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 fourth 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.
For next week, this will hopefully have a finalized format, so this is you best time to give feedback on what you would like to see done differently. Let us know in the comments below.
I wouldn't be surprised to see six cornerbacks on the Giants' roster when they announce their final 53-man squad on Saturday. If recent history is anything to go by, this team needs all the help they can get in the secondary, but have been lucky this preseason to see the emergence of two potential keepers. Both Trevin Wade and Mike Harris are worthy of roster spots and have had breakouts this preseason. Wade leads the league with four pass defenses and Harris supplants a 2.2 pass coverage grade with a 1.4 grade against the run, proving his versatility in helping with unconsidered areas of the game such as cornerback run defense. Given the problems at this position in the past, the Giants need all the help they can get. They simply cannot afford to have in-house talent snatched away on the waiver wire.
Landon Collins saw steady improvement over the course of the preseason. As his snap counts increased with each game, so did his grade. I was in the definite minority of those who wanted the Giants to take Collins with their first-round pick, so you can imagine my joy when they landed him in the second round, and now, with the preseason completed, I'm equally happy to see him improve with each subsequent game. It's clear from the graph below that Collins is getting better as he learns the nuances of the pro-level.
|Game||Snap Count||PFF Run Grade||PFF Pass Grade||PFF Overall Grade|
Of the projected starting offensive line for the opener against Dallas, only rookie Ereck Flowers has a earned a positive PFF run grade over the course of the preseason. Flowers' 2.1 score in run-blocking is the best of any Giant and is certainly a good indicator of rookie success. He has struggled with pass-protection -- allowing one sack, three hits and a hurry -- but that should improve with experience. If it comes to it, the team could flip him to the right side of the line, where he may see less top-end competition. This scenario is -- of course -- purely speculative, but is informed by Flowers' performance to date.
As of Tuesday Sept. 1, the Giants were the oldest team in the league. After the rosters were cut down to 75 players, Ol' Big Blue ranked first in age per player with an average of 28.88 years. This will change as the team further reduces their squad to 53 players on Saturday, though it is still troubling. The Tom Coughlin years have been plagued by letting veterans play ahead of promising young guns and the team has failed to get the most out of several recent drafts, resulting in a diverse range of older free-agent signings over the last five years. Players like Cullen Jenkins, Jon Beason and even the faithful Eli Manning bring this team to the top of an unwanted league table, and considering that preseason cuts remove more inexperienced players than anything, the gap between the Giants and the rest of the league may even increase over the coming days.
The tight end group has been disappointing thus far. Larry Donnell, Adrien Robinson and Daniel Fells were all carried over from last year, yet have failed to impress in the 2015 preseason. There is a stark contrast between this trio and the newcomer Jerome Cunningham; an undrafted rookie doing whatever it takes to make the team. Cunningham has fire. Cunningham has the urgency. Cunningham has the fourth-highest PFF grade of any TE right now. The other guys needed to take note, but now may be too late. Cuts are looming and the knife of a general manager is lethal. After the white-hot rookie, Donnell is next in the rankings, though this is a lowly 99th overall, Fells is not much further behind at 108th, but the biggest, most flagrant, all-encompassing miscalculation of resources is Robinson who came in at 183rd out of 185 TEs who played in the preseason.
The Downright Confusing
Henry Hynoski played only 204 offensive snaps in 2014, yet there's talk of keeping a second fullback on the roster for 2015. Nikita Whitlock has played with dynamic adaptation to the various roles asked of him this preseason -- fullback, defensive tackle, special teams -- but is that enough to warrant burning an extra spot on the roster for a player who will see minimal snaps? Our own Ed Valentine and his buddy Patricia Traina are on board with this idea, at the expense of keeping a third tight end. I just don't see it. The tight ends are too important to the scheme. In fact, the reason Hynoski saw a dip in playing time was because the team wanted to keep their tight ends on the field to run a no-huddle offense.
One last interesting note before we head into the breaches of 2015 meaningful football; the two highest PFF-rated receivers on the Giants may not survive the roster cuts. Julian Talley (0.9) is projected by most beat-writers as a cut and rookie Geremy Davis (0.5) is constantly mentioned as possibly being smuggled past waivers and onto the practice squad. It isn't a huge deal if neither of these players are 2015 Giants. I'm merely pointing this out as a warning to take preseason numbers with a heart-stopping amount of salt because for all the science that goes into them, it's important to note that half of the field is unemployed come September. Make no mistake, these athletes are talented, but differing levels of competition result in strange anomalies; Talley and Davis as the top receivers on the Giants for example. The team's top guys -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Odell Beckham Jr. -- only saw limited action. This spurned the coaches to play more of the younger guys; Talley, Davis, etc. These things happen and the results are odd and require context. Going forward into the 2015, Blue Data aims to prove that context and to act as a sort of reading guide and reference point for BBV readers.