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Fighting the Riptide: A Football Outsiders Analysis of the NYG Defensive Line

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Let's take a look at statistical analysis from a different source. Football Outsiders provides insight with some unique stats we can delve into.

Johnathan Hankins
Johnathan Hankins
Elsa/Getty Images

In the third and final addition of this statistical analysis, we take a look at the New York Giants defensive front line (and even a little bit at the linebackers). Football Outsiders has some really great stuff here to look at, especially when we look at run defense. So let's get to it!

Defensive Line

Let's Talk About Run Defense First

The defensive line, much like the offensive line, is measured by Adjusted Line Yards. This is, again, regression analysis that attempts to differentiate blame (or success) from the defensive line versus the second line (linebackers and defensive backs). FO assigns responsibility to the defensive line based on each run with this breakdown:

Loss of yards: 120 percent

0-4 yards: 100 percent

5-10 yards: 50 percent

11+ yards: 0 percent

Then these values are adjusted for down, distance, opponent, and generally what the situation is. This sort of gives you a chance to see who is doing the leg work. If the NFL's standard RB YPC is higher than the "Adjusted Line Yards" metric, you know the defensive line is doing better than the rest of the second level (usually linebackers). The same is true the other way around.

The NFL average is, as mentioned before, 4.10 yards per carry. The Giants are allowing (according to the NFL), an insane 5.08 yards per carry. That's almost a full yard per carry higher. When you look at the "adjusted line yards" metric for the Giants, however, that number drops to 4.34 yards per carry. That's a significant drop, and that makes sense. The defensive line, while still bad, is still much stronger than the linebacking corps when it comes to run defense. That being said, 4.34 yards per carry ranks 28th in the NFL as it is, so it's still nothing to brag about.

Okay, We Stink. Where Do We Stink The Most?

Once again, we can provide you with the direction each run takes place, including how often and how successful these runs are.

The NFL average in adjusted line yards allowed is presented to you, followed by ours when running in each direction. The carry percentage against is how often teams run to each side against us. Pretty self-explanatory:

Left End

Left Tackle

Mid/Guard

Right Tackle

Right End

NFL avg. Adjusted Line Yards Allowed

3.78

3.78

3.99

4.06

3.69

NYG avg. Adjusted Line Yards Allowed

4.20 (20th)

3.68 (15th)

4.73 (30th)

3.81 (12th)

5.43 (32nd)

NFL avg. Carry %

11%

13%

52%

13%

11%

NYG avg. Carry % Against

15%

16%

33%

20%

15%

This is pretty interesting. I want you to take a look at the "Left End" and "Right End" sections and the adjusted yards allowed. Bad. What that shows is that it doesn't matter who it is, the team just refuses to play contain. At least on the left side, Jason Pierre-Paul does a decent enough job sometimes, where the team is ranked 20th. On the right side with Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers, however, you see an incredible 5.43 yards per carry against. Unbelievable. There is no contain on that side.

What's very interesting is when running at the right tackle, the combination of Kiwanuka and Ayers actually do a better job than JPP. I guess Kiwanuka can stop you if you run straight at him. It's interesting to note that teams know the personnel on that side is a weak point. Take a look at how often they run to the right side as compared to the NFL average. They also know that Johnathan Hankins is the manning the middle (shaded near the left tackle) and so they run much less up the gut.

It's interesting to note as well that when they DO go up the gut, however, we get shredded. That is probably because aside from Hankins, the rest of the group that makes up the interior (Cullen Jenkins, Markus Kuhn, Mike Patterson) have been awful versus the run. There isn't any evidence of that, it's just my viewpoint on the data. You could also argue that the middle linebacker (Jameel McClain and Jon Beason) has been more ineffective crashing the "A" gaps instead of the "B gaps."

Well, Okay Then. Can You Tell Me About How They Do In Short Yardage?

