you guys?A: He’ll play our nickel position.
Q: Is he also an option as an emergency safety if there were injuries?A: We’ve thought about it. There’s no definite, but we have a plan.
Q: Because Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy haven’t been on the field a lot in game situations, is that a concern?A: After Stevie went down Antrel came to me and said we’re going to get together and we’re going to spend some time off the field together and because Antrel is a veteran guy and Ryan is a veteran guy, they know how to communicate with each other. So they’re on the field, off the field… They are constantly talking and communicating with each other, so I don’t think that will be a problem with their chemistry and what we’ve got to do on the field.
Q: How does the defense look different this year?A: We’ve got bigger butts. Sean Rodgers is in there. Cullen Jenkins… The butts are a lot bigger. So yeah, it looks different.
Q: How big is it having them in there to stop the run?A: I think it’s a huge factor in helping us be a better run defense. The mass, the size, the strength is noticeably different for us.
Q: How much of a motivating factor is it knowing the defense was ranked 31st in the league?A: For us as a defense, it’s quite motivating. We feel like we can definitely improve on that and we will improve on that.
Q: How did you take that? Was it tough to think about that number?A: It never goes out of my mind. You never want to be ranked last or near last in anything you compete at and as a professional, you want to improve each and every year. We’re very motivated to erase that number and be a top defense in the league.
Q: What do you see up front that makes you think you will improve on last year’s sack total?A: I think we just have to let the season play out because sometimes offenses present opportunities for you to have multiple sacks and sometimes offenses don’t present those opportunities based on the system that they’re running. But with a healthy group of young men, I think we have an opportunity to improve on our sack numbers, but we have some good blitzers on the edge. We believe that not only just the guys up front, but our guys at linebacker can help us improve on those numbers. We’re not just putting that on the front guys. We’re putting that on the whole defense to improve those numbers.
Q: How compromised was JPP last season?A: You have to ask him that question.
Q: I know you can’t make the medical decision as far as JPP for Sunday, but in terms of what you’ve seen in practice, do you think he can be effective against the Cowboys from what you’ve seen in practice?A: Well, JPP’s one of the best defensive players in the league. If he’s not full strength, I still think he can be effective. If he’s full strength, yes, he’s definitely effective. He’s had good games in Dallas, so that’s really on the player. He’s looked better and better each day, but again, I think that’s a question for JPP.
Q: Does Ryan Mundy reflect his Pittsburgh background, just in that physicality against the run? Could you almost tell where he’s played before?A: We believe that, yes. He brings a physical presence.
Q: Back in April, it seemed that when you drafted Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore that they were destined to do things earlier. Are they a little bit behind now?A: They’re not behind. The competition is really good, so that bodes well for those guys. They’ve got some veterans in front of them that are teaching them and they’re learning. They’re good football players. They’re going to become better football players. I wouldn’t say that they’re behind. It’s just the competition is really good and that’s good for us.
Q: Are you still planning on doing a true right and left cornerback, instead of a number one and number two this year? Prince and Corey?A: It’s scheme oriented. We can do that week to week. We can do it game by game, etc. We haven’t really nailed it down and made a decision on any specifics like that.
Q: You guys don’t have a long history, at least with you here, with blitzing linebackers. It sounds like that’s what you’re leaning towards a little bit. What led to that decision? Personnel or just trying to get something going?A: We just want to be aggressive. We want to take the fight to our opponent and we’ll use all the weapons we can possibly use in order to be an aggressive defense.
Q: Antrel said yesterday that Jason Witten isn’t going to catch 18 passes again. Do you have that same confidence?A: I always have that confidence. Jason’s a very good football player and he has excellent chemistry with Tony and so the players on the field, we have to get that done on Sunday to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Q: Antrel was elected as one of the captains. Does he have different duties with you, or how does that change?A: I don’t think it changes our relationship. I’ve always looked at him as one of our leaders. Even though he does not have the patch as somewhat of a captain or the lead person within the defense, I think him being elected captain by his peers just confirmed that. I’m very happy for him and very proud of him and his peers for saying what he means for our football team.[/sny-accordion]