Statistics and numbers, analytics and metrics, yards and points. In today's NFL, we are bombarded with figures from every possible direction, but what does any of it mean? We have reached peak-data for football, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to determine which information is worth your attention. Several major companies will sell you their packages, and these products can cost you a pretty penny.
This is a new article aimed to outline the important numbers each week, the ones you need to pay attention to, and the reasons why. Using a host of services, Blue Data is our effort to process the vast ocean of digitized material about the New York Giants and turn it into a digestible weekly portion.
This is the third iteration of the article. It's the preseason for us here at Big Blue View, too, so we're looking for feedback on how to make this better. Last week we got some great insight into what people liked and didn't like and took that on board here. We are aware that it's a little heavy on Pro Football Focus material, but that's because they're the only place with advanced preseason numbers. That balance will be adjusted once September rolls around. We kept the sections -- The Good, the Bad and the Downright Confusing -- for this week but shifted the balance away from individual players and back onto the numbers.
What would you like to see differently? Let us know in the comments below.
Cole Farrand and Uani Unga are a pair of undrafted rookies battling for a potential spot on the edge of the roster, or at the very least, they're looking to make the practice squad. Well, it's good news for both players because the duo have each posted a 3.0 PFF grade so far this preseason. The problem here is space. The Giants may not have the room to dedicate 20 percent of their 10-man scout team to these two guys. If they are forced to make a decision, it will point to a greater view of the defensive philosophy. Farrand is the superior run defender while Unga is a much better pass rusher, and clearly had the better game against the Jets. We don't know yet if Steve Spagnuolo's scheme prefers square pegs or round pegs, but the prioritization of either player should give an early glimpse into the 2015 defense.
Trevin Wade has been a standout player for the Giants this preseason, rising above a sea of Big Blue secondary injuries and undrafted status to triumph against tough competition. Nowhere has this been more evident than Wade's four pass defenses in the three weeks of live action. He leads the NFL in this category. When you browse through PFF's database, Wade appears near the top on several pages; second-best in tackling efficiency, sixth in overall grade, third in penalty grades. This is a player the Giants desperately needed and cannot afford to lose in roster cuts as Wade's performance thus far is deserving of a shot at competing during the regular season.
The Giants will likely keep three tight-ends on their final 53 man roster. Larry Donnell seems a lock to make it, but that means one of the trio of would-be back-ups -- Adrien Robinson, Daniel Fells and Jerome Cunningham -- will have their career dangling by a waiver wire come September. On Saturday, Cunningham showcased his potential and made a strong argument as to why he should be kept, and failing that, why another team should pick him up. Against the Jets, Cunningham earned a 1.1 PFF grade in the passing game. Eye-catching grabs such as the one made over linebacker Jamari Lattimore will put images of Jimmy Graham in anyone's head. During Saturday's broadcast, Bob "Drop the cake" Papa and Carl Banks declared that this team is lacking a white-hot undrafted rookie to get excited about. They should pay attention to this guy. Heading into the final week of the preseason, Cunningham has arguably been the best tight end on this roster.
Adrien Robinson is entering his fourth season in the NFL and still has no identity as a player. On Saturday, Robinson put in another mystifying game, and by that, I mean people are questioning what it is that made GM Jerry Reese call this guy "the JPP of tight ends". On one play, he lined up in the backfield and was left to block the monstrous Sheldon Richardson and that produced predictable results; a sack, nearly a safety. Unfortunately, this wasn't the worst of Robinson's blocking that day. PFF hexed him with a -2.2 run block grade from just 13 snaps with that assignment. A lot of tight ends aren't strong blockers, but there's a major difference between what they do, and whatever Robinson is showing.
Eli Manning had a good game Saturday night. Well, almost. The troubling thing wasn't the interception to end the half but rather that Manning seems radically conservative in his approach to the preseason. Last night was better, but for the three games so far, Manning is averaging just 4.18 yards per attempted pass. Last preseason, this number was 4.59 but most chalked that up to a new offense yet to find its rhythm. This would appear to be an accurate theory as Manning's YPA increased to 7.34 during the 2014 regular season. However, this number shouldn't have gone back down, at least not this drastically. What's the excuse here? It's not the offensive line, you'll see why in our next point.
Both Manning and his backup, Ryan Nassib, had an average time of 2.7 seconds until they were sacked. This is not to simply say this is the amount of time afforded by the offensive line, because this number can be affected by the quarterback's movement in the pocket, as well as a running back or tight end's failure to pick up a block (see above: Robinson). Of course, you need to account the differences between playing against first-string and second-string, but it's clear that Nassib has outplayed Manning despite similar -- or worse -- circumstances. Nassib has faced pressure 12.5 percent more often than Manning, and Nassib's YPA (6.03) is nearly two yards better than Eli (4.18) despite receiving much less help from his receivers, whose yards after the catch account for 66 percent of Manning's total, whereas Nassib's receivers generated only 21 percent of his yardage.
The Downright Confusing
One more thing about the quarterbacks. As a group, deep passes -- anything that travels 20 yards or more -- have been dreadful. This preseason, the Giants' QBs have combined for three completions on 17 deep attempts. All three were Nassib, though PFF credits Manning with two dropped passes in this area. The Jets game on Saturday saw zero completions of more than 20 yards. I know Kevin Gilbride's offense had its faults, but have they learned nothing from his time there?
The Giants' -9.2 pass rush grade is the second-worst of any team in the preseason, though the Snoopy Bowl was particularly bad, accruing a -5.2 grade in this department. Interestingly enough, this may have some roots in the Spagnuolo hiring. Perhaps he wasn't hired because of his wonders getting pressure with a front-four, but because they wanted someone who would unleash a blitz. The Giants' current pass rushers account for -7.1 in terms of negative pass-rush this preseason. This is an inflated percentage because you can't get a negative category grade when that's not your assignment, but is it possible that the team and coordinator recognize that the line is a problem area? Are these blitzes an early attempt at compensating for an unfixable fault? Check out the numbers for blitz snap percentage. The formula used is (position snaps blitzing / total position snaps) x 100/1.
Here is a quote from last week's Blue Data article:
So, what's bringing this line down? The answer -- for anyone with two eyes and a heartbeat -- is John Jerry. Nobody expected Jerry to excel in the run game. That was never his strength.
I wrote that. If you'll excuse me, I have to go buy a printer so I can get this down on paper, dress it up with a little ranch and lettuce and then I will proceed to eat my damn words because oh boy, I was wrong. Does John Jerry post on here? Not_Incognito77, is that you? Are you actually reading my articles in an attempt to shame me? If you're reading this now, I'm sorry and I love you and dear God, please score a 2.2 run-block grade every week.