The defensive side of the ball has been up and down in 2012…so here are the grades.

Defensive Line: Grade A

The Giants D-Line is back in Super Bowl shape, with 3 Pro-Bowl caliber Ends, 2 rising star tackles, Rocky Bernard as depth, and Kiwanuka sliding in. What happened with that 3-game sack drought?  The talent is here…so let’s use it!

Linebackers: Grade B-

These are not the Giants Linebackers of the 80’s and 90’s.  This is a marginally talented group with a TON of heart.  Boley is the best the Giants have and that isn’t enough.  Blackburn, Kiwanuka, Herzlich, Paysinger and Williams are warriors…but would these guys start on most teams?  I don’t know.   The are challenged side line to sideline, but are very good down hill.

I do know that these guys have more heart than anyone, and have done more with minimal talent than any part of the Giants team.

Defensive Backs: Grade C-

And if you thought the Linebacker’s were marginally talented, then welcome to the secondary.  Here “All-Pro” Antrel Rolle and veteran Corey Webster have played with a mish-mosh of youngsters and journeymen for the past few years.

Sure, we’ve won two Super Bowls during that time, thanks to an amazing pass rush that eats opposing quarterback; however, when a QB is given time, this secondary can be picked apart like a turkey carcass at the end of Thanksgiving.   Webster is having a terrible year and seems to have lost more than a step.

Prince is coming around but is very disappointing for a first rounder.  Safety Stevie Brown has found a home and has been down right amazing.  I can’t see Kenny Phillips starting again this season and Hosley, Coe & Tyrion struggle for the most part.  This team misses Terrell Thomas in a big way.

Defensive Coordinator: Perry Fewell – Grade B-

When the Giants pass rush is effective, the secondary is exposed.   Perry Fewell checks out time and time again.   This is why I go bananas when I see the Giants rushing 3 or 4 guys in clutch situations… because adding a defensive back who is a 21 year old undrafted rookie is not as effective as sending an extra pass rusher or stunting a linebacker.

Like his offensive counterpart Gilbride, at times Fewell seems on top of his game, and at times he plays too conservative.

My advice: RELEASE THE HOUNDS!   Fewell need to stay on the offensive and stay aggressive.  With JPP and crew up front that allows marginal talents to get beat week in and week out.  Rushing four straight up…doesn’t get it down.

Overall:  First Half of 2012 Season: Grade B+

To echo Coach Coughlin, we’ve done a lot of good things, but need to get better if we’re going to go far in the playoffs. When focused, this team can execute like they did in their 26-3 romp over the 49ers.

When not pressed, they can look like they did the 2nd half of last week’s lucky win against the Cowboys, plus the games against the Eagles and Redskins.  Again, I’m not complaining… The Giants are better at this point in the year than they were in 2007 and 2011- and we all know how that turned out.

– written by Andy Pritkin – Featured Columnist