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Chicago Tribune: "Fewell Fires Up Defense"


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Fewell fires up Giants' defense

Players rave about energy, exuberance new coordinator brings

Dan Pompei


ALBANY, N.Y. — If you were curious about what the Bears' defense might have looked like had Perry Fewell accepted their offer to be defensive coordinator, take a look at the Giants.


Fewell has already installed about a dozen off-beat packages. Among them are NASCAR, featuring speed rushers Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck; NASCAR Nitro, featuring five down linemen and only one linebacker; and Big Base, which features three players who normally play defensive tackle and two who normally play defensive end.


"There are things we have practiced and things I have in my head that will enable us to use these players' talents in a lot of different ways," Fewell said. "We'll be very creative. Packages keep growing. Each day you find out something about the player. When I see something different, I say, if we can do this with him, we can create something new for him."


There has been a marked improvement in the play of tackles Barry Cofield and Chris Canty, in part because Fewell has built his scheme around his players' skills.


"He's tried to take advantage of guys' particular skill sets and versatility to allow them to do what they can do," Canty said.


Kiwanuka, for instance, is a defensive end by trade but is also taking snaps at outside linebacker.


Players are saying they are enjoying being multidimensional. Fewell is promising to be unpredictable in terms of coverages, pressures and personnel packages. Fewell is from the Cover-2 school, and he still considers the coverage a staple of what he does. But in the Giants' exhibition opener a week ago, Fewell called for 24 blitzes in an attempt to "establish an aggressive mentality."


Giants defenders are coming up with takeaways in droves.


"I never saw so many interceptions in practice," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "Interceptions follow this guy."


Players rave about the energy and exuberance Fewell has brought. They played hot potato as a turnover drill on the first day of camp.


And it has to be a kick for Fewell to run this defense given the talent he has to work with up front.


The line features four players who were chosen in the first or second round of the draft and two who were third-rounders. Fewell said this is the most talented defensive line he has been around.


So it would be hard to blame Fewell for choosing the Giants over the Bears, for whom he worked as defensive backs coach five years ago.


"That was a really difficult decision," Fewell said. "I just got on my knees and asked the good Lord lead me in the direction I should go. … I love Chicago. I only spent a year there, but the fans, the organization, embraced me. My family wanted to go back home to Chicago, but as we prayed together, we felt the opportunity to come to the Giants and New York and be in this setting was maybe a once-in-a-lifetime deal, so we went for it."


Fewell will get a look at the defense he could have coached when the Bears and Giants meet at Giants Stadium in a Sunday night game in the fourth week of the season.


The Giants are counting on Fewell to make a difference on a team that many thought underachieved a year ago. Fewell is here because the Giants allowed 26.6 points per game last season — the second-highest total in team history and the third-highest in the league last year.


The Giants' offense should be above average with Eli Manning at quarterback, a veteran line and a strong one-two punch at running back with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. If the defense under Fewell also is above average, the Giants can be one of the stronger teams in the NFC.


Fewell was the interim head coach in Buffalo for seven games at the end of last season. He seems destined to become a head coach again.


"I hope we can keep the guy for multiple years," Reese said. "But if my guess is right, he's not going to be around long."

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