Coordinator Corner: Fewell on Safety Depth and Facing Big Ben

Giants’ DC Perry Fewell is back under fire again from critics. The Giants’ defense is bending but not quite breaking. They lead the league in takeaways, but are giving up huge chunks of yardage to opponents. This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers come to MetLife with the resilient and resourceful Ben Roethlisberger under center.

Fewell’s defense is morphing as the season goes on. Stevie Brown has emerged as a viable third safety. Mark Herzlich is moving into the MLB spot and the defensive line will have all their starters healthy for the first time this season. He spoke to reporters Thursday….

With three healthy safeties, how do you get them all on the field?
We’ll find a way. All of them are good players.  That’s a good problem to have that Kenny (Phillips) is back. We lost a couple of linebackers. Hopefully we’ll get a couple of those guys back.

Is Phillips back to being the starter?
We haven’t determined that. I think (Stevie) Brown’s been playing really well right now. Stevie’s hard to unseat right now. We’ll find a way for Kenny to be on the field.

Do you think you can implement the three safety coverage with those guys?
Definitely, because Stevie’s come on like this, it gives me more ideas to have the three-safety package and now we can go full-bore with that.

Is it true that that was not in your plays before Stevie Brown’s emergence?
Yes, that is true. Initially, we were using Jacquian Williams, as a linebacker, to alternate as a big safety. Since he went down, and Stevie’s emerged, we get Kenny back, our plans can totally focus on a three-safety package with three good players in there.

Was Jacquian playing the Deon Grant role?
He had the Deon Grant/Antrel Rolle part of the package when he would come in. We modified it a little bit based on skill, etc. We kind of used him in that sense.

It’s good to be surprised sometimes by your players?
Yeah, it really is. Stevie showed that he was good in the spring from the post and he could go attack the ball in the air, and he showed he was good in the half-field, and he could go attack the ball in the air. Then at camp, he kind of settled off a little bit. You didn’t see as much as you saw in the spring. You put him in the ballgame, against Carolina he picks one, so I’m telling the safety, “Don’t get hurt, because this guy’s going to pick another one.” Somebody gets hurt, he goes in the ball game, and he picks another one. It is good to be surprised. I am very happy and excited for him and happy for our football team.

Did you know anything about him before he got here?
A little bit. I knew he played at Michigan. I knew his history from that standpoint. He worked out for us, but I didn’t know him personally, no.

You’ve mentioned before that when you need to check something in your notes, you go toChase Blackburn.  With Chase not available, how will Mark Herzlich’s notes be?
Mark Herzlich copies Chase’s notes so we’re cheating. Don’t tell our teachers and professors that we’re copying Chase’s notes to make sure we have it right. Definitely Mark is a good student from Chase.

What is your confidence level in Mark if Chase can’t go this week?
I think Mark will do an outstanding job for us. He’s been right there; he sits beside Chase in the meetings. When I ask questions, if he gets it wrong, Chase looks at him like, “What are you talking about?” He feels the pressure in the meetings, okay. I think he’ll do an outstanding job. He’s done it before, so it’s not like it’s new to him. He’ll just be more excited to do it.

Is it possible Chase plays?
You have to ask the medical people that. He didn’t practice today. We have tomorrow and Saturday, but you’ll have to ask the medical people and Tom.

How do you work on bringing Ben down?
You’ve got to ask Jerry Palmieri to get our guys in the weight room more because Big Ben is truly Big Ben. He has a nice little move that he makes on guys. When you try to wrap him, he tries to throw you off or he does throw you off. So we have to do a great job of wrap tackling. We have to do a great job of driving our feet when we get a hold of him and can tackle him, but he’s been a problem for everybody in this league for a number of years and he’s an outstanding quarterback, as you well know.

Does he have a better than average pump fake?
I think he has a better than average arm and pump fake. I’ve seen him zip some slants in there and I went like, ‘Wow.’ That’s why he’s two-time Super Bowl winner. You don’t play him every year, so you see him, but you don’t study him as much as you do when you’re playing an opponent and he’s an impressive guy. He’s a big man that stands in the pocket and if he has to leave the pocket, he can throw on the run.

How much has their offense changed with Haley as the offensive coordinator?
From the old Pittsburgh that I used to prepare for and know, it’s changed quite a bit. It seems like that there’s more of an emphasis in the pass game, but they still can run the football and they’re very effective in running the football and there’s a lot of quick gains. There are a lot of screens. There’s a lot of variety in the offense that you didn’t see in the past.

transcript courtesy Giants Communications dept