Sure! We're going to use the same metrics that we used for the offensive line: "Power Success" and "Stuffed Percentage":

Power Success: The success percentage of runs against the defense on 3rd or 4th down with two or less yards to go or on goal-to-go situations of any down with two or less yards to go. A "success" is measured by a run that resulted in a first down or touchdown in these situations. For defensive lines, the lower the number, the better.

Stuffed: This is the percentage of runs where the running back is tackled on or behind the line of scrimmage. This is usually due to (but not always) the defensive line getting penetration so it's a good metric. It's impossible to try and differentiate each individual play, but we all realize that most of the time it's because of defeats along the line of scrimmage.

For the NFL, the average "power success" of a team is 65 percent. The Giants, however, allow a success rate of 61 percent. That's kind of surprising. They rank 11th in the league in that regard. When the occasion stands for it, the Giants are stout. I can definitely see that being the case. How about the tackles for loss, though? How well do the Giants do in that regard? Well, the NFL average of stuffed runs is 19 percent, but the Giants only stuff runs 16 percent of the time, ranking 24th in the league.

That's not that good, and what it tells me is that when the Giants actually run blitz in a situation that calls for it, they are good at executing, however on normal downs and distances, they can't generate the same power run defense.

Ugh, Give Me Some Good News! Are We At Least Good At Defending The Big Play?

What, you want good news? Who do you think we are, the Cardinals? Things go from bad to worse here, I'm sorry to say. You knew that, though. This is going to get ugly. When it comes to defending the big play, we are using the same couple of stats, "second level yards" and "open field yards."

Second Level Yards: This is essentially how many yards running backs get between 5 to 10 yards past the line of scrimmage on average per run against the defense.

Open Field Yards: This is essentially how many yards running backs get over 10 yards past the line of scrimmage on average per run against the defense.

This sort of takes the defensive line out of it and is more descriptive of how linebackers and defensive backs work against the run, because once your 5 to 10+ yards away from the line of scrimmage, the burden is more on the second part of your defense, not your front.

So the NFL average for second level yards is 1.03 and the average for open field yards is 0.58. How do the Giants fare? They have an average per run second level yards allowed of 1.49 (ranked 31st in the league) and an average open field yards allowed of 1.24 (31st in the league).

Yeah, that is just awful. For reference, the best team when it comes to second level yards allowed is the New York Jets (allowing 0.75 yards on average per run) and the best team when it comes to open field yards allowed is the Denver Broncos (allowing 0.27 yards on average per run).

I'm About To Cry. Give Me Something On The Pass Rush

Once again, I don't think Football Outsiders gives much useful information when it comes to pass rush. As before, all they have is "adjusted sack rate."

Adjusted Sack Rate: This is simply sacks and intentional grounding penalties divided by all pass snaps. There is also adjustment for down and distance, but how this affects the rate, I'm not exactly sure.

The NFL average rank thus far is 21 sacks and an adjusted sack rate of 6.4%. The Giants have 16 sacks and have an adjusted sack rate of 6.0 percent, which ranks 19th in the league. They aren't terrible, but boy, they've got some work to do. The best team in adjusted sack rate is the Miami Dolphins. They have 30 sacks and an adjusted sack rate of 9.3 percent

Final Word

The Giants have a below average defensive line. That's not that hard to predict. This analysis confirms a lot of what the eye test has told you, faithful Big Blue reader, about this team. It's easier to run on the right side of the line rather than the left. The linebackers provide almost no help when it comes to run defense. The pass rush has been merely okay.

With an analysis such as this, there's nothing in terms of individual analysis, but could you imagine if Ayers wasn't here to provide a pass rush? Or if Pierre-Paul or Hankins got injured? It's difficult to see this unit slowly decline after the golden years of the past, but it's clear that they need help.

They aren't the only ones. The 31st ranking in terms of allowing big plays in run defense is pathetic. The linebackers are equally (if not more) at fault. We're desperate for upgrades there. We saw this team get trounced by the Seattle Seahawks. If you can't keep contain and you can't win your battles along the offensive line, the whole team suffers.

There are still six games left, but it's already clear from the 10 that we've had that we need to improve. Big time.

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