They allowed opponents to run wild over them to the tune of 135 yards per game on the ground, surrendering 400 points for the fifth time in franchise history and the third time during Fewell's seven-year tenure.
Just as he mandated a change on offense the year before, CEO John Mara ordered GM Jerry Reese to fix the defense after last season:
"Our defense did not play well this year. There is no secret about that when you finish 28th or 29th or wherever we finished. They had opportunities in a lot of games this year to make a key stop at the end of the game, and they didn’t do it.
There is no question that has to be a focus going into next season. You look at the number of players that we got hurt here. We had three or four corners hurt. We were playing in a lot of those games with guys we had signed off the street, which is not the ideal situation.
Again, that is no excuse for going 6-10 and, believe me, I am not under any illusions about where we are right now. I am aware of what teams we have beaten over the last two years and what teams we have lost to. We have a lot of work to do."
Reese fired Fewell and re-hired Steve Spagnuolo, the man who orchestrated the Giants' 2007 championship defense, to get things turned around.
"He did a terrific job when he was here the last time, but Spags, he can motivate these guys and tell them what they have to do, but the players have to get out there and perform," Reese said earlier this week at his press conference. "So it’s up to the players. I think we have a terrific coaching staff on both sides of the ball. They are working their behinds off and I appreciate the work they put in. I think our entire football team would be motivated to perform at a high level and compete. We open up September 13 against Dallas and I think we will put a terrific football team out there and play well."
Reese has charged Spagnuolo with getting back to playing "Giants defense" again, system predicated on putting the QB on the ground. That demand will prove to be more difficult now that the team's top pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul, will miss significant time this fall due to his fireworks-related hand injury.
That has not deterred Reese from staying optimistic. He's been on a roll lately, adding talent through the draft and free agency the past two years.
"I think we’ll be really good defensively. I think we’re going to surprise people," Reese said. "I think we have five defensive ends that we feel like can play and play at a high level at that position. I do think our defense is going to be a better unit than it was last year. I’m excited to see them out there playing."
The DEs he's referring to are Damontre Moore, Robert Ayers, Jr., Kerry Wynn and rookie Owa Odighizuwa. All four bring curious upsides to the table. Throw in veterans George Selvie and Cullen Jenkins and the group suddenly has depth and experience.
There's also talk of second-year LB Devon Kennard being given more opportunities to rush the passer.
"Obviously nobody gets more opportunities to rush the passer than defensive ends," Kennard said, "but there is definitely times where we are going to pressure all of our linebackers so we will see what kind of opportunities are presented to us once the year comes."
Expect Spagnuolo to take advantage of the special skillset Kennard brings to the table. As for surprising on defense, the Giants just may do that. A lot of new faces combined with one key old one - Spagnuolo - could take the Giants back to the top.