After fixing their defense prior to the 2016 season, the Giants tried to upgrade their so-so passing game in this offseason with additions of WR Brandon Marshall and rookie TE Evan Engram, but it may not matter if they don’t upgrade their OL. Until their run game gives them legitimate balance, and until they do a better job of converting on third down, they will be a dink-and-dunk pass offense that will be easy to defend.
Instead of depending on YAC from those short passes, they need to go to more vertical shots, and if they have a run game, Eli Manning will have play action available to him. Right now they will depend on an elite defense to dominate and get the ball back to the offense, and their margin of error is fairly small.
This is a well-defined Ben McAdoo offense and Manning has really settled into a comfort level with the scheme. It is a quick, short passing game that protects Manning and cuts down on the hits that he has absorbed in the past. At times they get into an excellent groove and everything clicks, but we don’t quite see the consistency that we would like. An average run game, too many Manning INTs, over-dependence on Odell Beckham Jr. and a lack of explosive plays are all areas that need to be cleaned up.
The short passing game
This is the core of this offense. Manning works out of the shotgun and he has two WRs on the left, a TE and WR on the right, and one RB in the backfield. All five guys release on routes vs. a four-man rush and man under/cover 2 cover scheme. This is a unique play with two picks. First, the tight WR on the left runs a shallow crossing route and the RB releases inside and runs a shallow out and they “pick” the MLB and DC. Second, on the right, the TE runs an out right into the WR/DC outside and their contact allows the TE to get open. Manning gets the ball to the RB for a nice nine-yard reception on a simple and safe but well-designed play.
After years of mediocre play by a once-proud defense, the Giants took a big gamble before the 2016 season to spend $200 million in defensive free agency acquisitions, and the gamble paid off with huge results. Their 43 front seven dominates in the trenches and their DBs are aggressive and their ability to play man or zone gives them a lot of scheme flexibility. In a perfect world, they get pass rush pressure with only four and limited blitzes, with their corners playing a lot of press man schemes, allowing their 2016 surprise success to continue in 2017.
“Sound but Good” Defense
They decide to take a chance and bring extra pressure on this play. It starts with their usual four-man rush, but they also bring a LB on a delay blitz over the LOT/LOG gap when the RB slides across the formation to block the DT. The OL never sees it and it results in a nine-yard sack. but what really makes this play work for the Giants is tight man coverage vs. the three WRs and one TE, (along with a single high DS in centerfield). Nobody gets open and the QB is forced to hold on to the ball. The improved man to man play of the back seven has given them a lot of scheme flexibility.
Five additional summer film evaluations
- WR Brandon Marshall will help Odell Beckham, Jr. — His size will help him on a lot of intermediate routes and he is a competitive guy who requires a physical corner in coverage. It will be tougher to double team Beckham, and if defenses try it, Marshall can give them a ton of big plays. He can also serve as a strong mentor to the mercurial Beckham.
- Rookie TE Evan Engram is an important piece of this offense — This position has produced very little in recent years and it has held back this offense. He has WR skills, and if the Giants are smart, they will move him all over the formation. They will split him wide, he will line up in the slot and he will use motion to get the right matchup. He will work a lot over the middle and that should open things up for the WRs outside.
- The defensive line and secondary must carry a good defense — Their front four got better with each game a year ago, as their pass rush pressure was much better than expected. That made a secondary that they thought was a weak link much better. On the backend safe zone schemes turned into man looks and more blitzing, as these coaches really began to trust these DBs. The LBs are average but they get away with it because of the elite play on the other two levels.
- When are they ever going to fix this OL? — They keep trying but they never get this unit right. They have two acceptable players in LOG Pugh and C Richburg. The other three positions are a disaster, especially both OTs. As a result, Manning is forced to throw mostly underneath passes to avoid hits and they struggle to move defenders off the ball in the run game. Their lackluster production really holds this offense back.
- Have NFL defenses caught up to McAdoo’s offense? — In 2015, this was the sixth-best offense in the NFL and in 2016, they dropped to 26th. We know that defensive coaches in this league figure out how to stop you when they get enough film. They have no consistent run game and no explosive deep passing game and that makes them an easy offense to defend. Defenses sit back in a lot of zones and simply close on all of their short passes designed for YAC.