In Defense

D Carries the Giants, but to Where?

What makes Widmer's rise particularly impressive is that he was a defensive lineman in college (at 1-AA Montana State). He has had tolearn the middle linebacker position, as well as the ins and outs of an intricate defensive system. In Fox's system, the Giants run 24 different standard defensive front and coverage schemes,plus another six red-zone defenses, eight short-yardage defenses, and 14 first-and-long/second-and-long pass coverage packages. "That's more than I had to learn as a player," says Harry Carson, who was arguably the best middle/inside linebacker in Giants history during his playing days, from '76 to '88. "I admire Corey because, like him, I was converted from defensive lineman to middle linebacker when the Giants drafted me. It's a tough position to learn, and a lot of young guys can't handle it because they don't have the mental component. You might have to call three different defenses before the ball is snapped, depending on what the quarterback does. Corey has thrived because he works hard. His improvement has definitely helped the team."

What this defense lacks in glamour, it more than makes up for in guile, guts, and preparation. A key thus far has been Fox's ability to mesh stars such as Strahan, Armstead, and Sehorn with role players such as Widmer and Christian Peter. Remember: It was only two years ago that the Giants' defense sniped its way to blowing a nine-point lead in the final two minutes of a playoff game against Minnesota. If they can avoid that type of breakdown during the stretch run, it should be enough to carry New York—and its anemic offense—to the postseason.

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