The New York Giants have lost three straight games, and while the losing streak has largely been due to the Giants’ dysfunctional offense they also need their defense to play better.
The Giants have struggled at times to get off the field on third downs, are last in the league in terms of pass rush, and have only forced turnovers in their last game.
The Baltimore Ravens’ offense could present a good opportunity for the Giants’ defense, with injuries to the receiving corps and the offensive line. The shuffling in the Ravens’ offense could also present a curveball that could make the Giants’ preparation difficult.
Stats At A Glance
Rush Yards - 96.6
Passing Yards - 261.6
Total Yards - 358.2
Points - 21.6
Rush Yards - 99.0
Passing Yards - 239.2
Total Yards - 338.2
Points - 18.8
Get Off Their Blocks
Perhaps the biggest defensive complaint for the Giants is their apparent inability to put the opposing quarterback on his back. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon have played well this year — they have been largely stout in the running game and have been able to apply pressure to quarterbacks.
The problem has been translating those pressures into hits and sacks. While pressuring passers does lead to failed plays or turnovers, it is the hits on a quarterback that get in their head, that throw off their timing and mechanics. Against the Green Bay Packers, the Giants were singularly unable to beat their blockers. With JPP dealing with a shoulder injury — and missing practice on Wednesday with a groin injury — and Vernon working through a wrist injury, the Giants’ principle pass rushers aren’t at their best. That being said, the Packers’ blockers gave Aaron Rodgers more time to throw than was afforded any other quarterback in the NFL.
If the Giants want to affect Joe Flacco, who has been erratic these last two weeks, they will need to figure out some way for their pass rushers to get off their blocks or get free runs at the quarterback.
The Ravens’ offensive line has been shuffled, and reshuffled, by injury over the last two weeks. Both of their starting offensive tackles were out last week, moving guard Marshal Yanda outside to right tackle, and the Ravens signed veteran guard Vladimir Ducasse this week.
While Yanda is one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, the Giants’ defensive line finds itself with a weakened opponent. The question — should the Giants’ defenders be healthy enough to play -- is whether or not they can take advantage.
Hit The Curve Ball
The Ravens became the second team this year to move on from an offensive coordinator before the halfway point of the season when they fired Marc Trestman. To replace Trestman they promoted quarterback coach Marty Mornhinweg.
Mornhinweg’s promotion, along with the injury to Steve Smith Sr., could bring a shift in the Ravens’ offensive play calling. With Smith Sr. not practicing due to an ankle injury suffered last week, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman seem primed to be Flacco’s top options at receiver. Mornhinweg has a history of calling a vertical offense, using his receivers to stretch a defense down the field while the running game keeps the defense from committing too many players to coverage. Combined with the deep speed of Wallace and Perriman, the Ravens could be in for a scheme shift from what they have shown through the first five weeks. Flacco has the arm strength to reach just about any of the field from just about any place on the field. With a pair of deep threats on the outside, the Giants’ coverage downfield will be tested. In particular, free safety Andrew Adams will need to answer the bell. Adams played better than could be expected of an undrafted rookie making just his second start against an offense like the Green Bay Packers. He will need to follow that up with another solid performance against the Ravens to help defend against the deep ball.
If the downside to the Ravens emphasizing the vertical aspect of their offense is that it makes their first five games of tape less valuable, the positive is that it forces Flacco to hold the ball. With an injured and shuffled offensive line, that could give the Giants’ pass rushers the time they need to get to the quarterback.
Tackling has largely been a lost art in the NFL over the last few years, but through the first four games of the year the Giants seemed to rediscover the lost ancient ways of wrapping up and securely bringing down the ball carrier.
Against the Packers, however, the discipline the Giants showed in that fundamental aspect of defensive football wavered, and they seemed to forget how to tackle.
They need to re-learn in a hurry.
If the Ravens will use their running game as a counterpoint to a vertical passing attack, the Giants could see quite a bit of Terrance West. Though the running back only carried the ball 11 times against the Washington Redskins, he racked up 95 yards. The really impressive part, though, is that (per Pro Football Focus) he racked up 70 yards, 6.4 yards per carry, after contact.
While that is undoubtedly a tremendous effort on behalf of the running back, it also signals undisciplined play on the part of the defense. That sort of play can break a team’s back, extending drives and exhausting players. While the Giants have struggled to get off the field on third downs, they have done well to limit yards after contact or after the catch, or at least they did before last Sunday. They Giants’ defense needs to return to their previous form, and bring down ball carriers when they have them in their grasps.