While the New York Giants have never been a team to undertake a 2-point play by choice, they are bound to have more attempts than ever after Tuesday's rule change to move the extra-point snap back to the 15-yard-line. If Big Blue don't elect to be first to attempt a 2-point play, there is likely to be at least one game where a points deficit necessitates it.
Smart coaches will now generally go for 2 (roughly 0.99 exp pts) instead of 1 (now roughly 0.91 exp pts based on 2013-2014).— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) May 19, 2015
As we can see from Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz' tweet above, the expected points from a 2-point play is now greater than that of the extra-point attempt. He later went on to qualify that this statistic does not factor in personnel, game score or time left, so it's a vacuum number, but it's a useful one none the less. It points to the necessity of considering post-touchdown plays as a more meaningful part of the game.
Under the old Kevin Gilbride system, we could just pencil in a few running-back draws to Danny Ware and be done with it, but we're still learning how Ben McAdoo's scheme will be deployed in certain scenarios. The Giants scored 44 touchdowns last year, and each one was followed up by a Josh Brown kick. There are goal-line plays from 2014 we can look at, but no true 2-point attempts. You can bet coaches will spend this offseason building a deeper library of relevant game tape. The offense needs to exploit the short distance to the line. The defense needs to take advantage of the compressed space. Let's take a look at some potential winners and losers of the rule change.
The Giants opted to throw a high number of goal-line fades last season and confidence in their tall receivers to out-muscle the opponent for the ball was a key reason. Corey Washington is on the fringe of making this roster, but if he can prove himself worthy in the preseason with some 2-point catches, it could be the deciding factor between him and other players such as Preston Parker, who wouldn't be used in this scenario.
Larry Donnell had some superb games last season, and some maddening ones, but let's look at the good for now. Five of Donnell's six touchdowns in 2014 came from six yards out or less, including the Week 4 Washington game where he hauled in three scores in the first half alone. He is the clear-cut top red-zone target and his value stems from the physicality he can bring to this area of the game.
Okay, so you can't be one-dimensional and roll out your tall guys every time it's goal-to-go. That's where the running backs take over, and the Giants have three of them with the appropriate skill set for goal-line plays. Firstly, there's Jennings, who is our jack-of-all-trades back here. Jennings poses equal risk as a runner or as a receiver and doesn't tip your intention in any way. Of the Giants RBs, he also had the highest percentage of snaps dedicated to pass-blocking, so we know the coaching staff trust him there, too.
Williams is our between-the-tackles power back. A two-yard run up the middle is the exact type of play that Williams was drafted for and it'd be foolhardy to not take advantage of his violent playing style in close quarters. While Jennings may have seen a higher percentage of plays spent pass-blocking, Williams actually saw a higher number of snaps there, and performed better, too. Heavy personnel with Williams at the tail, a few tight ends and a fullback leading the way could turn into a a play-action roll-out. Two-pointers could be where Williams makes a name for himself.
And lastly for RBs, there's Shane Vereen. Here we have our gadget back capable of running any number of swings and screens while maintaining the threat of a hand-off with a shotgun draw. For his career inside of five yards, Vereen has seven rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns, yet his snaps last year reflected the opposite as he played four times as many passing snaps than rushing snaps (this includes where he was a blocker in both situations). The Giants are lucky to have such a versatile group who pose threats in more than one area. It'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff utilizes the varied skill sets for these scenarios.
Landon Collins got beaten deep a few times while in college, and probably will next season, too, but that's just how football works. Instead, let's look at the positives which earned him the "box safety" label from every journalist covering the draft. Collins could provide something really important for the defense in 2-point plays, and that's run support. At the goal-line, it's a necessity to go with a heavy defensive line to stop an easy run up the middle. Even massively sub-par running backs can get two yards with some blocking and a little luck so five dedicated players are standard, whether they're standing up or with their hands on the ground.
However, today's NFL, in case you haven't heard, is a passing league. It's possible that the offense goes three wide with a tight-end and just one running back. So even if you think it's a run, you're going to need players capable of coverage in close quarters who won't get pushed over like an undersized nickel-cornerback in the run game. Collins can provide much needed run support for 2-pointers while not having to worry about losing much ground on a receiver. This is where I expect Collins to excel.
Moore, while stellar at rushing the passer, has struggled with run defense during his time at the NFL level. He is also coming off shoulder surgery this offseason so there's added worry that perhaps he may not be able to contribute as the starter many envision him to be. He's light for a defensive end and will definitely be part of a rotation but the coaching staff may prefer to have heavier players with better run defense for goal-line work.
Which is why Kuhn also makes this list. This should be something we see sorted out much earlier, like in the preseason. If Kuhn has any shot at making the final roster, he will need to show he is capable of being a better all-around player but most importantly, defending the run. Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked Kuhn as the worst run defender on the Giants. We all know GM Jerry Reese hates cutting draft picks, so Kuhn needs to develop even one area of his game before final cuts to stay on the roster.
Many people are going to look at this designation and think I have a low opinion of Beason. Wrong. Beason is a fine player, but this is one area where he may be exposed. Okay, let me pose you a scenario. It's Game 1 against the Cowboys and they just scored. In a 2-point situation, they line up with Darren McFadden in the backfield, Jason Witten attached to the strong-side of the formation, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams on the outside with Cole Beasley in the weak-side slot. The Giants take the field with five heavy linemen for their goal line situation and a nickel package for their secondary. That leaves one linebacker. Considering the responsibilities for that linebacker will include either the tight end or the running back, do you want Beason in coverage against Witten or chasing down McFadden on a swing route?
Beason is a great player, but he's getting older and the Giants can entrust Kennard, who had an excellent rookie year, with handling more important tasks next season. Beason lacks the athleticism and pace to keep up in these scenarios, and like it or not, they are going to be a much more common sight since the rule change. How the Giants adapt their personnel to handle a higher number of 2-point attempts will be critical. There will be times next season where one score games become two score games due to improper management of this situation. It will expose decision-making within an organization. A coach on the hot seat may feel the burn a little sooner with problematic post-touchdown choices. Coming off three straight seasons of decline, the New York Giants coaching staff cannot afford to be one of those teams who fail to adapt. The little things pile up. The little things cost people jobs.