EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – If Tom Coughlin admires the Jacksonville Jaguars for anything, it is for a pass rush he wishes his own team would dial up every so often.
Despite a 1-10 record, the Giants' opponent Sunday has racked up some impressive numbers as far as pressuring the quarterback. While his own team has had any number of opportunities to apply similar heat, it hasn't happened with enough regularity to satisfy the 68-year-old coach. In fact, the Giants' 19 sacks, which rank 26th in the league, is a major reason behind their 3-8 record.
The Jaguars have a contrastingly impressive 33, ranking third. Their pressures come from all over the field.
This would be an ideal opportunity for the Giants to bulk up their anemic stats, as the Jags have allowed a league-high 43 sacks on rookie Blake Bortles. But the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't inconsistency the Giants have shown has offered Coughlin little solace, and only a slight hope that things will improve.
"We've been challenging them for the entire year," Coughlin said of his pass rush. "Obviously we're not doing a very good job of that. To be honest with you, when we call pressure, take a look and see who's getting home, whether it comes out of the secondary, the linebackers, whatever you want to call it. You can talk about pressure all you want, but we've got to have people get to the ball, get to the quarterback. That hasn't happened much."
Key players who have supplied pressure in the past have been non-factors this year. Jason Pierre-Paul, the young defensive end who compiled 16 ½ sacks in the Super Bowl championship year of 2011, has just 3 ½ this year, as does defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins. Mathias Kiwanuka has just 2 ½. Situational pass rusher Robert Ayers leads the team with five, and fast-developing, second-year defensive end Damontre Moore has three.
As for the blitz, few have gotten home. The Giants have gotten just 1 ½ sacks from positions outside the defensive front.
The biggest indictment of what in previous seasons was a ferocious pressure machine came in the final two minutes of last week's 31-28 loss to Dallas. After enjoying success pressuring Tony Romo earlier in the game, and with the Giants leading by four, a four-man rush with Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka at the ends, failed to penetrate the Cowboys' blocking for seven long seconds of the fourth quarter. That gave Romo plenty of time for wide receiver Dez Bryant to work himself free of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deep the end zone. Not surprisingly, Romo and Bryant connected for the winning touchdown with 1:01 remaining.
"There are a bunch of guys up front who are supposed to be known for (pass rush)," Coughlin said, laying the blame more on the players than defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
However, Ayers was not even on the field, which was Fewell's decision. That led to a long, uncomfortable discussion between head coach and coordinator the next day. Moore, who has shown great promise, played just six out of 54 snaps against Dallas. Fewell admitted he should have been part of the final rush package.
"We have to do a better job of managing his snaps," Fewell said, noting that Moore should be getting between 15 and 25 snaps each game.
Regardless of player alignment, the pass rush simply hasn't produced to effective levels. And Jacksonville's porous offensive line did not create unbridled optimism in Pierre-Paul's outlook.
"It's not all about (sacks)," said Pierre-Paul, who becomes a free agent at year's end. "But numbers don't lie. I'm still trying to get to the quarterback.
"We can't look at them. You don't know, they might have great protection on the quarterback this week. That's the great thing about football, you don't know."
NOTES: Coughlin said the benching of Weston Richburg last week "may have struck a chord" in the rookie left guard, and the coach was pleased with his response during practice. Richburg will move back to his starting job now that last week's starter Adam Snyder has been ruled out with a knee strain. Richburg said he took much motivation from the move. "I didn't like it," Richburg said. "It felt like a preseason game. I just don't like standing there and not being able to help. It was tough, but I was ready and when they needed a player at the end I was happy that I got a couple of plays in."