In the first three weeks of the regular season, the New York Giants‘ defense has shown some alarming signs, notably allowing almost a 50% conversion rate on third downs and accumulating 29 missed tackles. Their Week 3 showdown against the San Francisco 49ers was particularly concerning, with the team registering 16 missed tackles. A significant portion of these came from the defensive backs and linebackers, further complicating their defensive outlook.
Xavier McKinney, the Giants’ free safety, remains optimistic, downplaying the tackling concerns and believing in the unit’s capacity to improve in the coming weeks. However, linebacker Micah McFadden vocalized a different perspective, emphasizing the pressing need for the team to step up their tackling game.
Barber’s Sharp Critique
Inconsistent tackling technique and an apparent lack of effort caught the eye of many, prompting Tiki Barber, a former Giants running back, to address the team’s performance on WFAN.
“That’s effort,” Tiki Barber said on WFAN last week. “There was one in particular, Elijah Mitchell had an outside zone run in the second quarter, and you just saw the rookie [Tre] Hawkins, he just turned it down. He didn’t even try. He tried to go low, but he barely made contact, and he clips off 18 yards and you get into scoring position. It’s effort. To me, that’s effort.
Despite showcasing commendable physicality during the preseason, Hawkins was especially off his game against the 49ers. Hesitant and seemingly reluctant at times, Hawkins faced justified critique for his actions, particularly when players like Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey capitalized on his errors.
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A Team-wide Concern for the Giants
Yet, singling out Hawkins doesn’t paint the whole picture. The Giants’ defensive issues appear to be ingrained in the team’s mentality. There’s a noticeable lack of aggression—a key factor when facing elite teams like the 49ers, who demonstrated exactly what the Giants lacked: speed, precision, and commitment in their tackles. The contrast was evident, with the 49ers missing only three tackles that evening, showcasing the gap in defensive efficiency.
The broader sentiment among football analysts is encapsulated in this observation:
“I know cornerbacks don’t want to hit anymore. I know they don’t think they need to tackle on the edges and think they’re just there to contain and drive a guy inside. But when you’re the last line of defense, that’s an effort thing. That’s a want-to thing.”
Esteemed coordinators like Wink Martindale wouldn’t have anticipated such a lack of physicality from the Giants. While there are multiple areas where the team needs to refine their game, giving a full effort shouldn’t be a difficult hurdle to overcome, especially with ample preparation time leading up to their Week 4 clash against the Seattle Seahawks.